One Federal Street

Submitted into Contest #122 in response to: Start your story in the middle of a traffic jam.... view prompt



This story contains themes or mentions of suicide or self harm.

He starts—


—brakes again.

There isn't—there can't be anything worse than this.

Barely moving—


In spot—

Worst of all he's on a—bridge.

He remembers when the Tobin didn't have fencing——barricades.

The state said they'd be too "cost-prohibitive." Isn't everything—everyone—

Don't we all cost—something? Won't it all—something?

Of course, the Tobin has fencing now. Since Chuck Stuart. Didn't Chuck Steward know it all cost something? He didn't know that. Or we'd assume that based on the—verdicts. But maybe—he did. In the end, maybe he did. The investigators always miss—something. Only so much time. Finite resources.

Why do they have fencing now? Since Chuck Stuart? It all started—


he killed his wife. Why? Insurance. A fresh—

And to make it all worse, she was— pregnant. They cut poor baby Christopher out as soon as they—could, but the child died a few weeks later. Shock—


—what kills us all.

It was going fine for Chuck in the beginning. After he killed his wife, that is. That—beginning. We all have many, don't we? But all the—very—same.

Yes, it was going fine since the murder. Green lights the whole way. A new Nissan Maxima for $16,000 in cash—

$100,000 in insurance money—

It was going fine because Chuck told the police a black man—

—hijacked their car and robbed them. About six feet tall, roughly thirty years old. They searched, searched, searched. Roxbury, Mission Hill, Mattapan. William "Willie" Bennett was the man—they found to pay—

Innocence. The price of the wrong—man.

There were inconsistencies. There are always—

Chuck stopped—when he saw Bennett in a lineup. Stopped—but didn't stop. Started. Started again. That beginning. The same beginning. The same thing.

It was all going fine until—guilt. Not Chuck's, his brother's. Heavy, whacking—

Matthew told the police the truth. Why? He was lost or—stuck. Had




He imagined Bennett in a cage. Shock. Deprivation. Matthew told the police it was Chuck.

They found Chuck's body in the Mystic River not long later. He said the new accusations left him beaten, sapped—dead. He was dead.

They found the evidence, too. A gun, a bag of valuables—the wedding rings.

The wedding rings.

That stuff was in the Pines River, and that's what Matthew said. What Matthew said was you'll find it all in the Pines River. What Matthew said—cost—Chuck.

Bennett was freed from jail right away. Who knows when he could move again? From when they grabbed him by the—throat. Caged him. That's how trauma is—start—brake—start again. Would he start again? Only he knows. Apologies don't much. Don't—

The papers ran the new story. It stopped everyone. Stuck. They said the Stuarts seemed—loving. Seemed—happy. Why did Chuck do it? And did he think he'd get away with it? Did he not think—ahead? Do a cost analysis? Did he discredit the unexpected—



The media had theories as to why he did it. The media had motives—

He was worried the baby would be—be too—expensive. That Carol wouldn't go back to work. No money. He felt—in a word—stuck.

There was also Deborah Allen, but he said no—no romantic involvement. "Close relationship," yes. Romantic, no.

They worked at Kakas fur shop together. Yes, Deborah did, even though she cared about the animals. Even though she thought about them in cages. Red foxes, rabbits, chinchillas—stuck—stuck—stuck.

She thought about them, too, on the drive to the slaughterhouse. The rugged farm road. The go, brake, go. When the farmers grabbed them by the throats. Shock—


She even attended a PETA rally once—once as a girl. But the money was good at Kakas. And Chuck—

A journalist called the owner of Kakas for a statement. They said that "nothing was missing— from the store." Hung up.

They put some fencing up on the bridge after his death, even despite the cost. The damage was—done. They agreed that without it, there was—loss. Or was there—penalty? Either way—

What was traffic like the day Chuck jumped? He wondered. What was it like when he jumped? He'd like to—


Would Chuck have done it—if it weren't for Matthew? Would he have had the unexpected—



Who in the world knows what they would have done if—

He thought to himself. There was nothing else to do. He wouldn't be here if it weren't for—. There was nothing else to do.

And yet, there was. There was something else to do. He wasn't supposed to work today. Why did he? They asked him to. Why did they—ask him to? They knew he'd say yes. Why did they know he'd say yes? He never says no.

At least not to—

Why does he never say no? That one has him—

So this is his punishment. His penance, he figures. Dragged home by bumpers, tied to everyone's costs like his, they are, his costs. Stop and—go traffic. Tolls—



"When will you be back?"

"I'm not sure."

"You don't know what time?"


"You can't guess?"


"Well, do you think you'll be back by supper?"

"No. I'm sorry."

He saw the—look. Shock. Deprivation. Apologies don't—

That look when you realize your insurance—is gone, null, void. That look when you realize you're suffering—paying someone else's prices. That look when you realize it all costs something—you, sometimes. That look when you realize you are stuck with—a—fraud. You are a—

It all costs something. Even if nothing's missing from the store? Even if nothing's missing from the store. But that costs, too.

It can cost other stuff. Immaterial. An anniversary dinner. A kiss—goodnight. Joy. Satisfaction. What are those, you figure? Can you put a number on them?

Red tail light marked his—face. A—man—speeds—up—and—

Almost hits him. The same man does it again—



Can you put a number on them?

Maybe he should go back to work and—try. Back to One Federal Street. Analyze the costs how he does quite well, how Chuck didn't—or did.

Go back only to return again. Sit in the stop-and-go again. To kill his wife—again. To kill his son—again. To do it again—

That's what he would have done if he hadn't done it. He would've done it—again. At any cost, we do it all again—

and again—

and again—

and again.

Start, brake, start.

Moving, but not. Moving to the same spot again. Brake, start. Start at that beginning.


November 30, 2021 23:50

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