The last Taxi for Charlie Jack
By Ramon Kwok
Based on a true story
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It was one of those late summer days back in the 40’s. The weather undecided, the sky was very black causing the day seems like night. I have been driving taxi in Port Albion for about five years now. I can say I have had my share of weird passengers. The most memorable fare I had the displeasure of servicing was the time I was called to pick up Charlie Jack at fisherman’s wharf.
Charles Jackson, was one of those individuals that are known by two names. As longs as I have known him it was “Charlie Jack”. Charlie Jack worked as a deck hand for the Thompson Brothers. Danny and his brother Tommy own the “Pacific Provider” a seventy-five foot fishing boat.
I pulled into he parking lot and saw Danny and Tommy holding a person between them. It was Charlie Jack. This is not the first time I’ve picked up Charlie Jack drunk, as a matter of fact I can’t remember ever seeing him sober. Tommy and Danny deposited Charlie Jack in the back seat of the cab and closed the door. I turned to Tommy.
“How did Charlie get so pissed on the boat?” I asked. “He better not puke in my cab this time or you guys will have to clean it up.”
“He’s really feeling no pain,” said Tommy. “He’s dead.”
“Dead! What do you mean dead?” I said.” I can’t drive around town with a dead man in my cab. Jesus Christ Tommy what am I to do with him?”
“Don’t get excited Frank, just take him to the funeral parlor they will look after him there,” said Tommy. “Charlie Jack died last night on the boat. We were way out on the banks and couldn’t come in right away. I’m sure it’s a heart attack, he was complaining about chest pains for a couple of days. You look after him, we have to unload the boat. Here’s twenty buck that should take cover the fare. Spencer’s Funeral Parlor is only three blocks away.”
Against my better judgment I agreed to look after Charlie Jack. I drove to the funeral parlor with the now late Mr. Jackson sitting up in the back leaning against the door. Now this is where my troubles began.
“What the hell do you mean I can’t leave Charlie Jack here?” I asked. “Where do you usually take stiffs but to a funeral parlor.”
“I’m sorry but we can’t accept corpses without a death certificate,” said the clerk. “It is strictly against the law for us to take bodies and store them for disposal. Your best bet is to take him to the Morgue where the proper papers can be made. I’m sorry my hands are tied.”
Next stop the Morgue.
“What you’re telling me,” asked Frank. “Is I can’t leave a body here unless someone has officially verified he’s a corpse. Come with me I can verify he’s deceased. I’ve had him in my cab for more than an hour and I can guarantee you he’s dead, I know dead and he’s dead.”
“You can’t do that. It has to be done by a physician in the hospital,” said he clerk. “We have a system here only deceased from this hospital can get into the morgue. A doctor will send down a certificate of death and we proceed from there. I’m really sorry. Who is his doctor?”
“No,” I said. “His doctor is in Meares Bluff one hundred miles from here.
“Well then you will have to get his doctor to give you a death certificate then we can help you, sorry.”
There’s that goddamn sorry word again. Every one is sorry. Not as sorry as I am right now for taking this fare in the first place. I was at a loss to find a solution. I was coming out of the morgue I spotted a customer getting into the cab.
“Hey don’t get in there, I have a fare,” I screamed.
“Come on Frank I need a ride to the King George Hotel, Charlie Jack doesn’t mind, I asked him and he’s dead to the world,” said the customer.
“Okay, hurry get in the cab,” I said. Not in the back seat though, sit up front with me.”
I drove as fast as I could to the King George. By now my mind is wandering like crazy. What if I can’t get rid of Charlie Jack, What if I can’t get a death certificate, what if, what if, and I was driving myself nuts trying to figure a way out of this mess. I drove up to the front of the beer parlor to let Fred out. I think his name is Fred. You get to know a lot of people only by their first names. There was a group of people coming out of the beer parlor, just as Fred was getting out of the cab. Fred pays me and now insists on thanking Charlie Jack.
“Don’t open that door,” I shouted.
Too late Fred has the door open and Charlie Jack rolls out onto the road. Now Fred is beside himself.
“Jesus Charlie Jack I’m sorry,” apologized Fred. “I didn’t know you were asleep.”
