Pay for the Ride




My momma said no matter what happens in life, you don’t go nowhere unless you pay for your ride.

No matter what happens, I’ve found momma was right.

Driving a cab wasn’t what I was planning to do you know. But getting a job as an English major when there’s a nice little recession going on? Yeah, you right. I started driving a cab when my degree failed to open doors for me.

I was glaring at Pearl (no damn treasure her!) on a Monday night, arms folded across my chest.
“When I was hired, I was guaranteed at least one set location every week and a minimum of hours. I just looked on the roster and for the whole damn week you got me on nothing but lousy damn pick-up calls and I’m below my minimum!”

Pearl rolled her cigarette around with her technicolor-fuscia lips and glared at me through smeared cat-eye glasses. She wasn’t any particular age, no particular race, and had an accent that mixed Soviet bloc Europe and Deep South with a note of grinder belt.

“I got no set routes. Company is nearly tits up. Hang out in the lounge and wait for calls.”

“I got rent to pay, Pearl! My landlord, he ain’t gonna take “Sorry fella, I didn’t get no hours this week. My cab needs gas, I need to eat, and my bills won’t get paid by little green magic money fairies. So that means, you gotta cough up a route like I was promised!”

She rolled a jaundice-yellow eye at me. “Girlie, da only route I got what’s not assigned to nobody is just about shit.” She rolled a slyly expectant eye at a dented can on the counter that had “tips” scrawled haphazardly across its faded label.

“Pearl, I barely got laundry and eating money. You want to feed that hungry tip jar? Assign me a route and we can see about feeding that hungry kitty.

I folded my arms across my “not nearly big enough to shake at the stripper bar” bust, sighed and glared back at her. “I wasn’t hired to decorate the lounge, I need to work. Last time you had me hang out, I barely made minimum wage during a whole shift. If this keeps up, I’ll do better by getting a job at the local Clucky Bucket. The hours’ll be better at least.”

Pearl rolled her eyes at me. “I’m yer magic genie then. Rub my damn lantern and I make all you wish come true.”

Mario the Skeeve wandered by, gnawing and slurping on a po’ boy. “She better not get the airport route tonight. I finish my break and I’m going out. That’s mine and I got seniority.” He leered at me. “Course…you wanna keep me company on my route, I’m sure I can find a job or two fer ya.”

Pearl and I both cut our eyes over at him and gave him a double helping of stink eye. Pearl snarled at him. “You want take dat harassment seminar again Mario? I got it on computer now, real convenient like. I can cue it up for her while Luce does you route. You likes that real good? You want? I give. Remember, I am magic genie what’s granting all da wishes tonight.”

Mario sucked down a wet mouthful of his sandwich. “Can’t you guys even take a damn joke?” He eyed me again. “But hey, maybe more of your speed is me keeping you company a while in the lounge?”

“Pearl, my shit route if you please?”

She shook her head, shuffled to the assignment board and scrawled my name with a dry erase marker. “Fine, you want out of da office, you got it. Happy day, da route you get is Low Town.”

Mario hooted loudly. “Woah momma! Lucy’s gonna run the Low Town route! Hoo boy! Now there’s a dog of a route!”

“So what’s wrong with that? A route’s a route. I say if it pays, it’s fine unless it’s some bad part of town.” I contemplated smacking Mario with the office stapler just to enjoy the thunk. “People get robbed in Low Town or something?”

“Robbed no.” A voice wheezed behind me. One of the old codgers, Sal if I was right stood there. He shuffled a few steps forward, fumbling with the tape on his thick Soviet-era glasses. “That ain’t no normal part of town. You wanna go see something weird, that’s where you go.  I don’t do that weird damn route, you lose too many fares in that crazy place!”

“So, that’s where Mario’s from then eh?” I tapped my foot impatiently, thinking of the old saw that time was money. If that was true tonight, I’d be a millionaire with how long this was taking.

