This is a story based on the truth. The names of the characters, the locale and the circumstances are historical and factual. I have taken liberty with some incidentals and the dialogue, basing them on the era, the situation and the characters involved.
It all started with what believers call the sweet science. He learned it to defend himself; it was tough being a Jewish kid in an Irish neighborhood. He stuck with it to cope.
The regimen. The discipline. The comradery. That, he liked.
Breaking some poor slob’s nose? Not so much. He’d rather disarm the guy with a joke, but he wasn’t that funny. So he learned to box. And he was pretty good at it, not great but good enough to go pro and to earn a few bucks on the undercards of better fighters who didn’t stand a chance of coming anywhere near the big time.
That’s the way it was with Allan Drake. Always on the fringe.
Boston didn’t suit him. It was cold and depressing; he didn’t want to earn his living with his fists.
“I need a fresh start, Dad. I wanna go some place clean and friendly.”
“You gotta do what you gotta do,” his dad said.
So that’s what he did.
He got a job driving a cab when he got there.
As it turned out, Drake actually liked his job. Sure, at first it was just a way to make ends meet until he landed something better. Then he found out there was decent money in being a hacky in Miami, especially on the beach front where the mob bankrolled long stretches of luxury hotels and night clubs.
He didn’t mind hauling them around town either–the boys, that is. He kept his eyes on the road and didn’t speak unless he was spoken to. Some were friendly, some weren’t. All of them were big tippers. It was a prerequisite.
The entertainers that worked the clubs, now they were a different story. He loved driving them. The showgirls, especially. Then the comics.
The showgirls–va va voom, legs to the moon--were usually nice enough. And he wasn’t shy about looking them in the eye. He had his rap down pat–maybe a little too pat–but he knew the score. Girls who looked like that and dressed like that, didn’t fool around with guys who looked like him… guys who drove a cab for a living...but, girls who looked like that did fool around with comics.
And comics–at least the one’s that played swanky night clubs–made good money…no, they made better than that. They made nice money.
Besides, some of the comics he drove made him look like Clark Gable. Plus he genuinely enjoyed their company.
Who doesn’t like a good laugh?
One night Drake picked up two drunks from the Grand Hotel. He gave them the once over as they spilled into his cab. One was a little black-haired Jew with deep acne scars along the cheekbones of his shriveled face. The poor guy looked like he hadn’t had a decent meal in two weeks. The other guy was younger and healthier and a lot better looking. Maybe a Jew. Maybe a wop. Both were dressed to the nines.
“What’s buzzin’ cousins?”
“Just clocked out,” said the shriveled up guy.
“You two work at The Grand?”
“For the time being,” said the handsome one. He handed Drake three dollar bills. “We’re looking for some company.”
“Sure thing. What do you have in mind?”
“Slacky and happy,” the shriveled up one said. He pulled out a flask from his suite coat, unscrewed the lid took a big swig. Then he handed it to the handsome one.
“Yeah, take us slummin’. No grannies,” the handsome one ordered. He guzzled from the flask.
“No problem, fellas.” Drake pulled away from the curb.
The handsome one leaned over the front seat. “Here ya’ go kid.” He handed Drake the flask.
Drake sipped from it. He could feel the guy’s breath on his neck. And, boy, could he smell it.
“What’s your name kid?” the shriveled up one asked.
Drake handed the flask back over his shoulder.
“Where you from?”
“Boston. West End.”
The shriveled up guy went bug-eyed. It didn’t take much.
“Well, hoi polloi,” he said. “How’d that happen?”
The handsome one whistled.
Drake laughed. “Boylston Street’s changed a lot.”
“Since when?” the handsome one asked.
“Since about eight months ago,” Drake said.
“You’re funny kid,” said the shriveled up one. “I’m Jackie. That’s Lenny. Where you really from?”
They laughed some more.
And that’s how he met comedians Jackie Miles and Lenny Kent. They were the one’s that put the bug in his ear…well, the bug was already there. They just scratched it.
And scratched it…
“Not bad kid. Really. The timing’s a little off…and that’s the most important thing. Timing…but you can learn it.”
“You can get better at it,” Kent corrected.
“You can learn it…You did.”
Drake handed the index card back over the seat.
Miles waved him off. “Just a few one liners. I’ve got a million of ’em. You keep it.”
Before they got out Drake asked about the slumming. He just had to know.
Kent was incredulous. “You can’t mess with the girls at The Grand. Little Augie runs that place. He’ll break your legs.”
“He’s right. Those girls are private property,” Miles said. “You got to be on a first name basis. That’s not us…Besides this is about as close to home cookin’ as Lenny’s gonna get.”
Then they got out the same way they got in. They stumbled.
Drake watched them disappear behind the doors of the Hi-Ho Club. Then he drove back toward the lights.
To be cont’d…