flash friday · Writing

Friday Flash: Slow Train

I wasn’t going to post this at first, was afraid it’s be too boring. But I figured, WTH.

Shelia swiped her card, pounded up the stairs and just barely squeezed through the train doors. They caught on her backpack and slid open again. She slipped her navy backpack down her arm, out of the way. The doors closed again and the train started moving.

Shelia leaned against the doors, catching her breath, looking around. Other kids and people in business clothes crowded the train. All the seats looked taken and she really didn’t feel like forcing her way through the middle to look for an empty one. Couldn’t even wrap a hand around the poles; not enough room. Well, she didn’t need to hold onto to anything anyway, just needed to brace herself.

She opened her bag and pulled out her sheet of formulas. Couldn’t afford to flunk the calculus midterm today. Twenty minutes to review before the bus.

The train stopped at the next station and Shelia was forced to step off before anyone else could get off. Back inside, she propped herself up against the seat railings, flipped the page over and continued reviewing a convergent series example.

The train lurched to a stop. Shelia looked up, fingers curled around the railing, and realized they were between stations. A large pregnant woman stood next to her, but didn’t block her view door windows. Tiny cars ran below and gulls flew high in the sky. A few people in bright orange vests did mysterious things on the tracks.

An hour left until the test. Shelia frowned. She should have been at the bus stop by now. The train started moving again and she breathed a sigh of relief. Lucky she gave herself twenty extra minutes today. Looked like the subway was running late.

But the train moved slowly. So slowly. The people around her shifted, bored and worried. The minutes trickled away. Another station came. 82 Street-Jackson Heights. Shelia stared outside and unease tickled her spine. Should she get off here? The bus would be easy to get. But it would definitely make her late and the train might still get her there on time. Maybe.

Shelia watched the station disappear and wondered if she’d made a mistake. A crackle from the overhead speakers, but no announcement.

The train stopped entirely. Shelia shoved her cheat sheet back in her bag, no longer able to focus.

A man stood up, gave up his seat to the pregnant lady. “She been standing too long,” he said gruffly, when Shelia stared at him.

Shelia nodded. “Right.” She dug her phone out of her bag and called home. No one answered. Hell. Mom must be out.

She wished for a smart phone so she could the check the MTA website. She looked around, but none of those business people had a blackberry in their hands. Everyone had a watch, though, and they kept checking the time.

Three hours later, Shelia arrived in school. Her classroom door burst open and her fellow classmates poured out.

Some waved to her, stopped and asked questions. “Subway problems. Where’s the – Professor!” Shelia spotted him, hands full of papers. “Professor, I can explain. The train, the subway, it was really late and I -”

“The train isn’t an excuse, girl.”

Stunned, Shelia watched him walk down the hall, seeing herself fail calculus.