On Sunday, I think it is, I text Bob to tell him I don’t want to work Tuesday this week either . . . it is the day of death but I don’t say that, I use another excuse. He calls straight back on the mobile and spends a few minutes trying to make me change my mind. He’s short of drivers Tuesday but over-supplied for Wednesday and Thursday. Bob can be quite persuasive when he wants to be but the good thing about him is that he usually accepts whatever decision I make; so I hold firm. Then just before he hangs up he says he’ll text me Wednesday morning to let me know . . . I think he means let me know what car I’m driving and where to pick up but I’m not sure – maybe he means let me know if I’m working at all? Is he playing with my head?
This doubt surfaces when I wake and stays in my mind all through the morning, which I spend re-writing the book proposal to take account of Maggie’s criticisms and (if possible) my own uncertainties. When I email the revision through to her she calls up and gives her approval, asking only that I take one word out: mockumentary. It’s such an ugly word that I’m happy to do that; indeed I excise the entire sentence in which it appears. For me an idea is working when passages of prose start spontaneously, as it were, running through my head – and this is beginning to happen. Another test is if things I have invented or imagined start appearing to me as real, taking their place in memory as actual, not provisional, events. Ditto ditto. Even though I’m a writer of non-fiction, I still sometimes make things up and then, strangely, assume them to be true. I must be a born liar, I think, as yet another heavy shower of rain pelts down outside; this has been going on for days.
In the end I can’t stand the uncertainty and give Bob a call. He sounds surprised: of course I’m working, Wednesday and Thursday, isn’t that what I asked for? But he’s busy fixing a car, he’ll text me later with the details. I guess it’d be paranoid to think he’s letting me dangle. Anyway, the text does come through sometime after lunch and it just says ‘base’. Jesse’s on his way down by train by now but wants to stop off at Hornsby to see his mate and buy some clothes; so I make sure he’s got a key and that there’s food in the house; and go out to work with that annoying Dragon (we used to call them ‘drag 0n’) song in my head: Is it any wonder / The streets are dark? / Is it any wonder / We fall apart? . . . it’s been raining / for so long . . .
I arrive at the base in a break between showers and coincident with the return of 1821 . . . so that’s good, I always seem to do better on those shifts I start a bit early. The day driver says it’s busy out there but tricky driving, because of the wet; we have a brief conversation about music – Good for your soul! he says – and I don’t even exchange a word with Bob because he’s on the phone the whole time. In Norton Street, Leichhardt I pick up a French couple going to Birkenhead Point and then in the city take an elderly business woman to the airport . . . and so on, and so forth, with barely a break, for the next eight hours, as white sheets of hissing rain descend upon us. At one point an arsehole in a 4WD, who disputes my right of way as we merge onto the bridge, tailgates me all the way across with his lights on high beam. Crazy. Wet weather does send certain Sydney people round the bend.
Another time I pick up on Fouveaux Street and take a threesome (2M 1F) to the Entertainment Quarter at Moore Park, not realising until we’re nearly there that this is the night of the Cold Chisel reunion. I saw their final gig, I say, at the Ent Cent, and the bloke in the back comes back with the year and the day . . . hardcore but very funny. I’m talking about Snowtown, the movie, because one of them has just passed through Snowtown, the town, but then break off so as not to give the plot away. It’s a big ship, says the bloke next to me solemnly, it hits an iceberg and it sinks.
There’s a class of passenger made up of people who want a ride but do not seem to wish to hail a taxi; the driver must, presumably through some psychic ability, divine their intention or their need. This is peculiarly embarrassing (for the driver) if you don’t get it right but somehow uplifting if you do. I’ve had a few of these lately and I get another, a fellow on George Street, midtown, going to Dulwich Hill . . . even though it’s not yet 10 o’clock I’m tempted just to go on home after this, when I drop off I’m just a stone’s throw from Summer Hill and not much further away from the base in Haberfield. I drive down my street and see that the lights in my apartment are blazing, that means Jesse’s there so I decide yes, home time . . . literally opposite the base, however, I’m hailed by a fellow going to Belmore so I take him there and then come back with Van Morrison playing really loud in the cab: whenever I get a fare into the West, for some reason, I always feel like playing this particular CD.
Back home Jesse is clearly pleased to see me and in a talkative mood; he shows me his new clothes and retails some fairly arcane info about how quantum computers work . . . while I polish off what’s left of the whisky and have my post-shift cheroot. And, yes, I think the rain has stopped.