And into March I was driving and driving that cab: Wooster’s face in shrouds of morning smoke and the railroad bridge at night; the wind brought snow and turned it to rain, the sky tried sunny went back to grey—the sky got soaked and froze again and came back sunny blue, and the world bared its muddy ass. I couldn’t think of anything to do when I wasn’t driving, so I drove the cab night after night and stayed out later and later and had plenty of cash and paid off some old debts and put some cash aside without knowing exactly why and kept driving the cab, prowling around loose and arbitrary, answering calls on the scent of a name. They’d say “Candy at the Diamond Lounge” and I’d be fumbling for the microphone yelling “I’ll take that! Eight seven five for Candy!” and I’d get there and Candy’d be sixty years old in gogo boots, dead drunk and pissed off it was time to go home. Or it’d be “Lorain Two for Tina” and I’d stammer “I’ll take it! Nine four five for Tina!” and Tina’d be eighty years old out front of the Pick ’N Pay with ten bags of groceries, and I’d take her two blocks, carry ten bags up four flights of stairs and then carry Tina up as well and she’d piss on my arm and give me a dime tip.

Nights were dark and dirty or clear by turns and I began keeping track of the hookers on Lorain, and stopped once at an after-hours place at 69th & Carnegie where they frisked me at the door, and I traded glances with a girl at the bar and got some looks from a couple guys who didn’t remember having seen me before and I dropped all the money I’d made that night on dice and then got in my car and drove home, thinking I still hadn’t found what I was looking for, or even what it was I was looking for.

The next morning Marie called and said she was broke and needed fifty bucks. I met her downtown at a place filled with college kids and bought her a cornbeef and gave her the money and felt like I should excuse myself for being there. Ed was winning one night and losing the next three and telling me he was still up on Feef, the bookie.

And the weather was somewhere between warm and cool and it rained for days on end, and then for days it didn’t rain but the sky hung heavy with the promise of it and I thought I could hear church bells ringing across Lincoln Park, though none were ringing . . . And the neighborhood looked uncomfortable, all thawed out and exposed and waiting for spring. St. Patrick’s Day was grey and cold but they roped off part of downtown for the parade, and I was out in the cab outside the boundaries before the parade started and picked up three big old ladies going up to 65th & Detroit to play bingo in a church hall, and as I pulled away with them I said “You just missed all that parade traffic” and the one in the middle set up a low moaning full of sorrowful wisdom like the lowing of a cow, saying “Ooh’n it’s a good thing, too. I never did like no parade . . . all them people in one place, they could come along and drop a bomb and get everyone at once . . . that’s how they do it. No I ain’ goin’ nowhere near no damn parade.”

Back at the garage they kept putting cardboard down to soak up the muddy water we tracked in, but the cardboard just got soaked and churned up with the footsteps of a hundred drivers coming in and out and standing around talking and smoking, waiting for cabs. The track opened, and Ed and I went out for opening day and broke even, and then we went out for day two and lost, and the next day I drove the cab and Cleetus the nightman started giving me tips; and one night he asked if I was going out the next day: I told him I was, though I hadn’t known it till that moment. He gave me a sawbuck and told me to bet a five-dollar reverse on Get Up Richard with Rainmaker in the fourth. Feef didn’t take exactas, so I went out and placed the bet and threw ten on it for myself. Rainmaker got in there for second but Get Up Richard missed the board. And for some reason I felt sorry for Cleetus (this was a period in which I seemed to be prey to any random stray emotion drifting through): He was a hard-looking guy in his early sixties—maybe he reminded me of my old man—and I’d see him each night in the middle of nowhere behind that glass—It was only a few months later he died of cancer. I thought he was a mean sonofabitch at first: he didn’t do much but grunt and shake his head, almost smiling to an invisible partner like he was permanently pissed off about a trifecta from ten years ago . . . And then one night my cab broke down and I had to get towed back in and he said just a couple words to me when I walked into the office—nothing special, but coming from a guy to whom every word was an expenditure I realized he’d noticed me—maybe because I was younger than most of the guys driving—and after that for some reason I wanted to talk to the guy: just a few words—and for him to like me, and I found myself trying to think of something to say to him as I parked under the railroad bridge every night and walked toward the office. And so when he gave me the money for this bet I was proud somehow of the responsibility, and I included in that responsibility that he should win: I was looking forward to walking in there and handing him his money and thanking him ’cause I’d bet the suckers too. When I walked in to tell him what’d happened he’d seen the result in the paper, and I told him I’d thrown a sawbuck on them myself and showed him the tickets to let him know I was on his side, and to assure him I’d actually placed the bet and hadn’t booked it myself. It was no big thing. He was disgusted as usual, with that resigned disgust of old gamblers that said he’d either suspected the outcome all along or that we’d somehow been cheated, but either way it’s part of the game. And it was no big thing to me either: I kept walking in every morning and pulling back at night under the railroad bridge which loomed as black and ancient as night itself, and even though Cleetus and some of the guys I looked up to were way past putting any money down on spring, I couldn’t wait to see her come charging across the wire.

One night I decided to pick up one of the girls on Lorain and spent an hour and a half cruising back and forth and around and around the block with my radio off until finally I pulled over for a tough-looking chick with dark stringy hair shuffling from one foot to the other out front of Steve’s Lunch. She thought it was funny being picked up in a cab and flicked her cigarette out the window as soon as we’d parked. I gave her fifteen, but although the search and chase had been exciting in a nervous tunnel-vision kind of way, the act was somehow beside the point and extra, and amounted to almost nothing, and I managed to get it over with more by force of will than anything else. Afterward she asked my name and I told her, and she said hers was Kim, and asked me what I was doing out here paying for sex, so I asked her what she was doing out here selling it, and she said she had a Demerol or Dilaudid habit that took whatever she made in a night, and her boyfriend just got sent to Mansfield, so she had more of an answer than I did. I dropped her off and drove to the garage and pulled up to the fence under the bridge and walked the long walk to the office under that part of night that is eternal and continuous: I filled out my waybill and gave Cleetus a buck, and drove home and washed off my crotch and went to bed, thinking about Ed coming home with a big sticky wet spot from dousing himself with Scope . . .

The next morning I took my time under the shower at the gym and then drove out to my folks’ place . . . I spent the afternoon with my old man and ate dinner with them when my ma got home, went and picked up Dave and we drove around careless of hours . . . ended up parked in front of a donut place at four in the morning, drinking coffee and listening to the rain hit the roof . . . watching it roll down the windshield.


Mike DeCapite is the author of the cult-classic novel Through the Windshield, based on his experiences as a cab driver in Cleveland. Harvey Pekar, reviewing the book for the Austin Chronicle, called it “one of the better American novels of the past several years.”  DeCapite’s writing first appeared in Richard Hell’s CUZ magazine, in the late 1980s. Excerpts from his novel Ruined for Life! have appeared in 3:AM and Sensitive Skin. His other published work includes the chapbooks Sitting Pretty  and Creamsicle Blue, and the prose collection Radiant Fog.