Spyder looked up. The cabbie looked -exhausted, Spyder thought. One of thos_uys in his forties with eyes that make him look ten years older. His ski_ung loosely on a gray, unshaven face.
"The companies make it sound like it'll put more cabs on the street, bu_eally it's just going to screw up the medallion system even worse and giv_ll the power to the big cab companies. We aren't employees, you know. All u_abbies are freelance. I owe money the moment I take my cab out. The moment _ouch it. A cab driver has the job security of a crack whore. Worse tha_laves, even. We're up at the big house begging the master for more cotton t_ick."
"I'm sorry, said Spyder. "I don't know anything about Prop 18. I don't vote… ever."
The driver shook his head. His black hair stuck out at odd angles, as if he'_een sleeping on it just a few minutes earlier. "Voting's not a right, yo_now. It's not a privilege. It's your duty. My daddy died in the war so yo_ould vote."
"Hey driver, uh," Spyder looked at the name on the man's taxi license, "Barry.
Do you want to play a game?"
"I don't think so."
"There's a $20 tip in it for you. "
"Are you a cop?"
"You from the cab company?"
"What kind of game?"
"Don't rush getting me to the Haight," Spyder said. He leaned his head agains_he window. It was cool on his forehead. "Take your time. Let the meter run.
As we hit each corner, you're going to tell me what you see.
"What's on the corners you mean? Like buildings and people?"
"Exactly. Big or small. Whatever strikes your fancy."
"Give me a for instance," said Barry. "Like this corner."
"Okay," said Spyder leaning forward to peer out the windshield. "That semi u_head. The blonde eating a taco in front of bodega. The mailbox painted like _exican flag. That blimp shaped like Garuda."
"What's a Garuda?"
"A bird-beaked messenger deity from Thailand."
"I don't see nothing like that."
"Tell me what you see."
Barry breathed deeply and craned his head on the end of his long, doughy neck.
"Some bums with shopping carts. Some hookers. Mexican or Asian, maybe. Can'_ell from here. They got on high heels and the littlest goddam skirts. You ca_ee all the way to Bangkok when they bend over."
"Keep going," said Spyder.
"A Goodwill. A closed down porn theater. Cholos drinking forty-ouncers by _ow-rider. A cop car stopping near 'em… ," Barry fell into a sing-son_attern, reciting as they drove. "A mom with her kid in a stroller. A couple _ogs fucking. Get some, boy! Some dope dealers. Bunch of teenyboppers cuttin_chool. Little shits. Don't learn to read and we end up paying their welfar_o they can have babies." Barry glanced into the rearview mirror at Spyder.
"This is kind of a stupid game, buddy. When is it your turn?"
"My turn?" Spyder lit a cigarette, his first of the morning. "Everything yo_aw, I saw. But there were other things, too.
"A winged horse. A lion turning into a golden bird, then into smoke. An ange_haring a cigarette with a horned girl whose skin's blue and hard, lik_opaz."
"Jesus fuck, man," said Barry. Spyder saw the driver's eyes widen in th_irror. "Are you on drugs or do you need drugs?"
"There's a naked, burned man walking down the street. No, not burned. Cooked.
Glazed and cooked like a ham. There's a swarm of little sort of bat thing_lying around him taking bites. He doesn't seem to mind."
"I'm letting you out at the corner, guy."
"Keep going or you don't get your tip."
Barry shook his head. "Keep it. Getting stabbed by some psycho fuck isn'_orth twenty dollars."
"Do I seem like a psycho to you, Barry?" asked Spyder.
"I dunno. Sure talk like one."
"I understand. This is weird for me, too."
"Then maybe you just want to be quiet and not talk about it anymore," Barr_aid. "Anyway, we're almost to your drop."
"Do you see that building on the corner? I can't tell what it's made of. It'_ike pink quartz, but the walls are shifting like the whole thing is liquid,"
"It's a vacant lot, man."
"Maybe I'm just dreaming."
"If it's a dream, you can give me a fifty dollar tip instead of twenty."
Spyder smiled. "Or I could stab you in the head, suck out your eyes and skul_uck you. I mean, if this is just a dream."
The cab screeched to a stop. "Get out."
"Let me get my money," said Spyder.
Barry turned around to face him. He had a lime green windbreaker draped ove_is arm to hide the old Browning .45 automatic he was holding. "Get the fuc_ut."
"Jesus, Barry. Tell me that's not your daddy's gun," said Spyder. "Prett_reudian, don't you think?" The cabbie's eyes narrowed. "I'm kidding, man. I'_ust having a weird day. Let me give you some money."
"Keep your hands where I can see them and get out. I'll shoot you and tell th_ops you tried to rob me. When they find all the dope in your blood, they'l_elieve me."
"Sorry I scared you."
"You didn't scare me, you pissed me off," said Barry. "Can't you tell th_ifference?"
Spyder got out of the cab and leaned in the front passenger window. Barry kep_he gun pointed at him. "Funny, my ex said something like that when sh_plit."
Barry gave Spyder the finger, gunned his engine and shot straight down Haigh_treet before being caught at the next corner by a half-dozen jaywalkin_unks.
That guy was going to shoot me, thought Spyder. He considered that as h_alked the last half block to the studio. Maybe it wasn't such a bad option.
The hallucinations weren't letting up. Maybe being shot was what he needed t_ick his brain out of the peculiar abyss into which it had fallen. Spyder ha_he feeling that the day wasn't going to get any better.