Thursday, July 19, 2007

stupid dumb bastard

Last night I made one of those mistakes that, in this job, can be so costly. I'd earned my target amount, was gassed up, logged off, rolling through the Ashfield shops on my way back to base when a fellow hailed me ... and I stopped. Soon as I saw him lurch against the door as he tried to get in, I knew; but by then of course it was too late. My problem had become, how to get him out again. Parramatta, he said, rolling the rrrrrs and clipping the tttttts, like a Russian. He was about as drunk as you can be and still stand, or sit, upright. Clutching his phone. He made a call, speaking in his own language, which wasn't Russian, to a woman on the other end. Shouting, rather. The only word I knew, repeated several times, was taxi. He was trying, I realised later, to get her to agree to pay the fare at the other end. Didn't sound like she agreed. He finished the call then lurched over in my direction, trying to grab my arm. Shouting something. I eluded him by leaning away. He left his hand clasped on the back of my seat for a while. Forgotten, probably. What nationality are you!? That's what he was roaring. I told him. He couldn't process the information. You're not a wog? he dribbled. And then: You're white, like me. This seemed to be a satisfactory outcome. I asked him his nationality. Former Yugoslavia, he said. From Montenegro. A morlach from the black hills perhaps. Probably Serbian was the language he'd been speaking. He subsided into an alcoholic stupor as we drove up the Parramatta Road. He smelled sweet, as if he'd been drinking some peach or cherry or plum liqueur. Once we were on the M4, all of a sudden, he started bellowing and shadow-boxing. Get Fucked!! he yelled, very loud. Several times. Then he'd subside and sigh in a melancholy way. But he knew the way, he wasn't that drunk. I realised he probably didn't have any money when he started mumbling that he'd give me his phone number, I could call him tomorrow. By then I just wanted to get him home, get rid of him. I was driving too fast but I didn't care. My other worry was that he might try to grab the wheel. His directions, when they came, were slurred and shouted at the top of his voice. He could easily have become violent. Once we left the M4 he started saying I could come round to his house the next day for the money. I didn't want his address, I didn't want his phone number, I didn't want ever to see him again. We got to the street, pulled up, I stopped the meter, switched the light on. It was about forty dollars. He sat. You can get out now, I said. Where's my change? he said. There is no change, I said, because you haven't given me any money. You can get out now. I switched off the motor, kept my hand on the key in case it was me who had to bail. Suddenly he turned pathetic. What I doing? he said. Get out of the car, I said, the third time. I dumb, stupid bastard, he said. Stupid dumb bastard ... at long last he started to move. It took him an age to get out and he nearly fell as he tried to shut the door; then he almost jammed his fat fingers in. I watched him shamble off up the street, then started the car, chucked a Uee and left. It was about ten dollars in fuel and tolls to get the sad fuck home and me back to base, so I guess he left me out of pocket thirty bucks or so but I decided not to care about that. It was better just to be free of him. Later, when I was having a bite to eat, just as I set the wine glass to my lips for the first sip, that sweet disgusting odour of cherry brandy or whatever it was rose up and I was almost sick.