I won’t tell you which city the events in this story occurred. It was Christmas time, someplace far away, okay? You’ll understand. Call me Andy. I’m a 23 year old healthy dude and a licensed pedicab operator which means I haul fat-assed tourists around in a fucking basket. The dozen pedicabs which are the company I once worked for are owned by an oriental sleaze bag who also owns a payday loan and pawn shop next to a fleabag hotel in the bad part of downtown. Pedicab central is the alley behind this shop. The way it works for him is that he rents his pedicabs to us operators. He never misses an opportunity to scam drivers, sometimes charging us extra claiming imaginary damage to the bike or that we were late in returning. He constantly hit on the girl drivers who consequently never lasted long. When business was good with lots of tourists in town during good weather, he’d ratchet up the rental prices. Sometimes he’d fine us.
“I saw you eating in pedicab. You can no eat in my pedicab. Fine ten dollah!”
Whether we had a good shift or bad he got his lucre. I hated the fat sonofabitch. And I’d already decided that after the Christmas season I was movin’ to Hawaii and I’d saved almost enough for the tickets. Pedicab business in Honolulu is phat.
Anyway our income depended on things like conventions, weather, and most of all bullshitting. You might call it salesmanship or maybe charm, but it’s bullshit. Lemme ‘splain, Lucy. Let’s say an older couple eyes my vehicle. I gotta come on like I’m a struggling college student, if it’s a young couple I gotta push the exotic appeal of a slow ride around the city as though it were 1930 in some exotic Asian port say Saigon, Tokyo or maybe Hong Kong. I show ‘em the pull down screen just in case they want some privacy. But to tell the truth I never had no young romantic couple deploy the privacy screen, just a couple of gays. I’d go by China town where I’d get a kickback any place they stopped to eat. Ladies, if they were past 50 got flirted with like if I wanted to go back to their hotel rooms and bang ‘em which I was willin’ to do for $50. If it was couple of guys I’d act like I wanna give ‘em a blow job which I gotta tell ya ain’t never gonna happen, at least not do for no stinkin’ $50. Sometimes I’d unload a little ganja. You get the picture. It’s a little like waiting tables, do the work, don’t piss off the customer, and if you can spin the right bullshit then you get a decent tip. Hey tips is it.
Now the least I ever made on a shift is minus $25. On a rainy night, no customers and this 200 lb bitch meter maid in a stretch pants uniform gimme a ticket for nappin’ in my pedicab too close to a fuckin’ fire hydrant. But the most I ever made on a shift is $1045. That’s right – one thousand and forty five dollars. It was a Friday afternoon last December. I did a short $20 fare for two fat priests too cheap to tip even a dollar but when they left I seen ‘em get into a fuckin’ Cadillac Escalade, bastards. Then a nice old bag for another $20 fare and a $5 tip, and then I picked up the $1000 fare. Wha…you don’t believe me?
As it was near Christmas time the town was poppin. Well just after I drop the old lady off at her hotel, this sailor carryin’ a seabag strolls up and plops his ass down in the pedicab.
“I been watchin’ you, matey. You’re smooth. Lemme git right to the point. Crime, matey. How you with crime? Are you down with crime?”
“I’m an entrepreneur. What’s the crime and what’s in it for me, Sponge Bob?”
“It’s a snatch and run, and what’s in it for you is $100 up front and $100 after the job. That’s what’s in it for you, he says waiving a crisp Benjamin.”
“You have my interest, “I told him, “but more info is required.”
“You know that Chinaman’s check chashin’ joint? Next to the dump of a hotel?
“Do I? Ahhh shit, Sponge Bob, yeah, yeah, I am in, but not for no two yards. No, no, no. The display case in the back of the pawn shop is chuck full of gold and diamonds. And then there’s the cash register. Tomorrrow bein’ payday at the cannery and he’ll have a shit load of cash.. A shit load, you hear me, Sponge Bob? I need $100 up front and nine more yards to make it a grand.”
“Done, my man, and he passes me the $100. Now, let’s get to that ally behind the store. I’m gonna change clothes, at 6:55PM, that’s in 10 minutes, driver, I’ll come ‘round front, go in, bim, bam, boom, and come out the back to your fine getaway car, savvy? “
He’d done his homework. He’d cased the pawn shop, knew the hours, the exits, and that the pedicabs came regularly in and out of the back ally. It was winter and was dark by 5:30 and in the alley he deployed the privacy screen to change outta his uniform into clothes stashed in his sea bag. Right on time he emerged all in black wearing a balaclava, a hammer in one hand and pillow case and a can of mace in the other.
Not three minutes later he’s back,” Man that was a breeze,” he said as he plopped into the pedicab, pulling down the privacy screen as we rolled out into the business district as he changed clothes back into his uniform. How cool is this, I was thinking, when all of a sudden that bitch meter maid pulls up alongside me.
“Pull over, you ain’t showin’ no lights. I hope you is ready to pay a $50 fine….”
About this time the maced Chinaman musta found the button for the alarm. All hell broke loose. Lovely Rita, she’s lookin’ ‘round all bug- eyed like a frog in a Mason jar.
“It’s the Chinaman’s pawn shop! I yell. They musta robbed it! I seen two men in black run outta there and get in a Cadillac Escalade!
Now Officer shit bag moved, flipping on her flashing red light as she gunned her Cushman motor scooter, hoping for a hot pursuit. Last I seen she was screamin’ in her handset.
I said goodbye to Sponge Bob at the bus station where he forked over my cut. Then I sold the pedicab to some drunk sailors for twenty bucks. An hour later I was packed and standin’ in line for my flight.
Now you wanna know what rocks? Christmas in Hawaii, that’s what rocks.
© Gary Ives
Illustration by Cait Maloney
First published in “FICTION ON THE WEB” 13 January, 2013
Also published in “The Story Shack” 27 March, 2013