The old codger took a deep breath and hitched his pants just that bit closer to his armpits. “Low Town ain’t like anyplace else. Phones don’t work regular there, stuff appears and disappears…”

Mario cackled around a mouthful of food. “Blah blah blah. Built on an ancient Indian burial ground and the whole bit too!”

The old codger snorted. “No idea about that. There’s too many stories about that part of town. Built on a crossroads, burial ground, hoodoo, voodoo, do whatcha do…no idea. But I can tell ya, it’s not regular down there.”

Pearl shooed him away with a fuscia-nailed, crepey hand. “Quit scaring the kid Stan. She’s gotta make a living, same as anyone and she’ll learn what’s wrong with Low Town soon enough.” She cackled, and her laugh broke into a rattling smoker’s cough. She scribbled onto a form and thrust it at me. “Here’s your hours and your route. You enjoy now!” She lapsed back into her rattling laugh.

Beside me, Stan joined in with his own broken-down grinding laugh. “Kid, you look like you just bit into a frog! Lookit yer face!” I thought he sounded like he needed an oil change.

“I want to know what’s up with this route is what!” I waved the route slip. “I’m asking if it’s dangerous or what!”

He giggled again and stepped towards me. The office light reflected foggily off his filthy coke-bottle glasses. “No danger to a living soul chickie. Just you keep your eyes open and you just remember you ain’t in Kansas no more there Dorothy!”

Everyone in the office laughed at that. I snorted. “Big help you all are. I come back here dead you’ll all still be laughing your butts off for sure.”
“Won’t be the strangest thing that’s happened in Low Town!” Stan nearly knocked himself down laughing and I slammed the door on that bunch of damn cackling old hens.

I drove off to Low Town and began to cruise for fares around the hospital and college. As the day dragged on, I caught a reasonable number of fares who all tipped just fine and who didn’t say so much as boo to me.

So what the hell was up with this route?

Just after dark, a very old man in an antique looking suit flagged me down. I hopped out of the cab and opened the door for him. “Where to Gramps?” I sang out as I swung the cab into traffic.

I could see the old man in the rearview mirror. “I feel so odd…can you help me?” He shook like a leaf in high wind.

I frowned. “Mister, you don’t look so good. Is there someone I can take you to? Someone who can help you?”

“My daughter…she lives…she lives on Sycamore, by the school. My Anna Marie’s a good girl. She’ll help me. I’m…so confused.”

I stepped on it hard. “We’ll find her mister. If it’s Sycamore, that’s Saint Pierre Elementary. I’ll have you there in a jiffy!”

I kept an eye on him as I nipped through traffic, half afraid he was going to have a stroke or be sick in my cab. The old man just shook, his face grey and his eyes distantly gazing out at the cars around us.

Right at the river, a panel truck cut me off and I drove over the bridge I had to swing into another lane to avoid being hit. I turned onto Maple street, went past Johnson’s gas station and made the turn to start pulling onto Sycamore. “Be there in just a second now, anything starting to look familiar now sir?”

The back seat was silent.

“Sir? Hey mister?” I glanced into my back seat. There was no one there.

Cursing, I pulled to the curb and yanked the door open. Not so much as a thread from the man’s old-fashioned suit remained. I hadn’t stopped long enough for him to get out of the car and I certainly hadn’t heard the door open. So where the hell’d he gone?

I had three more fares do that to me before I got off work that night. A burly black man clutching a bloody rag to his arm wanted to be taken to the hospital, a woman in diamonds and fashions from nearly two decades ago asked to be taken for a “scenic drive” along the Riverfront District, and a fat, harried businessman in an ugly suit demanded to be rushed to a “very important meeting” at the Imperial Palms Hotel.

They all vanished from my cab. The burly man’s eyes rolled up and I watched him slide down to the seat crossing Main street. I’d nearly hit two cars as I swung to the curb to check on him, but by the time I stopped he’d vanished. The lady in diamonds had happily chattered about the Riverfront to me, dropping names from twenty years ago and cooing over fashion designers, some of which I remembered from years ago.

