Jeff climbed out of the driving rain and into the taxi to find that the driver was a pigeon. A giant pigeon, in fact. He hesitated, debated getting out and then, in a dazed sort of way, gave the address.
“My God, I thought we’d never get a cab,” Jeff’s girlfriend, Katrina said, climbing in after him and shaking the water off her coat like a retriever. She hadn’t even looked up yet. Jeff nudged her and she looked up, gave a kind of strangled scream and then tried to cough to cover it up. It failed absurdly.
“That’s a pigeon,” she whispered through clenched teeth, as if Jeff couldn’t tell.
“What do you want me to do about it? I’m not going to go find you another cab in this weather.”
“What if it’s dirty? They’re called flying rats, you know.”
“Hey, don’t be specist,” Jeff said. The pigeon-driver honked at a jaywalker, pulled around a truck and turned left.
“Does it know where to go?” Katrina asked. Jeff noticed she was clutching his arm, like she was afraid of getting attacked.
“It seems to be going there,” he said. “It probably flies all around the city anyway. Probably it knows the city better than we do.” He hoped it wasn’t rude to say it. He didn’t want to be specist.
“Do you think it understands us?” Katrina whispered. Her voice was even softer.
“I told it where to go and it started going. Either it understands or it’s psychic.”
They stopped at a red light and the pigeon down-shifted. It was having a hard time doing it, having only wings and no hands. It managed, somehow. Jeff could not imagine it was comfortable.
“Why would a pigeon want to be taxi driver?” he wondered, still whispering.
“Who wants to be a taxi driver?” Katrina said. “Everyone’s gotta earn money to live.”
“Yeah, but why doesn’t it do something else?”
“Like be a flying courier or something.”
She actually smacked him on the arm. “That is so specist of you! Saying that just because it’s a pigeon it has to do something with flying.”
“Well, why not? That’s what it’s good at, right?”
“Well, you’re good at doing dishes. You want to be a housekeeper?”
Jeff looked at the pigeon again. Its left wing was squashed against the door in an uncomfortable way. It could put it out the window, if it wasn’t raining so hard.
“Well, as long as it gets us home, that’s all I care about,” he said finally.
There was a pause. The rain drummed incessantly on the cab roof. The windshield was getting fogged up and the pigeon driver kept reaching up to wipe it off. The windshield was streaked with feather marks.
“You should talk to it,” Katrina said.
“Why? What would I say?”
“I don’t know, but you’re never going to have this chance again. How many pigeon taxi drivers could there be? Come on, ask it something.”
“I am not going to ask it anything. You ask it something, if you’re so interested. Anyway, it might not talk.”
“You said it understands. Why wouldn’t it talk?”
“It’s not the same. Look, I’m not going to talk to it. What would I say?”
“Ask it where it’s from. It’s not from here, I’m sure. Maybe it’s got a family back home, like a clutch of eggs and a wife pigeon or something.” Katrina sniffed. “I’m getting stuffed up. I think I’m allergic to it.”
“We’re almost home.”
She sniffed again. “Just ask it a question. You’ll regret it if you don’t.”
“No. If you’ve been secretly studying Pigeon and want to give it a crack, be my guest. Otherwise, let it go.”
Katrina gave a small noise of exasperation but was silent until they got home. As soon as the car stopped in front of the building, she opened the door and bolted towards the front entrance, not even waiting for the umbrella.
Jeff looked at the meter: $8.50. The pigeon driver didn’t say anything, but Jeff could see it looking in the rearview mirror, waiting. He pulled out a ten.
“Thanks for the lift. Keep the change.”
The pigeon gave a deep cooing sound, like he’d heard from birds on the street, but deeper. It was such a common sound and yet so alien in that situation that Jeff lost his nerve. He dropped the bill into the front passenger seat and bolted out of the cab too. The cab drove away, turning the corner at the end of the block and disappearing from sight.
“I feel like we should say something to someone,” Jeff said as he joined Katrina in the front steps.
“Well, I guess being a taxi driver is okay,” she said. “Maybe if they become doctors.”