Wednesday, February 17, 2010

New Short Story "Quiet Desperation" Part 1

Quiet Desperation
Part 1
“The Train”

The train was late.
Alex felt the familiar stab of irritation as he watched the station clock change from 7:28 to 7:29. He looked around. No one else on the platform seemed to pay this any mind and he figured that they were probably the kinds of morons who swallowed the bullshit line shoveled by most public transportation systems: “A Bus or Train arriving within 10 minutes of its scheduled arrival time is considered to be on time”
“Horseshit” he thought, reminding himself for perhaps the hundredth time that month why he loathed public transportation in all it’s forms. If a bus was late he could understand. It still pissed him off, but at least there were legitimate reasons. There was traffic, construction detours, toll plazas and dead animals lying on the side of the road that people felt the need to slow down and stare at for reasons past his understanding.
Trains on the other hand, have absolutely no excuse for being even a minute late. Did someone leave their car unattended at a crossing? Did some kid place a penny on the track and they were derailed?
“Well, whatever it is” Alex thought “It better be good.”
He looked at the clock again. 7:30. He looked down the track. Nothing. He looked at his phone, 7:32. “Fuck”
“They’re getting an email this time.” Alex thought to himself as he turned to walk back into the waiting booth and sat down on a bench. “TGIF my ass”
There were about 6 or 7 people in there now all reading papers or listening to music or writing emails on their blackberry’s unconcernedly and Alex felt a fresh wave of annoyance. Clearly, these people had about as much regard for the train’s truancy as the train had for his own. He looked at the button on the wall labeled “Push For Heat”
It was about 80 degrees in here already and fairly humid and Alex felt a mischievous grin twitch the corners or his mouth. What if he just stood up, casually walked to the button pushed it and walked out without anyone seeing. It would be pretty amusing to watch them slowly start to fan themselves and sweat profusely without knowing what had happened. If only there was a way to barricade the door so they couldn’t escape. He did have an old bicycle chain in his trunk…
Suddenly the PA system came on with a soft BEEP and Alex was brought back to his surroundings.
“May I have your attention please…” said a bored female voice. Alex rolled his eyes.
“Here we go,” he mumbled
“We are currently experiencing a delay on the Haskell Heights line due to an electrical short in a switch south of the Cooper Avenue Station stop.”
“Perfect” said Alex testily
“We apologize for the inconvenience and are working as fast as possible to correct the problem. Thank you for your patience and have a pleasant day” Finished the voice dryly and repeated the message.
'Thanks a fucking bunch” said Alex and he looked around at the other people in the booth. The two that were listening to music had taken off their headphones now and were listening to the message repeating. The man with the blackberry had stood up and walked outside to look down the track. Several others outside had started doing this too. Apparently the people thought that by looking down the track, they could somehow help the train. Their collective consciousnesses somehow pulling the track switch into the correct position thus allowing us all to get under way. A small part of Alex’s mind clung onto the hope that it would. He had, after all, read “The Secret”. He understood these things.
As another man got up dialing his cell phone, presumably to inform his office of the current plight, Alex saw someone on the bench he hadn’t noticed when he walked in. A young women sitting on the other side of the booth drinking from a small thermos who was a regular on this now delayed train. Alex had taken to calling her Kim in his head. He had no idea whether this has her actual name of course, as he had never had the occasion to say so much as “Hello” to her. But she looked like a Kim and that was good enough for him.
She was very pretty, with golden blonde hair streaked over Brown roots pulled into a ponytail. The roots didn’t make her look sloppy, but in that elegantly casual way that said ”I look good even when I’m not trying”. She also had bright green eyes with just enough eye shadow to make them the first thing you noticed.
Alex had first seen her on this platform 4 months ago. She was very “Put offish” as his sister would say, with a fitted grey sailors jacket, dark blue jeans with a pair of brown leather boots that screamed “Fuck Me!” and a pair of large round sunglasses that screamed “Fuck Off!” Today however, she was wearing a simple red Tank top, pull string cargo pants and brown flip-flops. She was clearly not going to work as Alex usually saw her much more done up than this. She was also clutching a small black gym bag on her lap with one hand as though it might spring open at any moment.
