"Want to go for a ride? We haven't talked in awhile..."
I recognized that drawl...
Mike Bacon...miscreant, Atlanta Chess Champion cum gypsy cab driver...
Against my better judgment, I said ok.
"Meet me out front in half an hour."
The uniquely infuriating Mike Bacon aka Psycho Taxi Boy...
Our last big blowup was 5 or 6 months before.
He had insulted me to the limits of my patience...over some alleged scandalous behavior of church leaders.
Now Michael had no patience for religious types.
I had little myself, but he had brought his point home
in a stunningly dreadful way.
Now, word for word, no one on the planet has a better command of the English language than a denizen of the American South.
They are easily the most colorful, artful and entertaining of the speakers.
They certainly do the most with the least.
Homespun wit and native intellect merge in a wickedly punchy brew.
Consider the likes of Tom Robbins if you don't believe me...
Having ferried all manner of people from around the world in his cab all those years, Michael had an endless supply of quirky stories.
Ever the acute observer of the human condition, driving cab allowed him to travel the world from the comfort of his front seat...affording him not only a unique education, but the freedom to compete in chess tournaments and still keep a roof over his head.
We had met in his cab, in fact.
It was Halloween night, but that is another story...
Michael had surmised that I was still somewhat in the chokehold of old time religion and needed some wising up.
There was nothing defensible in religion, according to Michael.
We debated the topic hotly one more time.
He told me exactly why he had no faith in those hypocrites.
Michael waxed virulent that day and we blasted apart.
I was still stinging from his attack months later...
Mike claimed that the most lucrative night of the year for Atlanta's cabbies was the last night of the Southern Baptist convention. After sending their families and attendees away in time for Sunday services back home, a select group of pastors,choir directors, youth leaders and the like stayed on for a little private convening of their own...at the infamous Cheetah strip club.
Now the only strip club that was open on a Sunday night was the Cheetah.
Cab load after cab load of these church guys were ferried from their fancy midtown hotels to the club all night long.
Mike went into shocking and sordid detail, much to my horror and dismay.
He just wouldn't let up!
I didn't care if I ever saw Michael again!
Then the soft drawl of his voice that late afternoon...
Much as I hated to admit it, I missed him...his surly, recalcitrant humor, his edgy droll outlook, not to mention the peculiar metaphysical experiences that spontaneously erupted whenever we got together...
I got in the passenger seat alongside Mike, unsure of how to reconnect.
He was a little tucked inside, as well.
He drove toward downtown Atlanta in silence.
Then a little cautious chit chat.
Things eased up. It was good spending time with him again.
First stop...one of the most expensive hotels in the heart of midtown.
Three well-dressed gentlemen got into the back seat.
Destination: the Cheetah club.
Mike dutifully dropped them off, wishing them a good night.
Moments later, 2 men emerged from the club with hookers on their arms.
They drunkenly waved Michael down and squeezed in.
The cab suddenly reeked of alcohol, cigar smoke and cheap perfume.
Repugnant! I rolled my window down.
Destination: the hotel we had just come from.
I squirmed uncomfortably.
There was too much activity in the back seat for me, but Michael was unfazed.
Finally they exited the cab, only to be replaced by another clump of men filling the back seat once more, nervously requesting the Cheetah.
They didn't seem the type, but looks could be deceiving, I reasoned.
None of them seemed the type, but perhaps I was naïve.
Upon their exit, three pale, overweight drunk guys clambered into the back seat...all sporting wedding bands.
Back to the nice hotel.
The men were foul-mouthed...pretty vile, actually.
I glanced at Mike a few times, wincing at their remarks.
He remained impassive.
'It is what it is,' I could almost hear him say.
As the night wore on, the fares were rowdier, more crude.
The same sickening circuit.
Too many scantily-clad women draped over their fat arms.
Then some lines of cocaine were snorted in the back seat.
I was churning inside, wondering how I could escape the cab.
I'd had enough!
The men were nothing short of bestial, despite their fine suits, expensive watches and other ostentatious trappings of wealth.
I overheard their conversations. There was no escaping it.
I was already mortified, but things were about to get worse...
A snatch of conversation held me riveted.
The men were bragging about their conquests, each one trying to best the others.
That's when I heard them mocking their wives...their mistresses...and their congregations.
My blood boiled, my stomach turned...
I realized what night it was...
Sunday night- the infamous last night of the Southern Baptist Convention.
The fine suits, conservative haircuts, wedding bands, their coarse mockery, the long line of cabs making the non-stop circuit between the Cheetah
and the fine hotels.
"Michael! Please get me out of here!!!"
Michael finished one more run...for emphasis.
Then he pulled to the side of the road so I could retch.
I shook with revulsion...and understanding.
He had exposed the rabble of southern Baptist preachers.
Debra Robinson email@example.com