Time to Face the Music, A Short Story
Downtown Memphis, Tennessee
Writer's prompt: A twenty something man sits in a taxi in front of his parents home trying to find the strength to tell them??????????
A cold wind was blowing off the Mississippi when we drove out of uptown. It had calmed a little on the short ride south. The young man in the back of the taxi had been polite enough. Even though his clothes were somewhat odd, his brown hair a little too long and his destination troubling the young man did not seem menacing. Brooding maybe, nervous certainly, but not menacing. I caught a glimpse of the man in my rear view mirror as he stared out the window, long almost delicate fingers of his right hand curled and touching his lips thoughtfully.
“328 Lauderdale Courts” I said. “This where you live?”
“Yes sir” He answered. “Yes sir, it is. How much do I owe you?”
I told him and the young man paid me but did not get out.
“Something wrong?” I asked.
“Yes sir, I guess there is. I quit my job today and I can’t figure out how to tell my folks.”
Music drifted in on the wind from over on Beale Street as I thought about what he had said.
“Times are hard right now, son. I figure that a young man who has a job probably ought to keep it.” I said. “Your folks counting on you to help them out?”
“Yes sir and my daddy’s not going to understand. Him and Mamma’s having it a little tough right now.”
“Why’d you quit your job?” I asked. “Let me guess. Boss man made you mad, you had to work too hard, it’s too cold, you have to get up too early...... all the above?”
“No sir, you got it all wrong. They were very good to me down at the store and all and I kinda got a promotion to delivery but......” He sat back and looked out the window doing that thing with his right hand again. Brooding.
“Are you an only child.” I said. He looked back at me and nodded. But there was more in his eyes to that story . I let it go.
“So why did you quit?” I asked.
“I cain’t hardly explain it. I....uh......it just don’t feel right, ya know? It’s like I’m supposed to be doing something else with my life. Something else, something different.........”
"You didn't just quit your job with nothing else lined up." I said turning to look over the seat at him. "I've learned to read people pretty good and you don't strike me that way. "
"I do have a little something lined up." He grinned and somehow in that moment he seemed to be more than just a scarred kid sitting in the back seat of a crummy cab in front of a public housing project.
"How do you think your folks are going to take it?"
"Daddy will pitch a fit! " He said. "But mostly, It's just Mamma I'm thinking about."
"She worries about me all the time. She's sick a lot and me having a job helps out with her medicine.........she deserves more."
"Well, you can't walk in another man's shoes." I said. "That means you have to do what seems right to you."
"I guess I know that ......... but what if I'm wrong?"
"It's just a fork in the road.." I said. "What are you, twenty-something? If this doesn't work out it's not the end of the road. Just back her up and try the other fork."
"You make it sound easy."
"Hey, I'm just giving out free advice." I said. "That's easy and worth exactly what I charge for it."
The young man smiled, pulled a beat up guitar case across the seat and got out of the car. He stepped up to my door and put his hand out. I shook it and he turned to the sidewalk.
"Time to face the music" He said.
"What's your name, son?" I asked.
He told me and as he turned to leave I wished him good luck.
"Thank you, thank you very much."