by Steve Passey
Our Uber driver picked us up in a white Dodge Caravan. He had a tip-jar on the console between the driver’s and passenger seat that he’d taped his own picture to. He was smiling and holding a fat baby. He had a bobble-head Jesus on his dash and a rosary around the rear-view mirror.
Are you Catholic, we asked?
“No,” he said. “It’s not faith. It’s just for luck. I bought this van used and Jesus there — and the rosary, too — were the previous owner’s. Who knows? The Catholics may be right, so I kept them.”
It was a quiet drive on a hot night. We waited at a red light. Across the intersection a police cruiser had pulled up onto the sidewalk.
“Tell us something about this place,” we said.
The driver told us, directly and in parentheticals:
“It is hot here in the intersections in the months of July and August. A man I know got shot just standing here. Right here, right in this intersection. He’d had a dispute with some guy — didn’t even know his name. Just some back and forth over no one knows what. The guy came back and shot him with a borrowed gun, right there, right on that spot, and there is where he died.
(The victim had a baby with his girlfriend. She had his name tattooed on her neck. I hear they’re getting by.)
But this is the thing: A man may not have money. A man may not be admired. A man may not be respected. A man may not see justice, but man with a gun can always get redress.
(There is no greater satisfaction in this life than redress.)
You see those cops over there?”
He nodded across the intersection. A police car was pulled over right onto the sidewalk, cutting people off, both doors open but no red and blues were on. Two cops, big men in black uniforms, sweat on their foreheads and forearms, were talking to two almost impossibly skinny men with dreadlocks.
We looked at each other. Holy shit, we thought, we’re in the big city now.
The driver kept talking. “Those cops,” he said. “Look at those arms. Pumping iron, putting on the uniform, going to war. Ritual de lo habitual. You don’t fuck with those guys,” he said. “You don’t call them motherfucker. You don’t call them sir either, because you risk your tone being misinterpreted as disrespectful. Yes or no is all you say and be careful how you say it. They don’t pump all that iron, they don’t drop a gram a week of testosterone and fifty milligrams of Dianabol every day for you to talk shit, look shit, think shit. If they hear shit, see shit, imagine shit they’ll choke you out man, or they’ll shoot you dead.”
The dreadlocked men were kneeling now, getting ready to lie on the ground. One cop had put on black latex gloves. The light changed and the van started to move. We looked at the police until we could see them no more. “Soon enough September comes,” our driver said. “It’ll be cooler then, so we’ll see what comes with that.”
Steve Passey is from southern Alberta. He is the author of the collections Forty-Five Minutes of Unstoppable Rock and The Coachella Madrigals and many other things. He is an editor/reader for the Black Dog Review.