I’m around the cab in a flash and pick up Charlie Jack. Fred is there trying to help me. Suddenly, Fred’s face goes pale, his eyes are like a couple cherries in a pool of milk. Fred and I manage to get Charlie Jack back in the rear seat. Have you ever tried to pick up a body? A hundred and fifty pounds now become two hundred and fifty pounds. Lucky rigor mortis has been settling in so you might say that Charlie Jack was becoming a real stiff. Fred’s got this look of panic on his face.
“Jesus Christ Frank, I think Charlie Jack is dead,” he moans. “I felt him and he’s colder than hell. Holy Jesus Christ Frank, Charlie Jack is dead and dumped him onto the street.”
“Nah, your imagining things,” I said. “You know Charlie Jack he’s always cold from passing out on the street. Here Fred go in and have a couple of beers on me.” I hand him a couple of dollars.
Fred is in a daze. He starts to wander down Argyle Street towards the Somasset Hotel, muttering to himself. “Charlie Jack is dead and I threw him onto the street. Charlie Jack is dead and I threw him onto the street.”
I follow Fred down a ways trying to get him to come back to the King George. I look back and the group that was coming out of the beer parlor was now getting into my cab.
“No. No,” I’m shouting. “Get out, get out I have a fare.”
I was too late. Two very intoxicated females are in the back with Charlie Jack. One was cuddling up to Charlie Jack and talking a blue streak to him. The male of the group got in the front with me.
“Take us to the Arrowview beer parlor Frank,” said the male. “We’re trying to find a date for Sally here. Hey Frank when do you get off work? You want to party with us tonight.”
I declined the invitation. The Arrowview is only two blocks away from the King George. I made it in thirty seconds and unloaded my passengers, except one. It was Sally, she had been talking to Charlie Jack and Charlie Jack was no answering her. The thirty seconds it took us to get to the Arrowview, Sally’s cuddling had now turned into a tirade on poor Charlie Jack. We had to drag her out of the cab, kicking and screaming at Charlie Jack.
“Big shot Charlie Jack,” Sally said. “Last week you couldn’t get enough of me. I screwed your brains out for two days and now you’re too stuck up to even talk to me. Well screw you Charlie Jack, see if I’m as nice the next time you see me.”
With a show of defiance, Sally threw her head back and strode into the Arrowview. This was getting out of hand. I drove into the back lane, found a dark area and transferred Charlie Jack into the trunk of the cab. I drove back to the morgue and asked the clerk if there was any other way I could get a death certificate. He told me to check the government office. If you needed a form they would have one. Sure enough they had the proper forms and gave me one. I took it back to the cab and filled it out the best I could. Signed a fictitious name and sealed it. I then drove back to the funeral parlor. Lucky it was a different person on duty. This time I carried Charlie Jack in and plunked him down onto a table, handed the clerk the death certificate, I had made out. I told him the family is grieving and may take a few days to make arrangements. Just be patient, and walked out. Charlie Jack has had his last taxi ride.
I was so wound up I never notices the police cruiser come up along side of me, lights flashing siren blaring.
“Pull over Frank we want to talk to you,” said the constable through a loud speaker.
Now what have I done? I wasn’t speeding and my cab has all it’ lights working. I pulled over and stopped.
“Just stay in the car,” they ordered. “Now with your left hand give me the keys to the trunk of the taxi.”
“No need,” I said. “There is a key in the trunk slot already. All cab drivers put an extra key in the trunk slot. Saves shutting the engine off to open the trunk. What are you looking for?”
“We had a call come in from a man claiming he was riding around in a taxi with a dead man. We also arrested a lady who said her ex boyfriend was cold to her in a cab and ignored her. Another call saying they saw a car behind the Arrowview and someone was stuffing a body into the trunk. You happen to know anything about this Frank?” Queried the constable.
“I haven’t the faintest idea what they are talking about,” said Frank. “Go ahead look into the trunk. By the way have you noticed it’s a full moon out tonight? This is the time when all the weirdo’s come out. As for me I’m calling it a day and going home, if that’s okay with you guys?”
“You right Frank,” said the officer. “We do get a lot of crank calls when the moon is full. Yeah you can go home and leave the weirdo’s to us.”