One Headlight

By: shankar s.

People disappear around here.  Used to be that you couldn’t move in this town without someone knowing what you were doing and who you were doing it with.  Bustling, noisy, trafficky.  Rude people.  Mothers with crying babies.  School children.  Businessmen.

Then, one by one, the town’s population began decreasing.  I guess you could blame the lack of jobs, kids leaving for the service, or for college, or people just moving on like people do, but this?  I used to jockey for fares…now I’m the sole taxi driver in a one stoplight town.

I used to make as much on fares as a construction worker made at his job.  I know this because one time a construction worker was my fare…but only because his wife left him for another man and took the dad gum car from his parking spot at work, leaving him stranded.  Now ain’t that something?  Run off with another man, in his car, taking away his only ride to work and expecting child support payments to boot?  How’s a body going to get to work?

Call a taxi, that’s how.

People just being way too mean to each other, you ask me.  Kids sassing their parents, or suing their parents, or sometimes just shooting them.  Someone spared the rod, I’ll tell you that.  Spared the rod.  And drivers talking on their cell phones or textbooking or whatever they call it while they’re supposed to be driving, all the while weaving lane to lane.

Women putting on makeup, swatting into the back seat blindly, or putting movies into DVD players for their whiny children, all while driving.  Hot shot bikers with their crotch rockets, passing everyone down the middle.  No blinker.  No friendly wave.  Cutting you off and flipping you the bird.  Start seeing motorcycles?  Maybe if they were obeying the rules of the road I could see them a little better.

I found the most curious country road, not too long ago.  I was just tooling around on my off hours, no particular place to go, when I came upon it.  Or rather, it came upon me.  Lucky I had slowed down for a mean old coyote to slink cross the road; otherwise, I wouldn’t have seen the front end of my taxi disappear into thin air.  Thin air.

I slammed on the brakes and threw it in reverse, you can bet on that, and as I backed up, the front of my car reappeared.

Now, this was going to require a bit of investigatory work.

I parked and checked out my taxi which seemed no worse for wear, but if I threw a pebble in the direction the front end disappeared, it vanished.  No sound as it landed because it didn’t land.  It just wasn’t anymore.

I tried more rocks, then plants, and then found that while a stick could come back out, a live thing would not.  I experimented with two mice and a bird.  Once they went in, they didn’t come out, although you could still see the road ahead of you clear as day, leading into nowhere.

Did I try it on myself?  No, I did not.  I was curious, not stupid.  I marked the spot exactly and told no one what I had found.  I decided to take my experiment a little further a few weeks later with that no good Jeremy Whitaker.  You know the one, that no good little bastard who wears his pants belted under his underwear and may or may not have gotten a little too friendly with the neighbor girl, with her filing a police report and all that.

My money was on “may have.”  I offered him a ride to his house one day and told him we were taking the back way.  I found the particular spot on that particular road.  This is not the way to my house, old man, he told me.  Thinking quickly, I told him that I had found a dead body and did he want to see it?

Boy howdy, the kid couldn’t get out of the car fast enough.  Dead body?  Well, where is it?  I angled it so that I could give him a helpful shove over the invisible barrier, completing the experiment, and wouldn’t you know it…Mr. Saggy Pants disappeared.

I chose carefully after that.  This woman for embezzling, this man for cheating on his wife and impregnating his girlfriend and denying everything.  The priest who really should have just quit the priesthood and come out of the closet as opposed to preying of a different sort.  Lots more, some more deserving of my experiment than others.  No one came back.

How did I lure them?  The usual.  Lost dog, thought I heard a crying baby, the dead body story.  I’m still surprised at how effective that was.  Surprised and sad.

Some people, noticing the rash of disappearances, took it upon themselves to leave before it happened to them.

That’s fine with me.  A man has some peace in this town now.  No more crazy drivers.  No more sassy teens.  I don’t need to make as much money because I take what I need out of the empty houses.

Sometimes I hear them though; the ones who I helped “cross over.”  I don’t know where they are but it seems like they know where to find me.

Might be time to move, myself.

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