She went silent as we took the roundabout at LeFleur mall “Sooo tacky these new shopping malls! Too much for the masses!” and the stretch of million-dollar homes on LeSeur. I glanced back to ask her if she was talking about the mall’s big renovation, but she was gone.

The fat businessman’s face purpled and he shouted. “Hurry hurry! I gotta get there! Everything’s riding on this meeting! Can’t you get me there any faster? I’m late I tell you! I gotta get there NOW!” His hands flapped a moment or two before clutching at his chest…and then he vanished in a flurry of papers that melted like snowflakes.

That night I drove back to the fleet company and banged on the dispatch window.

Pearl lumbered into view from the back. “Hey new girl. How’s the route treating ya?”

“Pearl, why are my fares disappearing from the cab? What kind of rabbit hole have you and this crazy company have sent me down?”

She shrugged and began shuffling papers around on the desk without meeting my eyes. “Low Town ain’t a bad route you know. It’s good and regular, lots of traffic to the college and the shopping malls.” Pearl’s voice had a defensive edge.

“Pearl! I saw a guy disappear from my car like he was a rabbit being pulled down a magician’s hat.” I shivered a little at what I was asking. “So what gives with this route? Give me an honest answer!”

She gave up pretending to clean up the hoarder piles on her desk. “Low Town’s got haints kid.”

“Haints?” I stared at her a second, then an old memory of tales my gran told me bobbed up in my memory. “Pearl, do you mean ghosts? I’ve heard stories about Low Town, but you’re telling me they’re real?”

“Real and the worst damn buncha deadbeats. Ghosts, haints, specters..whatever you wanna call them, they’re terrible for skipping out on ya without paying!” Pearl let out a disgusted snort. “They’re all happy to get a ride to wherever they think they gotta go, they drag you all over the place, take me here, take me there…help me finish this, that and the other thing so I can rest in peace!”

“So why not help them?” I glanced out the window at the palm trees across the road. They swayed in the evening breeze and wondered was wandering beneath them, alone and unseen.

“You know the one thing a ghost never carries? A damn wallet, that’s what!” Pearl banged on the desk, her voice hitting a shrill note of indignation. “This ain’t no charity business! You know how many drivers come back here, no tips, out all night wasting gas cause some moocher spirit’s grabbed a ride and dashed off back to the other side?”

“So why drive in Low Town at all?”

“Living people still need rides out there. You just gotta know the difference between paying living and the dead who wanna travel fast on your dime!”

“Then give me another route! I don’t need to mess around with ghosts! This is too crazy!”

She lit a cigarette and wiped ash off her dingy cardigan. “Drive, don’t drive. Quit, run off. Do what you like. It’s your choice. Put up with ghosts or don’t.” She puffed again and yawned. “Pick up your car tomorrow at four if you can handle it.”

The whole next day I thought about the living and the dead and the want ads. I’d seen good luck charms, gris-gris, crosses, saints, gods and medicine bags in the cabs of some of the drivers and thought nothing of it really. I mean, who thinks about some statue of Jesus or Krishna or a saint on the dashboard of a cab?

I picked up my cab for my shift—what was I going to do? Not pay my rent?

Tonight was much the same as last. The usual shoppers heading off here and there with bags of clothes they’d only enjoy while the dictates of fashion smiled upon them, students stuffing too many of themselves into one seat to try and skimp on fares, and businessmen who all wanted me to pull a time machine out of my trunk and get me across town an hour ago.

The old man showed up again, still asking for his sister on Sycamore street, and the lady with diamonds took the same ride along the Riverfront District—her I let ride a while as she chattered about the beautiful and powerful people of twenty years ago. Her tales of bygone fashion era glory sounded like a great background for a murder mystery to me.

