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Contemporary Fiction Happy

“The 8:15 train to Vanessa is leaving the station. Stand clear of the closing doors.” 

I wander in after a rush of people scramble into the train. Three high schoolers chat about drugs and swing around a pole. A nondescript businessman mumbles to himself in a cracked phone. And two lanky thirty-something lovebirds point handguns at everyone. They're fake and I'm smart-ass Lamar today. 

“Empty those pockets. Let's go,” the guy shouts in a goofy stroll down the car. 

People drop their wallets, watches, and more in the girl's burlap sack. She picks her nose and wipes her hand on the sack. The guy snickers until they reach me. He jiggles the near-overflowing burlap sack. 

“And?” I deadpan and stare at my phone. 

The girl slides her shoes off and smacks my phone away with one of them. I plug my nose and reach for the phone. 

“Give up the goods,” the guy grins with the “gun” pressed against my forehead. 

“Your guns are fake,” I declare loud enough for everyone to hear. 

The girl hesitates with the trigger. The guy realizes what she does and lowers his gun. The passengers surround them in a rage. I grin and watch from behind my phone camera. 

“S-stay back,” the guy stammers with his shaky “handgun” grip. 

No one cowers. The high schoolers charge and incapacitate the guy. The nondescript businessman breaks the girl's gun over his knee. Everyone snatches their belongings out of the burlap sack and returns to their seats.

“Thanks for exposing us,” the girl grunts and clings to a pole with her boyfriend. 

I scrape dirt out of my nails with my teeth. 

“Hmm.” 

The train stops and two police officers waddle on board. One holds his belt up and the other fiddles with a portable game console. But that is not my business. 

“Now arriving at Donut Valley. Stand clear of the closing doors.” 

“Ramirez, you play that game too much.” 

Ramirez groans and shifts toward the failed crooks. They're two-bit crooks; not the kind cops chase down. They're the kind who fail to steal dinner mints from a restaurant table. He shrugs and turns back to his game. I should do likewise. 

“Worry about crimes in Vanessa, Toliver,” he croaks and glances at me. “Not my game.” 

The teenagers pass around cigarettes and Toliver stops them. 

“What's your deal?” One of them asks with a cigarette in his mouth. 

“No smoking on the train.” 

“We're not smoking, moron,” another teenager declares as the others chuckle. 

Toliver hoists his belt up and glares at Ramirez. Ramirez stays invested in his game. Not my place to intervene. But snickering is fair game. 

“Ramirez, help me dispense justice.”

I chuckle when Ramirez doesn't move. And Toliver glares at me now. 

“Something funny, bud?” He snarls in a waddle toward me. 

“Yeah.” 

He reaches for pepper spray but his pants slide away. The teenagers and a few others giggle. Ramirez adds one of his own. The train stops and a few people leave. 

“Now arriving at Depreston. Stand clear of the closing doors.”

“Struggling with your pants, officer?” One of the teenagers giggles. 

Toliver holds his pants up and stomps in a circle. He's a beet-red child in a uniform right now. And Ramirez continues ignoring him. 

“Thank God our stop is next because all of you are insufferable.” 

“Toliver is getting divorced,” Ramirez whispers to me before they leave. 

“Now arriving at Folsom Pines. Stand clear of the closing doors.” 

That reminds me of my divorce. My ex-wife Cherie and I loved each other. She couldn't handle marriage anymore though. And neither could I. I'm visiting her in Vanessa because we stayed friends. 

The teenagers are asleep around the pole as the businessman murmurs “always be closing” to himself. My eyes believe the mantra as everything goes dark around me. 

Cherie stands across from me on the train. It's empty aside from us. I shake with the train on the way to her. 

“Funny seeing you here,” I grin gripping the pole near her.

“Funny seeing you hold an old man piss pole.”

I release the pole and tumble backward. Cherie cackles and slaps her knee. Of course it's a joke. 

“You got me good,” I chuckle and slide into a seat. 

“Better than when we were breaking up?” she asks with a semi-straight face. 

“We grew too close for a simple breakup.” 

She sighs and nods. Rubs the back of her neck. Must be a sore spot for her. I mean the topic but her neck too. 

“The split tore my family apart,” she starts and sits during a train stop. “My mother flew into a fit of rage.” 

“Now arriving at Stone Rose Avenue. Stand clear of the closing doors.” 

“She was upset over our divorce.” 

“Lamar, she was livid. Anything within reach got thrown halfway across the room.” 

“Goodness.”

“I know right.” 

“She shipped us?” 

“Since our first date. She admired your college degree and “business acumen” but the degree more than anything else.” 

“My business degree is useless now.” 

“Why? What happened?” 

“I sat on it and dove into telemarketing.” 

“You mean dived?” 

“Aren't both right? Let’s consult the internet.” 

Cherie checks her phone knowing that tunnels block service. 

“They are,” she grins and runs her hands over the seat. 

“You’re blonde now,” I comment and stick the phone in my pocket. 

“And your nails are black,” she responds with outstretched hands. 

I rest mine in hers and she turns them over to observe. 

“A mourning present for myself.” 

“Gel instead of nail polish?” 

“The boss checks output rather than hands. And they-” 

“Last longer. I know,” she cuts in and faces the train doors. 

Cherie stands up as the train crawls to a halt. 

“You're lucky that way, Lamar.” 

“Now arriving at Vanessa. Stand clear of the closing doors.” 

“Come visit me someday.” 

I nod and stand up. 

“Sure thing.” 

I jerk awake to a near-empty train car. The nondescript businessman is the one left aside from me. And he doesn't care about my post-divorce dream. No one but me and Cherie. 

“Now arriving at Vanessa. Thank you for riding the PTA. Have a safe and sterile night.” 

The businessman catches me on the way out of the train. I wrench my wrist free. His grip is weak enough. 

“What do you want out of life?” He asks and braces against the pole. 

“What kind of question…” 

“The reasonable kind.” 

I march to the exit in a daze. I want peace out of life. I want a distant county retirement. I want to stay friends with Cherie. 

“Lamar, you look like you were dragged through a foxhole.” 

Cherie grins against a tree in the middle of a bustling Vanessa Plaza. 

“And you look like the same blonde in my dreams,” I chuckle and fish my phone out of my pocket. 

“You've got pictures for me from the train?” 

“I've got stories, Cherie,” I smile on the way to her car. 

“And I have a day off to hear them.” 

April 22, 2021 06:01

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