Under the Purple Umbrella
I’m given an address that doesn’t exist
from the computer on the dash of the cab.
I call the phone number.
“Hello?” A man’s voice, wind
thick in the mouthpiece.
“Hello, this is Matt, your cab driver,” I say. “Where
are you exactly?”
“I’m on 29th street,” he says. “I’m about a hundred
yards from a big building that is under
I’m sitting under a tree
in the shade, purple shirt,
you can’t miss me.”
I whip off the freeway
and see him there, waving.
He gets up from the dirt
with his pack, stumbles toward my cab.
He’s about 60 years old, messy hair, sunburnt.
He gets in, the smell
of fecal matter following.
“How’s it going?” he says.
“All right,” I say, rolling
down the window.
“Take me to the bus station, will ya pal? It won’t cost
more than 10 bucks will it, that’s
all I got.”
“Hey,” he says, “Did you know Denny’s
will give you a free breakfast
on your birthday? And they don’t
even check your ID! It’s not your
birthday, is it?”
“Shit, it don’t matter! They won’t
even check! And at IHOP
they give you a big ice cream
sundae on your birthday.
And at Big Jack’s barbecue
too, free sandwich on your birthday.”
“You got the bases covered,” I say.
“You like baseball?”
“Who’s your team?”
“Hey, did you know when the Diamondbacks score
more than 6 runs in a game, you get 2 free
tacos at Taco Bell? All you got to do
is buy a soda.”
“No shit? They scored 7 last night.”
“Hell, then, let’s go to Taco Bell! It’s on me!”
We both laugh at that one.
“That reminds me,” he says.
“I’ve got batting practice
later with the Sidewinders
over in Corbett Field. You know
where that is right?”
“You want some free tickets? I got free tickets,
just give me a call sometime,
“Will do, my man.”
As we approach the city bus station, he points
to the sidewalk.
“There’s Tony,” he says. “I’m gonna help him sell
hot dogs from his hot dog stand.”
“Right there, under the purple umbrella!”
I look at the sidewalk, see some people walking,
rushing here, rushing there,
no hot dog stand, no purple umbrella.
“I see him.”
I pull to the curb. He holds out
a ten-dollar bill
that looks like it had once
been part of a bird’s nest.
“Just keep it, man.”
he stuffs it back in his pocket.
“I’ll be expecting that call,” he says,
“anytime, my brother, free tickets! You got
my number, right?”
“I got it.”
He gets out of the cab with his pack
and I ease away.
When I look again
I’ll be 50 in
what, 4 months?
Hard to believe
any of this.
I turn right on 18th and take
the back way
to Taco Bell.
Mather Schneider is a 47-year-old cab driver. He has had poems and stories published in the small press since 1993. He has three full length books available and a fourth out in early 2017.