Towards the end of my shift, a sad eyed man wearing a very stiff and formal suit hailed me.

I tossed aside the notebook I’d been jotting bits of my glam-era mystery idea and smiled at him. “Hey fella, where you going? You need a ride?” I opened the door for him.

He nodded at my notebook as he slid in. “You writing something?” His expression was gentle and interested.

I shrugged a bit. “I’m good at describing things, putting down ideas people suggest to me, but I’m terrible at coming up with ideas. Once I can come up with something, I’m good but it’s such a damn fight to figure out something I wanna put down!”

The man settled into the seat and smiled at me, his cheeks dimpling softly. “I’ve got so many ideas you know. They always keep me awake at nights but I never seem to get anything written.”

I pulled out from the curb. “Where to, Sir? And if you’ve got so many ideas, what’s the problem? Why haven’t you got anything written then?”

“Oh sorry! Um…St Denis street, over by La Soer street.” He gestured vaguely. “I love telling stories you know, everyone seems to so enjoy when I do tell them, but really I guess it’s two problems.” He wiggled his fingers at me in the mirror. “Stories dry up between my head and my fingers. Poof, they’re gone once I try setting them down!”

“What’s the other one then?” I glanced at him, wondering if he was just dressed for a meeting or might go poof on me.

“Oh, I just never seem to find the time to actually sit down and write…or maybe it’s that I just focus when I try to.” He smiled that sad, sweet smile at me again and folded his hands across his slightly plump stomach. “I’m afraid I’ve got so many ideas I haven’t been getting done, I’ll be till Judgement Day setting them all down.” He sighed. “Oh, I’m Lazarus Mongomery. What’s your name?”

“Lucy Stillwater. So, what’s one of your big ideas?” We crossed Marseilles creek. I’d found on the Internet that running water deters spirits. I glanced at my passenger. He looked pleasant, if slightly sad and worried, but he was showing no sign of fading out or disappearing. I settled back with satisfaction. Pleasant people like this man tended to be good rides and generous tippers.

“Oh then!” The sadness lifted from the man’s eyes and he literally rubbed his hands together. “You see, I’ve got this story idea. You know the old Greek myth about Medusa? Perseus lopped off her head to save the fair princess Andromeda from a terrible sea monster?”

“Yeah, I think I remember that one. Whatever Medusa looks at turns to stone right? He lops off her head to wave at the monster right?
“Yes! That’s the one! What if Perseus lost the fight to Medusa?”

“I’d say that Andromeda would be screwed then and that sea monster’d be able to eat her.” I met his eyes in the mirror. “No prince with a scary head to wave, maiden chained to a rock? Sounds like nom nom time for the monster to me!”

The man beamed at me. “That’d be the usual view of things!” We hit a slight pothole as I pulled around the edge of Sacred Mercy Cemetery. “But what if instead of Andromeda needing Perseus to rescue her, what if Medusa was to do the deed herself? The terrible Gorgon rides to the rescue!” His eyes lifted to the cemetery as we began to pass it and he froze. “Oh my. This is where…oh my…we were passing it…the accident…” He went pale, then whispy and gray. “They took me here…they took me here…”

And just like that, I was stiffed again. Even worse, I really, really wanted to hear that story.

For the next ten days, I plodded through my work, stared at my laptop, willed words to appear, and dodged fare-jumping ghosts. Pearl was pretty right about that if you could manage to not pick up every loose spirit with a sob story and a place to be, Low Town wasn’t bad. I sure preferred Low Town to waiting at the airport.  I seemed to be a magnet for every sexist jerk who wanted one last bit of hanky panky before heading back to whatever woman whose life he was blighting.

And then standing outside of the bookstore on Ponte-Serrain, I saw my story-telling friend again. He stared into the twilight, one foot poised a little off the pavement as if some idea had caught him unaware and left him stranded in mid-stride.

