Diary of a Taxi Driver

by Teddy Kimathi

In one summer
afternoon, a boy was playing with a fury cat around a flower garden. At the
middle of the garden, it stood a marble statue of the Water Bearer with a jar,
pouring water into the fountain pool.



“Where do you think you
are going naughty cat!?” Simon yelled, as the cat ran into a mansion, which was
a few happy steps away from the flower garden; the mansion belonged to Mr.
Charles Maina, his uncle. A twenty eight, roomed house came into reality
because of exporting flowers and strawberries abroad. It was an investment that
he had made for five years, partnering with quite a number of investors in
horticultural marketing sectors.



As a pupil in the
celebrated High Ridge Academy, Simon built his reputation as the “nephew of a
flower millionaire”; his fellow classmates fondly referred to him. Ironically,
he was a silent, composed boy, who did not make a fuss about his uncle’s social
status. In fact, the cat is what occupied his thoughts more, compared to the
luxuries his uncle provided.



It is uncle Maina’s
mansion that the cat decided to change it into a maze for Simon, who was then
panting. It did not take long for Simon to trap the restless creature in a
study room.



“Wow! It is like the
entire knowledge has been put in these shelves!” the boy exclaimed, as he stood
still in the middle of the room. Afterwards, came a deep silence; the sound of
a pin hitting the floor would be heard. There were dozens of bookshelves, as
compared to his school, where only a single book shelf was put in his class.



As he wondered how his
uncle managed to own such a large collection of books, a soft touch on his left
leg made him to jump with fright, making some books piled on a study table to
fall.



“You shall pay for
this!” Simon roared, as he trembled with rage. No sooner had he pulled out a
catapult and a stone from his shorts’ back pocket, than when his target stepped
on an old, book, coated with a brown cover. An ardent lover of history and old
things he was, that he was momentarily hypnotized by the sight of yellowing
papers.



“This is strange….. On
my palms is the only manuscript that my eyes have set upon!” Simon exclaimed.



Uncle Maina had brought
him to the study room on many occasions, where only printed books lay side by side
each other, in the wooden shelves. Exploring the study room with careful
observations for three years without a sign of manuscripts, or any smell of ink,
only made him wonder more and more.



“This is a diary book
based on real events”, read the first page he opened. The words were written in
black, with a slanted calligraphic angle. This sight took Simon’s mind to
fantasies of Captain Cook’s journeys to strange lands, writings penned down
using a feather pen on his diaries.



After a blank page, the
next page read “Life of Wonders”, with bigger letters, written in bold. The
words looked like a title of a magic book. Simon was so captivated with the
title, that he closed the diary book, and carried it hurriedly to his bedroom. He
felt as though he was about to watch an eagerly, anticipated movie in cinema.



“My opportunity for a
better life, away from my village, was made possible by my elder brother, who
took me to a driving school. He also paid for my fees. After completing my driving
studies, I received my driving license, and became a taxi driver……..” Simon
read, as he ate his chocolate.



“During my time as a
driver, I had all kinds of passengers and experiences. I carried foreigners,
call-girls, spies, robbers, and friends. These are people who gave me money to
survive expensive house rents and food prices that sometimes shot to the
ceiling, with or without any explanation from the financial ministry.



As I slowly adapted to
the city life, I made a lot of friends. Some also allowed me to keep their
change, out of kindness or pay for conversing with them on different topics,
which were of great interest to them. This kind of interaction in my work made
me learn more, and know more about people.



 Although it seemed to be enjoyable to be
behind the wheel, it also carried risks. Once I carried a nervous man, who had
a leather bag with him. He kept on telling me to drive very fast, to no
specific destination. It is by reaching the city outskirts, where street lighting
was less, and silence was more, that I realized that my passenger was a robber.
A punch on my jaw, and stealing money that I had made for the day was the
gratitude that I got, taking him to a place where the police couldn’t think of
finding him; I also suspected that his bag had stolen money.



Out of all the
passengers that I have carried, only one passenger who stood out, as far as
mystery is concerned.  A woman, maybe in
her early or mid-thirties, wearing a long, white dress, as though she was heading
for dinner, became my customer during dusky hours, as I headed to deliver
tourists’ luggage to Hilton Hotel.