Not wanting to stare Alex pulled out his cell phone again to check the time. No sooner had he flipped it open then he heard a shriek of anger and looked back. She had spilled a considerable amount of iced coffee onto herself.
“Of course it happened today” he heard her say under her breath in a small annoyed voice. He turned and saw her muttering obscenities to herself as she dabbed at the stains with a napkin.
Alex reached into his backpack and pulled out some instant stain removal cloths from a front pocket. When he was in high school, His mother had taken to putting them into his school bags and jackets whenever she got the chance saying “you never know when they might come in handy” Alex, being a total slob, soon came to realize that she was absolutely right. And he quickly picked up the habit.
Alex cleared his thought and she looked around. Once again he was immediately drawn to her green eyes and they met his for a fraction of a second. Then seeing the cloths in his hand, she reached over and snatched them out of his hand, ripped open the packets and began rubbing them on her shirt furiously. Feeling a little resentful Alex looked away. A few seconds later he heard a sigh.
“Thank you” She said and he looked back.
She was looking at him with a softened sheepish expression, as though she was embarrassed by her lack of gratitude. He gave her a small smile back.
“No problem” he said “Bad day?”
“Bad Summer” she said grimly.
Alex gave an affirmative grunt. Unsure what the correct etiquette was for a remark like that.
“Have you ever had everything in your life going exactly the way they should and then one day it all blows up in your face?” she said in a rush.
“Uh” said Alex taken aback. “Yeah, I guess”
“It’s like once one thing goes wrong, everything does” She continued, more to herself Alex thought.
“Anything I can do?” he said grasping/
“You wouldn’t happen to be a marketing executive looking for a consultant, would you?” she said sarcastically
Alex snorted “not even close” he grinned at her. she didn’t grin back.
“Figures” She said and went back to mopping up her spilled coffee.
“You lost you job?” Alex said trying to rekindle the conversation and he realized at once that this was not the way to do it.
She glared at him as of to say, “Figured that out on you own, did you?”
“I was at Griffin-Howard” She said flatly and Alex understood.
 Griffin-Howard had been a prominent advertising firm before they were taken over by a major conglomerate 3 months ago. According to CNN, the body count was enormous and Kim was clearly one of them. Realizing this, Alex felt a stab of guilt. The law firm at which Alex was an office clerk, Williams, Goldsmith and Assoc, had brokered the deal allowing the takeover. He decided not to mention this.
“I’ve been looking for 3 months,” Kim continued again more to herself “Nobodies hiring so much as a mail clerk.”
“So, you’re still looking? Is that why you’re heading into the city?” Alex asked.
“No.” she said quietly, “I mean, Yes, I am still looking but,” She paused “I start my new job today” for some reason she seemed to deflate a little when she said this.
“Oh, Good for you” Alex said trying desperately to lighten the atmosphere of the conversation. “Doing what?”
Kim looked down at her gym bag, which she was clutching even closer to herself now. Almost trying to shield it from view.
“Bartending” she said hesitantly.
“Cool” Alex said encouragingly “It’s Good money. At least you’re working”
She look at him briefly out of the corners of those her deep green eyes then she look back down again with a thin smile.
“We’ll see” she said softly.
Alex looked at her. There was something about her that he couldn’t quite put his finger on but he had a strange feeling that when he did figure it out. He would either fall madly in love with her. Or run for his life.
There was a sudden swift movement outside and they both looked up. The train was pulling in and people were clamoring around the doors trying to be the first one in and be assured a seat. Both Alex and Kim stood up at the same time.
“Well,” Kim said in a business like voice as she picked up her gymbag. ”Thanks for the pep talk.”
“Such as it was” he replied holding open the booth door for her. Then a sudden realization hit him. “I’m Alex, by the way” he said trying to say it before they got separated.
“Well, it was nice meeting you, Alex.” She said quickly as she saw a gap in the throng leading to a doorway on the next car over and darted away like a squirrel through a gap in the leaves. Alex just managed to squeeze through the doors as they closed behind him. He looked around there was barely room to stand let alone sit. And door to the next car was blocked by a man with twins in a stroller.
“Maybe on Monday”, Alex thought to himself, “I’ll get her real name.”

To Be Continued

No comments:

Post a Comment