I rolled up next to him. “Well hey, stranger! You left me hanging! Last week you started telling me a story and I want to hear the rest of it!”

He blinked a bit and smiled like a sleepy little owl. “Oh, yes! The Medusa story, I told you part of it did I?”

I hopped out of the cab. “Yeah, love to hear the last of it.” I swung the door open for him. “I set down on paper what you told me, I wanted to remember it.”

He looked pleased. “It’s good to hear of one of my stories making it that far! I keep meaning to set things on paper you know. Get a few things out of my head.”

He straightened the lapels of his way-too-formal jacket. “Maybe if I was to clear my mind a bit I could sleep a little at night, you know?” His eyes grew wide as they met mine in the rearview mirror.

“Hoo man, you look like a kid on Christmas morning just about to tear into some big present!” I rested my hand on the steering wheel, as I focused on the vague, overdressed man in my cab.

“Do you think…you could help me? Help write things down? I come up with ideas, you flesh them out, keep my nose to the grindstone as the saying goes, and help me empty out the ole “story tank”?” He appeared genuinely excited now, his smile broad and intense, a cherub witnessing the birth of the divine.

I glanced at the notebook beside me, all the good descriptions and terrible plots. All the editors who’d responded to my stories with, “Your voice is wonderful, but your story lacks focus/direction/point.”

“Lazarus…you’d share your ideas with me? I mean…most writers, their ideas are like their babies! You sure you wanna do this man?” My fingers clutched the wheel, my nails digging in hard.

“Miss Lucy, I think you’re my only hope of ever getting any sleep! I told you how bad my ideas are keeping me awake at night!” His eyes looked hazy a moment. “I just feel like, I don’t know, I’m stuck. You being willing to help me, well it makes me feel thatfor the first time like I can finally get my stories out!” He bounced on the seat clapping his hands in glee. My cherub was no longer witnessing the divine, he was directly taking part in the creation of a holy new world.

I rolled the idea around in my head. “Ok, maybe I meet you at the end of my shift once or twice a week. I give you a lift to wherever you wanna go, you tell your story and I have a recorder going…”
“Oh no! No recording devices!” He shook his head so hard his jowls bounced. “I don’t know what it is about such devices, but I just simply can’t concentrate with little electronic whirry things laying around!”

I started to say something, but swallowed it. I’d seen my share of tabloid ghost-hunters-chasing-vague-orb stories and half the time they talked about how their secret high tech whizbangs did everything but what it said on the box.

“Ok, I can roll with that. We meet up like I said, a couple times a week at the end of my shifts. Maybe we ride around a little bit and talk ideas, maybe now and then I pull over and take notes.”

Lazarus nodded eagerly. “You take the notes home, put some meat on the bones…”

I cut in. “I flavor up those bones and serve you up that mess of barbecue! See if you like the taste of what I’ve cooked up!”

He laughed hard, falling back on the seat and fanning himself a bit with his hands. “Oh my, yes! You read off the what work you’ve done between our meetings, then we chew over that tasty morsel a bit, make sure we both like it before it gets served up!” We both cackled like a pair of biddy hens till I had tears in the corners of my eyes.
A thought bit me like a hopping flea. “Lazarus…if we sell these stories, how do you want to split…”

He held up a hand to wave away my words. “Miss Lucy, I have no need for money and I have never liked the thought of being in the public eye.” He sighed. “There is also the fact I come from an old and very proper family that doesn’t think working in the Arts a worthy profession. Not a very enlightened outlook, but they are important to me and I have always abided by that belief.”

I knew the proud, hard set of his face well. No argument was going to be accepted from me here. I could tell it wasn’t just the dictates of his family. Any money we got from publications would have to go somewhere and I suspected he didn’t want to go a country mile near the embarrassing thought of his death.

“How you want to handle what name or names we gonna publish under?”

“You could just take all the credit Miss Lucy. I wouldn’t mind a bit.”

