by Kenny Paul Clarkson
The cold breath of winter was cause enough for Justin to pull his overcoat tight. He ducked his chin, waiting for the pedestrian light to beckon “walk.” One face in a crowd of strangers he neither knew nor hardly noticed, he stepped from the curb on signal and made his way down the high-rise canyon to the newsstand on the corner.
“They call it the windy city for a reason,” the vendor smiled as Justin dropped a dollar in his hand. He nodded an acknowledgment, tucked the Chicago Tribune under his arm and hailed a taxi.
“The Eagle’s Club,” he announced. The cabbie said nothing at first, just accelerated, swerving into traffic. Justin shook the newspaper open and glanced at the headline. Storm victims say future looks grim. He turned to the financials.
“Big business deal, huh?” the cabby’s voice was familiar. Justin turned a curious eye to the rearview mirror hoping to catch a glimpse of the man behind the wheel. Do I know this guy? he wondered. A smirk crossed his lips. Not in my circle. The thought smacked of arrogance.
“Whatever,” he replied. Justin was surprised he even acknowledged the driver’s question.
The driver considered the man behind the newspaper. A businessman, he supposed. He knew the type well. Successful, confident; domineering.
But publishing was a tough game and at forty-one years old, Justin was particularly proud of his position. From copywriter to chief-editor to publisher in twenty years; he owned a piece of the pie, a seven-figure income and life-style to be envied.
The cabbie hit the brakes. “Sorry,” he said. “Some kid on a bike.”
“Should’ve run over him,” Justin recomposed himself. A look of surprise; accusation, was in the mirror. “Just kidding,” he quipped.
There was also a photo dangling from mirror. The jilt caused it to sway, capturing Justin’s attention.
“Who’s that?” he wondered aloud.
The driver looked back to see Justin's nod toward the picture.
“Oh, that,” he answered. “That my son, Andrew. Andy. He’ll be a freshman this year at the community college in LaSalle County. Yep, that’s my boy.”
There was a pause. Then he asked, “You got any kids?”
Conversing with a cab driver was beneath Justin, but he was proud of his son. “Yeah,” he answered, “Got one in Harvard this year, another next year.”
He stared at the photo. Incredible, he thought, the similarity. “Looks like Brian,” he said aloud.
“Whazat?” the driver asked.
“Looks like Brian, my son,” he answered. “Your son looks a lot like my son.”
The cabbie smiled. “Eh, maybe they're cousins?”
The car turned hard onto a flagstone paved drive. Limousines and sports cars — awaiting valets to whisk them away — spewed exhaust along the club’s entry. Yellow and black checkers looked conspicuously out of place. A white-gloved attendant in a crisp uniform snapped to attention and promptly opened the cab’s door for Justin.
“Good evening, Sir,” he said.
“Evening,” he retorted.
Justin leaned in the car’s window to hand the driver a fifty.
“Keep the change,” he said. Charity is a good thing.
“Hey!” The cabby’s voice was startling. “I know you!”
Justin looked away, more annoyed than embarrassed.
“I don’t think so.” He turned and headed for the massive oak entry doors.
The cabbie leaned across the seat to yell out the window.
“You’re my twin brother, Justin!”
The winter chill lost its bite. The words of the cabbie were arresting. Justin turned on his heels. The toothy grin framed by yellow and black checkers was more than familiar, it was a mirror image.
“Hey! I haven’t seen you since we was five! Imagine that. You gotta give me a call sometime. 555-0789!”
Unconsciously, as if in shock, Justin pulled a pen from inside his jacket and scribbled the number on the front of a check.
“Just think, if I’d been adopted instead of you, my son would be heading to Harvard.” The driver smiled even broader, then squealed his tires down the drive.
“And you, Sir, would be driving a cab,” said the attendant.
Justin stood frozen, not by the cold of winter, but frostbitten by reality.