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“I’m Jennifer Mills and I’m reading from a short story called The Taxi Driver which will be published in a collection of my short stories called The Rest is Weight, out in 2012 with UQP. You can hear the rest of this story on my blog: www.jenjen.com.au
The Taxi Driver
The taxi driver sits in the dark bar, his broad nose hovering over the matching nostril-hollow of the bottle he is emptying. Clear glass that shucks its foam. He sniffs at smoke-machine air and tastes the mountains: burning plastic in a tin stove, the phlegm of children that crawl and beg at him when he gets home, if he gets home before they are in bed, which is rare. Sometimes they wake to find he has returned in the night and teeter out wide-eyed to witness him, like a saint’s visit. Ignorance is hereditary. These sweet-shit-smelling children maul him like half-domesticated dogs. He swigs the cheap yellow malt to rinse the taste.
The taxi driver watches the city-style boys work something up in this sad small town, boys with shine and wings trying for glamour. His eyes are shaded under a cap in the dark, he hopes the check shirt doesn’t show its dirt marks. The tear in the shirt-tail carefully tucked into his jeans at the back. He’s traded the woven belt his mother made for a plastic one bought at the market, changed in the taxi. The barstool’s thin foam layer hardly protects from the metal frame and his arse hurts after two hours. Two hours he has been sitting on his one beer smoking half a cigarette at a time. The beer’s long warm and the cigarettes are tinny.
The taxi driver’s hidden eyes stick to a chest here, hook on this silver-edged shirt, trimmed like a mock of a cowboy’s. An angel’s wings in the corner, the floorshow, but it’s still too early. The performers are mixing, getting the jóvenes to drink up; they don’t bother with him. He is too old to be beautiful and there is a smell on him, a mountains smell of heavy lifting and bad schooling.
The taxi driver watches the angel wings molest the air, little breezes like a hummingbird, now behind, now straight ahead of him, talking to the cowboy shirt, muchacho silverado. A shimmer close enough to scent the animal under the bright perfume. The boy’s neck exposed above the collar. Tiny jewels of moisture cling between the stubble of a fresh haircut, he can see where the clippers have trimmed around a mole, almost feels the buzz of the machine against that part of himself, the neck muscle, as though it is his own kinetic memory.
ABOUT JENNIFER MILLS:
Jennifer Mills is the author of the novels Gone and The Diamond Anchor. A collection of her short fiction will be published by UQP in 2012 and she is currently at work on her third novel.
“I was awarded a Longlines residency in 2008 and returned to Varuna to participate in a Short Story Masterclass in 2010” Jennifer Mills
Gone (novel) 2011
The Diamond Anchor (novel) 2009
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