The idea fairy brushed my knuckles with her kind wings. “That doesn’t feel fair to you. I say we use a pen name.” I gave him a stern glance. “And if I’m getting all the money, I insist the name do you some honor. You need to get something out of this deal you know!”

“My mother’s name was Athena. It would please me quite a lot to have her name be a part of this.” He pressed a hand to his heart and blinked a few times rapidly.

“Athena. I like that. “I tapped my notebook with my pen. “Now then, Sophie Lazarus or Sophie Montgomery?” I sent him a don’t-you-argue glance and with a rueful expression he settled back against the seat.

“I concede my defeat Miss Lucy.” He bowed to me grandly from the back seat, laughing merrily.

“Athena Lazarus it is then.” I threw the car into gear and eased out onto the boulevard, mentally mapping out a route that would avoid any ghost-unfriendly features like the graveyard that spooked Lazarus so. “Ok, let’s you and me get Miss Athena to work.”

“Now that sounds fine to me!” He settled himself a bit and pushed up the sleeves of his jacket just that little let’s-get-to-work bit.

“Now, you just start in with what you got planned for Medusa. I’m already cracking on her.” I glanced down at the glow of the dashboard, the road slipping away under us like time swiftly passing by. “I’m already making roads into getting her hash settled and we’ll be on to your next story before you know it. “ I rolled my shoulders and settled into the feel of the road. “Maybe we’ll get you sleeping again in a couple months or so.” My eyes prickled a little at that thought.

“To sleep, perchance to dream.”  He raised his head as if following an elusive perfume in the air. “Might be just a little longer than that then.” He tapped his temple with one finger. “I suspect I’ve got maybe a book or two stuck in here as well.”

“Then you and me gotta get hopping.” I took a long, leisurely curve around a delivery truck and eased into the long highway that follows the Chiramain River up north before it joins the interstate. “Now Medusa, what’ she gonna do with Andomeda once she saves her from that monster? It’s called the Kraken right?” The engine purred, finding its’ rhythm and harmony with the night.

We did finish that story fairly quick. Medusa was raring to get on the page.  For Lazarus, it was like kicking down the damn of a flooding river. Stories poured out of him in a torrent and I spent nearly every waking minute for months transcribing fat reams of notes, fleshing out the details, editing them once…and then again after I’d read them out to Lazarus.

A few months in, I started sending a few of the stories off to some magazines and after another four or five, we had our first sale. Lazarus kept telling tales, I kept polishing them up and sending them out and after that first story got out, the sales began. It was a few here and there at first, but by the time we had our first book done I found that I barely needed the driving to make a living.

Six months or so after that, Stan the old codger from work flagged me down on the corner of 7th Street and Gabriel Avenue. I hadn’t seen him for a dog’s age at work, especially after I’d dropped to part time.

One look at his Sunday best that smelt strongly of mothballs was all I needed to know the score. In return for a promise to keep his grave tended and in flowers, he slipped a little warning to me that Pearl was looking to feather her retirement nest. I got out while the getting was good.

By the time Pearl finished ripping off Mercury Quik-Cabs of everything her grizzled fingers could embezzle, I was more than ready to drop that crutch and ghostwrite for Lazarus full time. After I quit, I told my family that late-night driving cleared my head and relaxed me so I could write.

I met Alphonse my husband at my first book signing. He was the representative my publisher sent out. Not only was it love at first sight, we even first spotted each other in the Romance stacks of all places! I didn’t tell my family about Lazarus, but Alphonse I did. Keeping secrets from your true love just asks for trouble. The first time Alphonse rode with Lazarus and me, I felt like I was bringing my date home from prom to meet my parents—but Lazarus loved him just as much as my folks did.

Alphonse loved Lazarus. He’d sit in on some of our rides and chat with Lazarus like old buddies but the editing process bored him and after a while he’d just drop in once in a while to have a laugh or two with both of us. Once the kids started arriving, he mostly stayed home to watch at night while we wrote.

