82 Passengers

Submitted into Contest #27 in response to: Write a short story that takes place on a train.... view prompt



I climbed on the big, blocky red train at 11:30. It was heading for Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where my grandmother lived along with three dogs, five cats, four hamsters, and a parakeet. I was pushed and jostled by other passengers, and as I passed other compartments, I could see every person in their compartments. I had a gift for numbers, therefore being able to analyze exactly how many people there were, or exactly what time it was, down to the very second. As a child, I had figured out that I had so far 3,472 legos, fifty-three Shopkins, and sixteen Highlights magazines as of March 18, 1997.

There were four people in one compartment, three people in fourteen compartments, and five people in seven compartments. In all, there were eighty-one people. I liked that. 81 was my luckiest number, although I also liked twenty-one, forty-two, and three.

I located my compartment - 4B - and slipped in. My luggage was stuffed onto a shelf on the wall. This was done with difficulty, as I had packed for more than a month's stay. There was a little table at the end of the compartment, with white paper napkins and a tiny silver ashtray. Along the two walls were wooden benches with uncomfortable cushions in an unflattering floral pattern. I sat on one of the benches and pulled out a pencil and a crossword puzzle pad. Hmm... I thought. What's a seven-letter word for treachery?

"Try perfidy," someone said in front of me. I looked up in surprise.

A man dressed sharply in a black and white tux was standing in front of me. I had noticed him in compartment 13D, talking to a small child. He was looking at my puzzle.

"Do perfidy," he encouraged. I wrote it in and answered a couple other questions. He was right. Perfidy fit in perfectly. I nodded at him. "Thanks," I said. The man smiled and stuck out his hand. I shook it.

"Max Maxwell," he said. I smirked. Max noticed and smiled as well. "I know, I know, my name is kinda weird."

He sat down next to me and looked at the pad in my hands. "May I?" I handed over the puzzles and he flipped through a few pages. Finally, he found one he liked and looked at me. "Want to help?"

I obliged. We had already gone through two puzzles when the train started moving. It was so sudden that I dropped my pencil in surprise. This time, Max laughed. I glared playfully at him and stooped over to pick up the pencil.

As hills, grass, buildings, and flowers flashed by my window, Max and I solved six more puzzles and talked a bit. Max's full name was Maximilian Maxim Maxwell. I cracked up again, and Max poked me. I told him about my life in Madison, Wisconsin, and my grandma. He explained his job as a businessman and showed me pictures of his family.

The train slowed to a stop. We stopped chatting and looked out the window. We were in a train station. Swarms of people rushed back and forth. Max swung his suitcase off the shelf and handed me mine. I smiled gratefully at him.

As we walked down the aisle, he gave me his business card. It read MAXIMILIAN MAXIM MAXWELL: CEO OF DOGS AND CATS LUXURY. Underneath were his number and email in small print. "Feel free to contact me anytime," he said, flashing his pearly whites. I grinned and wrote down my number and email in my typical messy scrawl on the back of a crossword puzzle and ripped off the page. I handed it to him. "Feel free to contact me anytime," I repeated back to him. Max laughed and took it. "You got it." He winked.

I stepped out of the train into the platform, and Max stepped out behind me. Even through all the people, I could recognize every single one that had been on the train with Max and I. Quickly counting the people that had gotten out first (there were 32), I turned around and waited for the rest of the people to come out as Max turned left and waved goodbye.

When the last person stepped out, I frowned. Then I counted everyone again. And again. And again. And again.

There were 82 passengers.

February 02, 2020 01:22

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