She stopped me by the
road side with a calm wave. Methinks that a beautiful woman who walked alone on
a road, as the only pedestrian, was akin to a rabbit jumping around the
lion-infested Savannah!” Simon was almost chocked by his chocolate as he burst
to laughter. He also wondered where his uncle got such an interesting
manuscript. Having a personal chauffeur to take him to school, he didn’t know
of any taxi driver throughout his stay in Nairobi. “Maybe it’s my uncle’s
chauffeur!” he thought to himself, remembering the many adventure tales he told
him, as he took him to school, or returned him home.



“What in the name is a
lovely lady like you doing, walking alone at sunset?!” I asked her, as she got
into my cab. “I was waiting for you”. This reply made me feel odd, for I had
never seen her since when I started to see. I was certain that she had confused
me with another taxi driver, who almost had my looks.



 “Where are you heading to?” “I have no
destination.” “No destination!” I wondered aloud. She had no signs of
drunkenness, drug abuse or insanity, uttering those words. Total composure is
all I read deep in her eyes, as I scrutinized her by the front driver’s mirror.
“This must be a joke, in a wrong hour; an hour that people get mugged and
defiled….” I thought to myself.



I didn’t know whether
to stop the car, and pull her out, or to keep on driving until when she was
finally certain, about her destination. At that moment, I was using my fuel to
transport someone who didn’t have a stop anywhere; the car was moving at thirty
kilometers per hour, to nowhere.



“Your taxi will make
you very rich soon” she said. “Sure”, I replied, with a tone of sarcasm. I was
deeply convinced that the woman was trying to break the silence in my cab.
There was no music, because the radio was spoilt.



Ten minutes later, we
finally reached a petrol station for refueling. “Do you want to buy soda or relieve
yourself? This is going to be a very long night for us.” “No, I’m fine”. As an
adult, I respected her decision, and got out and went to buy myself a packet of
groundnuts and a soda, as my cab got refueled. I was also certain that if she
was a thief in disguise, nothing of value she would steal. I had the car keys
in my jeans’ back pocket.



As I headed back to my
yellow cab, I found the back seat empty! She had disappeared into thin air,
without paying me for the wasted fuel or waiting for her to remember her
destination! The cab’s doors were all locked. “She must be an agent
investigating about drug peddlers or money launderers!” I thought to myself, as
I got balance for my fuel money, starting the engine to head home. My head was
aching out of all that confusion and tiresomeness, brought by the woman. It is highly
likely that she was using me as bait. ” Simon read on, though a bit nervous,
due to the disappearing act of the strange woman.



…………………………………………………………………………………………………



“Your taxi will soon
make you very rich,” I remembered her words. Those memories didn’t make my
present situation any better, realizing that it was already night-time, my
watch reading 9pm. This made my adrenaline rush so fast that I didn’t realize
my cab over speeding in a highway. The speedometer was reading 120km/hr! All I
wanted was to be in my house safe and sound; doors and windows all locked.



 It just took me twenty minutes for my wish to
come true. There was no traffic policeman to stop me, and fine me for
dangerously over speeding in the dark, or being arrested for presumed suicide
attempt. I was home right at the nick of time.



A radio playing instrumentals
and a cold bottle of soda, while seated on my favorite rocking chair, worked
the trick in returning me back to my normal self. It was just a few moments before
that I was as nervous as a stray cat, hiding from neighborhood dogs.



Sleep is the only thing
that I couldn’t make myself to enjoy. Vivid memories of the woman’s words and
her mysterious disappearance gave me nightmares throughout the night. Instead
of envying the rich, I envied people who enjoyed their sleep.



Restlessness and
rolling between the sheets, went on and on until sunrise. The yellow vehicle
parked right outside my house had rested throughout the night; its engine cool
and ready for a warm up, throughout the day. “If only we were all like cars;
resting for the night, without any nightmares,” I mused.



…………………………………………………………………………………………………



My eyes sagging with
sleep debt, I struggled with dressing up. Having a cup of tea was not in my
menu that morning. Two bananas were sufficient for me, the whole day. Usual
breakfast consisted of two cups of tea, and a half loaf of bread, flavored with
margarine. Fear of carrying a government agent wasn’t working for my appetite;
my tummy was full of anxiety.



Satisfied with the
fruits, I got out of my one-bedroom house, opened the car door, and started the
engine.