We told everyone that I’d picked up the habit of late night driving from my cab driving days and that driving through Low Town was my inspiration. We kept up the story to explain why we didn’t move up town even after the book money got good and publications got nice and regular.

Lazarus had a keen eye for real estate and on one of our late night drives he pointed out a cozy little neighborhood near Low Town. We bought a fine but somewhat motheaten old Southern mansion and renovated it up just in time for a nice little gentrification movement Lazarus had suspected was coming—he’d just described the area as “looking on the up and up”.

Once we were settled there, that was it. We were home for good, no matter what and we had loads of room for books, dogs, a horde of kids and a few occasional haints of our own.

I drove Lazarus and kept writing. So much for getting him to sleep in a few months! Family didn’t laugh any more about my “little eccentricity” anymore and my kids just accepted that Momma drove at night to think up her stories. That was how life was.

Hell, when they were small enough that drives soothed them, I even bundled them into their car seats and took them on our drives. Lazarus beamed at each of them like a proud grandpa and dictated up two kids’ series that paid for their college tuitions lock, stock and barrel. Time kept rolling by and we kept driving.

We were aimlessly driving one sweet spring night.  I was chattering away to Lazarus about my damn fool grandkids, the husband’s bum knee and the sweet letter some fan of ours had just written to me when Lazarus cleared his throat.
“Miss Lucy?” He drew in a deep breath, his eyes moist and bright. “I think I have somewhere else for you to take me tonight.”

“Lazarus! You and me still have work to do!” I bit my lip, feeling my eyes sting. I’d been feeling an ease up in Lazarus’ tales for quite a long time now. He’d seemed content mostly to chat about my kids, to gossip about our lives and loves. We’d drifted some time ago into me telling him stories and him listening and commenting on them.

He gave me a slow, blissful smile. “You’ve more than pulled your share of the load for a long time now my dear and now, well, you see…I’m starting to feel like I can finally sleep.”

I nodded. “I know you’re ready now Lazarus. I don’t want to let you go but you I know you’re good to rest now Lazarus.”

I knew where he wanted to go and wiping my eyes I turned and started off for Sacred Mercy Cemetery. Dawn was just a sneaking suspicion on the horizon as I pulled my car to the curb and with long habit, opened the door for him.

“They’re not all quite done the stories you know.” We walked side by side towards the gate, the orthopedic shoes my doctor said I had to wear now grinding a bit in the gravel pathway.

“Never really are.” I agreed. “Even happy ever after ain’t even really much of an ending. That’s just kind of happy-talk for “I’m ending it here, but want you to feel good about dropping the story off here”.

“You’re right, it kind of is.” He stuck his hands in his pockets, smiling at the bare hint of sunrise. The eastern light began to touch the gates and gild the aged brass with shining gold.

“Miss Lucy, I think I have another ride waiting for me now.” He closed his eyes, lifted his face to the skies and smiled.

I stepped a bit back from him. “You sleep now Laz. You sleep. I got the story from here and you paid me long ago for your ride. You’re…you’re good to go.”

“Thank you for…” He stammered but fell silent, his well of words indeed running dry.

“Go on Lazarus.” I gestured towards the gate. “That ride of yours has been waiting long enough.”

“I never told you, I never explained…”

I shook my head. “Don’t feel like I gotta have every story all at once.” I watched the sky brighten just a little. “Go! Go! Your ride wont’ wait forever!”

He turned towards me as he began to fade on his edges. I shooed him forward. His face relaxed, then he walked to the gate and opened it without a sound. He stepped through, the first blush of dawn now filling the sky’s promise of gold.

“You keep your own story for now. Tell it to me when you come give me a ride someday.” I called after him.

The dawn’s gold turned pearly, then pink and as the birds began sang their halleluias to a new day.

Lazarus walked forward without a pause, brightened for a moment and then from one blink to the next his tale was done.

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