by Tony Kirwood
Climb in, my friend. Sit back and make yourself comfortable. It’s not such a long journey. No need to say where you’re going, of course! I know the route well, really well. It’s the back of my hand, is that what you say? Settle in, you’ll be fine.
I’ve had many passengers, oh yes. Many many. Did I tell you I had David Bowie in here once? No? Of course not, you’ve only just got in. He was a real gentleman. But was he pale! Yet he smiled all the time, the whole journey through. He’s happy to talk to anyone, whether you’re a king or a peasant, to David it doesn’t matter, he’ll give you the time of day.
He asked about my family so I talked about Akinye and the children – you see their photo there? They’re still in Botswana, I couldn’t take them with me, of course. Oh, we chatted about music, about fish and chips, about football. Are you an Arsenal fan? I would think you are not. We talked and talked for the whole ride like old friends. And when he got out, he gave me a big, big tip.
I said, “Really, David, you shouldn’t,” and you know what he said? “Where I’m going I’ll have no need of that.” A real gentleman.
He was not like that Donna Summer. No no. She was sad, I tell you, sad. Long face. She sat in that seat, the same one you’re sitting on, all the time looking out. It’s dark, there’s nothing to look at! I thought, there’s no point in trying to talk to her about football. So I asked if she liked Justin Bieber and she just carried on looking out.
I said, “Please, Donna – mind if I call you Donna? OK, Mrs. Summer. I am sorry for the cold. Unfortunately the heating is bad, I cannot change it. But a little smile can warm things!” She just looked at me, the way you are now, and stared back out again.
I felt I must lighten the situation so I said “Mrs Donna – Summer – I just loved that song you sang. You know the one I mean, that song, it goes...” I tried to sing it but it had gone from my head. Pfft! She made it such a long time ago. Gone! And then – time for her to get out. No tip. She didn’t say thank you. But that does not worry me, no, no. I don’t ask for those things.
Are you alright back there, my friend? I have to say, you also look very sad. You don’t mind me talking? I love to talk, to make things cheerful. Especially on this ride. You have no need to say anything. It’s fine! It’s good! I bet you have a story, even though I can tell you’re one of the silent ordinary ones. I don’t only talk about the stars I have had in here. We all have our stories. Especially the old ones.
Like that Christopher Lee. He’d had a really good crack of the whip. I’d say he was, what do you say – sorted – yes! I said, “Christopher, could you give us that really wide grin with the fangs?” and, would you believe it, he said “Why not?” and he did it. And then – and then – he made the big scary hiss. Whoahh! He said, “Can I go back to my coffin now?” and gave a big big laugh. Man!
We’re nearly there. The journey is quite quick, I think you should agree. Hey, you should be happy, it’s not so bad. It can’t be – none of you take the trip back! You all get here safe. I do a good job. You see, they choose us because we work hard and we come cheap. Hey, we should form a union. What do you think of that?
Right, here we are. You can get off now. Just jump ashore, it’s easy. You won’t even get your feet wet. There. You know, you ought to try smiling. You’ll have plenty of people to talk to, Christopher, Donna, David. And many others. Whether you’re a superhero or just a little man, it’s all the same down here. When you cross the river Styx, my friend, everyone’s an immigrant.