Thirty minutes later,
my taxi stopped at a parking lot outside Windsor Resort. Three days ago, a
doctor going by the name Prof. James Todd, had called me, confirming whether I
would be ready to pick him from the resort, and take him to the airport, at
nine o’ clock on the dot. Contrary to African timing, where a nine o’clock can
mean eleven or twelve o’clock, I well knew that according to Prof. Todd, as an
Englishman, “nine o’clock” had to be exactly nine o’clock.



Staring at my side
mirror, I saw four men in three-piece suits walking towards my cab. Amongst
them was Prof. Todd, seemingly looking free-spirited and jovial. I really
admired the way they talked, their hands expressing their different states of
emotions, like Italians do.



After sometime, the
left, back door opened, and my first passenger that day, got into my cab. It
was a really exciting moment for me, because fees that I charged for taking
passengers to airports could fill my cab’s fuel tank for a whole week, and even
enjoy a sumptuous meal in a Chinese restaurant.



“I hope that the
seminar I had with the rest of the doctors will be taken seriously by your
government. Twenty million dollars will be donated by the Swiss government to
the Kenyan government, to cater for medical researches. The media was also
there,” the professor said, with a calm tone.



“I hope so too….,” I
replied, but deep in my mind knowing how corruption ate millions of shillings,
vested for the interests of citizens. This thought made me to have a bitter
taste, deep inside my throat.



…………………………………………………………………………………………………



Buses moved to and fro,
carrying tourists. Planes were taking off and landing. We had reached the
airport.



“Due to your patience
and good driving, take this tip and enjoy!” “One hundred pounds?!” I was really
astonished and excited at the same time, as he handed me the money. In Kenya
Shillings, this was fifteen thousand; a whole salary for an average casual
worker!



“Have a jolly day, and
see you soon!” Prof. Todd said to me, as he opened the left-back door of the
taxi door.



Once again, the words
of the strange woman in a long, white dress echoed in my mind once again.



…………………………………………………………………………………………………



I was seated on my bed;
a bottle of beer weakly held by my right hand. Misery was tormenting me into
such trying depths. A week had passed, from the time my cab had been stolen.
The incident took place as I went to help out a customer to carry his luggage,
from a hotel in the outskirts of Nairobi City.



All that I had been
left with as a form of its remembrance was my driving license, despite its old
look.



 The fifteen thousand Kenya Shillings that I
had been given by Prof. Todd, is the only money that I had to cater for my
daily household costs. Deep in my thoughts, having a picture of how bad my
financial situation was, made me to contemplate attempting suicide.



It may seem insane to
any rational person, if I say that my cab and I had a special relationship. We
had seen and experienced a lot of things together. Carjacking, corrupt traffic
police, madmen, and strange people, are some of the personalities that made our
lives on the road very interesting. It was such a great adventure to say the
least.



“I need a strong rope.
A rope that will hold me tightly, such that I won’t think about removing it, in
case of a second thought,” I said to myself. As I was about to leave my house,
my cell phone rang. It was really a confusing state for me, because I was a few
hours away to meet death. There was no use to talking to anyone, especially a
customer, because there was no cab or someone I could rely on. 



Three times the cell
phone rang. A message was also sent. To avoid any further interruptions with my
last plan, I decided to read the text message, and text back, to tell the
anonymous caller that I was busy.



“Congratulations to you
Mr. Charles Maina! You are the sender of the code KBS 19E! You have just won
ten million Kenya shillings jackpot! Please visit Sarit Centre gala night this
Saturday, and receive your money prize!” the message read. An intense sense of
joy filled my heart at that moment. My thoughts were spiraling fast like a
tornado.



I could hardly believe
that my lost cab’s number plate had won me a grand prize, in a contest that was
sponsored by Safaricom, the largest communication firm in East and Central
Africa.



After a month of
clearing all my excitement, I resolved to buy a two acre piece of land, and
start a flower firm. It finally came to the realization of my sub-conscience,
that the strange beautiful lady, dressed in a long, white dress was an angel!



My childhood prayers
had been answered. Since the time I lost both of my parents when I was just
seven years, seeing a guardian angel had always been a prayer in my heart.”



All these truths were
so much for Simon’s tender mind that he didn’t know how to react. His uncle was
the taxi driver all along!



“Is it possible the
same angel sent the cat into the study room, so that I could learn about my
uncle’s real life?” the boy asked himself.



 

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Slave Prince

Slave Prince

June 8, 2017 - 04:46 I don't know if I figured it all out, but your story's quite interesting. That's the main point of storytelling - be interesting. And you just did that man.

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