Holiday 2014 - THE POTOMAC

How To Make a Living As a Cabdriver in Rome

   Alison Morse

One night, I get a call for a pickup
in the center, a cobblestoned piazza
crowded with madonnas and multi-million
euro condos. When I arrive, this young guy
in a suit stumbles out of his apartment building
lugging a giant plasma T.V.

Brand new. Where's the box, cretino?
We put the T.V. in the trunk
without breaking it, zigzag the cab
past puking partiers (would I like
to run those kids over? Don't ask).
Head out to the 'burbs.

On the highway, my customer knocks
on the window. "Hey, I've got no money
but I just stole this T.V.
Take me to my fence; I'll sell
the T.V. and pay you."
He wants me to be an accomplice?
Does the stronzo have a gun? What
am I supposed to do?

My job. I drop him off at a warehouse
on a street as dark and empty as Italy's future.
I should just kiss my fare goodbye
and leave, but this clear-eyed guy
doesn't smell like booze, doesn't jitter,
sweat, or drool. And since the crisis
hit Italy, my income's shakier than he is.

After fifteen minutes I can't stand it.
I walk in on him and his black-market fence.
"I'm losing money sitting here. I gotta go."
He comes out, pays his cab fare
and leaves a wad of euros in my lap.
He's a thief but he won't cheat
a cabbie. We both have jobs to do.

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