“This is where I stop, Mac.” the cabbie said.
T. Radcliffe Tannenbaum awoke with a start and inspected the landscape. A grand, or nearly grand, city lay waiting outside the cab. He must have fallen asleep. Since he could not remember hailing or entering the cab, this particular fact grasped Tannenbaum’s attention rather tightly. Normally Tannenbaum didn’t do things like this. If he fell asleep, he usually had pajamas and a toothbrush laid on the nightstand beside him. In this case, there were no pajamas, no toothbrush, and no nightstand. In a moment, he would dab the spot of drool that had run down onto his shoulder and assess the situation calmly, rationally, and with poise. It’s very difficult to have poise with a drool stain on your shoulder.
“This isn’t my stop.” Tannenbaum said.
“I know.” the cabbie replied. “You slept past your stop, and you looked so restful that I hated to wake you.”
Tannenbaum placed his hands on his temples and fought the urge to tear out his brains.
“That was very kind of you.” he said.
T. Radcliffe Tannenbaum’s sarcasm fell on the cabbie’s deaf ears.
“Wasn’t it though, sir?”
The cabbie checked his meter.
“That’ll be $116.58. Plus a tip, if you’re a good fellow.”
Had Tannenbaum been slightly more awake or irritable, he may have debilitated the cab driver with a judo chop to the ear. Being in the state he was in, however, Tannenbaum merely paid the man with his debit card, knowing full well the bill would bounce 2 days later in Birmingham. He opened his door, and staggered into the city. The cab was parked in front of a hotel of some sort. It was named the Bristol.
“Don’t forget your bags, Mac.” the cabbie called.
His bags? Tannenbaum must be in worse shape than he first imagined. He didn’t remember any bags. Or calling for a cab, for that matter. Even paying the cab driver had grown dim in his recollection.
The cabbie opened the trunk and extracted a suitcase. Tannenbaum reached in the trunk for another suitcase and saw it wore clothes. And it snored lightly.
The suitcase sat upright, rubbed its eyes, and asked where it was.
“The Bristol hotel.” Tannenbaum said.
“Good.” the lump said. It looked closer at Tannenbaum. For the first time, Tannenbaum could see it clearly. Definitely a young man, it sat comfortably in the trunk of the taxicab without any sense of the incongruity of its position. He stepped out of the trunk and slung a satchel over his shoulder.
“Thanks for the ride, Warren.” he said. The cabbie nodded.
“I love the smell of a city in the morning.” the young man said, his hair splaying chaotically in the wind.
“It’s afternoon.” the cabbie corrected.
In surprise the young man looked at his empty wrist, where a watch should be. There was no watch on his wrist. The young man seemed surprised at this fact, and looked in several directions as if to search in the direction his wristwatch may have run to.
“I’ll take your word for it.”
The cabbie nudged Tannenbaum, who had fallen asleep standing up. Tannenbaum found it highly disconcerting. The last time he had slept on his feet was at an operating table. He took his bag, turned toward the hotel, and nearly fell on his face.
“Here, let me help you.” said the young man. He took Tannenbaum by the elbow and guided him through the front door.
“Thank you, Mr. . . .”
“Quin. For the record, there’s no mister attached to the front of it.”
“Is Quin your first or last name?” Tannenbaum asked.
“I haven’t decided yet. What’s your name?”
Instead of answering, Tannenbaum handed the him a business card with the name ‘T. Radcliffe Tannenbaum’ emblazoned upon it in black lettering. That was all.
“What’s the T stand for?” Quin asked.
“It stands for: ‘None of your business.’”
The Hotel Bristol had been decorated in a previous age, one that had mistakenly thought that the seventies were still in high class. It easily could have been designed by outer-space aliens, whose only knowledge of Earth culture is from reruns of the Brady Bunch set on loop. Aliens live sad, shallow lives
“Beautiful thing, cities.” the young man said.
“I’m, sorry, what did you say?” said Tannenbaum, who was napping again.
“I said that cities are beautiful things. They’re a symbol of democracy, you know.”
Tannenbaum thought of the equal voting rights of men, women, children, and goldfish. He thought about transgender bathrooms. He thought about the third book he had written in his leather bound treatise series on political theory: Stupid People and How to Keep Them from Voting.
“Democracy is a spanking good idea until someone has it.” Tannenbaum said.
Quin looked at him.
“Doctor, I think I just pushed your large red button labeled ‘trigger’.”
“I never said I was a doctor.”
“You’re an intelligent man who is overworked and tired out of his brain. I made a guess.”
The story of Quin will be continued next week. Stay tuned.