Iowa Writes

CHARLES CRAWFORD
Of Potholes and Leather and Construction-Site Workers


   The taxi driver smells like leather. His cab smells like cigarettes and businessmen, but he smells like leather. Every time he turns around to talk to me I smell leather; on his breath, in his hair, rumbling off his jowls. He reeks of leather.

   "See the construction up ahead, man?" he asks me. I nod. I don't see it, but I nod. "It's been here for five months, man. Think about it. For five months," he holds up one leather scented hand from the wheel with all his fingers extended, to make sure I understand that it's been five months, "some team of dudes has been coming down here for ten hours a day and it don't look at all different now than it did before, man, and it's been five months." I nod and shake my head at the same time, saying yea, I understand, and yea, it's a crying shame.

   "The roads these days man, they don't crack easy. The city's got technology we won't know about for decades. These roads are futuristic. Takes a hell of a lot to make an impression in 'em, diamond drills and shit. But we got potholes everywhere. Seems like they appear overnight, you know?" I nod. He drops his voice to a whisper. "It's the road crews man, when they're not pissing around at work they're out at night fucking up the roads so they'll always have a job, man." Yea, I tell Leather, I understand, and yea, it's a shame, and yea, yea you're a fucking moron, yea.

   The taxi driver smells like leather. His cab smells like cigarettes and businessmen, but he smells like leather. Every time he turns around to talk to me I smell leather; on his breath, in his hair, rumbling off his jowls. He reeks of leather.

   "See the construction up ahead, man?" he asks me. I nod. I don't see it, but I nod. "It's been here for five months, man. Think about it. For five months," he holds up one leather scented hand from the wheel with all his fingers extended, to make sure I understand that it's been five months, "some team of dudes has been coming down here for ten hours a day and it don't look at all different now than it did before, man, and it's been five months." I nod and shake my head at the same time, saying yea, I understand, and yea, it's a crying shame.

   "The roads these days man, they don't crack easy. The city's got technology we won't know about for decades. These roads are futuristic. Takes a hell of a lot to make an impression in 'em, diamond drills and shit. But we got potholes everywhere. Seems like they appear overnight, you know?" I nod. He drops his voice to a whisper. "It's the road crews man, when they're not pissing around at work they're out at night fucking up the roads so they'll always have a job, man." Yea, I tell Leather, I understand, and yea, it's a shame, and yea, yea you're a fucking moron, yea.

   "And it's not just the road crews. Every city-worker and every federal employee is involved, and every election day they do the same goddamn thing." He turned around in the seat and stared at me, while driving. "Wonder why nobody in this fucking country can vote for somebody who aint dumber than a stack a' turds?" he asked, "You ever wonder that? There's not a person in America who thinks Congress is so much as halfway competent. But every year they win their goddamn seats back. I can tell you why. It's because they put something in the water. To fuck up your head," here Leather waves his fingers in front of his face and I want to tell him to keep his eyes on the road, but I don't because I worry that if I distract him we will crash and it will be my fault.

   "LSD, Peyote, Cocaine, all of it. That's how they do it, man, that's how they get re-elected. And the worst part of it, man, is that it's our drugs they're using. Everything they find ends up in Evidence, and once a year the police empty out all their Evidence into big canvas mail-bags, and the postmen take 'em to the sanitation assholes who then dump all that dirty psycho-mail into the water, and that morning when the good people brush their teeth they get whacked enough on tap water to trip out and vote in a bunch of crooked faggots." Leather smiles at me, gold-toothed. "This November I ain't drinking a drop till I vote, but as soon as that ballot's in I'ma drink the whole goddamn city!" he says and laughs.

   I look at my watch and it's been an hour and the meeting is in ten minutes and I'm trapped with Leather the amazing talking football and I just want to get there so I start to shout at him that he's a moron and he needs to sit down and shut up and drive his cab, but suddenly the car jumps and I smack my head into the roof. "Fucking potholes!" screams Leather, golden-toothed and laughing, with his head out the window and the city air playing with his hair and happy.

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About Iowa Writes

Since 2006, Iowa Writes has featured the work of Iowa-identified writers (whether they have Iowa roots or live here now) and work published by Iowa journals and publishers on The Daily Palette. Iowa Writes features poetry, fiction, or nonfiction twice a week on the Palette.

In November of 2008, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated Iowa City, Iowa, the world's third City of Literature, making the community part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network.

Iowa City has joined Edinburgh, Scotland and Melbourne, Australia as UNESCO Cities of Literature.

Find out more about submitting by contacting iowa-writes@uiowa.edu


CHARLES CRAWFORD

Charles Crawford is a sophomore at the University of Iowa. His short story "The Killing Jar" won Earthwords' 2010 editor's choice. He was born in Bangkok, Thailand, and when he's not writing, he's drinking tap water and driving extremely fast

This page was first displayed
on February 21, 2011

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