Wednesday, November 17, 2010


This week's prompt was a starter sentence, and an enticing one it was. For your reading pleasure, I offer you, Attrition.


The train seemed unusually empty this morning. It was very odd to see so few of the regular riders in the middle of the workweek.

I, of course, was first on. I am always first on. Mrs. Johnston was there on the Winchester platform. She’s such a sweetheart, but she works way too hard for someone her age. I wish she didn’t have to get off at the second to last stop. That’s such an awful neighborhood. Why on earth would they even put a platform there when the only people around over there are gang members and drug dealers. I have to admit that I have never seen any one of them hop on the 7:04, that’s for sure. She doesn’t have to walk far to get to the houses she cleans, just a few blocks, and that area isn’t too bad. But getting to Grove Place from where she gets off this train has to be a frightening experience for her, what with all those low-lifes hanging around the platform and stairs, saying hateful things to her, grabbing at her handbag, when all she’s trying to do is get to her job. Well, this morning, she didn’t have to put up with that. I heard her telling Mr. Rivera that she was going all the way downtown right to the station this morning so that she could pop in and visit her husband in the hospital for a few minutes. Apparently, he had been cleaning their gutters and his foot slipped from the ladder and he fractured his hip. One of her employers told her they would pick her up by the First Street entrance and take her to her first house until he was discharged so she wouldn’t have to take the train twice. At least she will be safe for a few days anyway.

Mr. Rivera. That poor dear man. He got on right after Mrs. Johnston, which was strange since I hadn’t seen him for a couple of weeks. I heard him telling her that he hasn’t been riding since basically, he had nowhere to go. Evidently, his job at the plant had been eliminated when they lost three of their biggest customers. He hadn’t had much luck finding another position either, but this morning, he was on his way to a formal interview at one of the new factories by the docks. It would be a longer trip for him since he’d have to ride the train to the station and then take a couple of buses, but he had said the money would be well worth it. And, after all, any port in a storm. Right?

I really got worried when we just sailed right on through the stop at Clark because there was no one waiting there. I wondered what happened to Sara. She’s so young to be a mother, barely out of high school, but her baby boy is so adorable. She always rides on Wednesdays since she has a part-time job cleaning the offices down on Grove Avenue. She always gets off at Twelfth so she can drop the baby off at her mother’s, then catches the 8:50 to the station. I hope the baby’s not ill. She’s having such a hard time trying to make a living for her and her child. The baby’s father works three jobs at least and is trying to provide for them, but if the baby’s sick, that means doctors, and medicines and that kind of thing can end up being very expensive. I hope all is well with her.

I was so happy when we stopped at Palisades and Mr. O’Reilly got on. How I adore that fellow. He’s always smiling, and he always has a ’good morning’ for the conductor and everyone in the car. I always take a peek over his shoulder at the daily papers so I can keep up with current events. He always reads the comics too, and I love them so.

Usually, there are one or two new people every week, but perhaps they’re all getting on the other cars. That’s okay though, because this car’s riders are like family. We all know each other and each other’s lives and day-to-day issues, and it’s comforting somehow to just keep the car to ourselves. One new person did get on today however, but this person was not welcome today and would never be welcome again. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw her get on. With you.

You were both laughing at some private joke when you got on. That was bad enough. I can’t tell you how much more it hurt when you guided her right to our seat. Our seat. The one you and I sat on every Wednesday for all those months while you were going to school downtown. Always that car. Always that seat. Now, you sit there with her. I heard you tell her how excited you were about graduating and getting the new job and how happy you were that since she also worked downtown, you could both ride the 7:04 together every morning. I’m not sure I’m going to be able to take that, having your affair thrown in my face every day. I just don’t know how I’m going to handle that.

I always believed you and I would be together. We first met on this train and I fell in love with you at the very moment I looked into your eyes. We talked and smiled and shared our hopes and dreams. You brought me coffee and treats and even a rose on my last birthday. Everyone in the car knew we were a couple. Everyone. Except you.

That last morning we were together--it seems so long ago now. There was no coffee. There were no treats. And, there definitely was no rose. You had told me you wouldn’t be going in that morning, and asked if I’d get off at your stop so we could chat. You said to meet you at the diner on the corner and we could have coffee there. I knew then that you were going to declare your eternal love for me. It made me smile. All that passion and romance at a corner table over coffee and perhaps toast with marmalade. It would be a moment I would remember all my life.

All I recall running through my mind as you walked me back up to the platform was how could this be happening. How could you tell me at a corner table over coffee and toast with marmalade that you were certain that I had misinterpreted your intentions? When you asked me where I got the insane idea that there was anything between us beyond two people who happened to share a seat on a morning train, I couldn’t breathe. I felt myself feeling very disoriented and disconnected while we ascended the stairs to the benches. You sat, and motioned for me to join you while we awaited the next run. You’d see me on my way, you said, this last time. In the future, you’d be riding in one of the other cars, you said. Because that would be for the best, you said.

I heard the next train long before I saw it. I knew you didn’t. You were too busy trying to explain to me that we never were. Never. As the train neared the platform and I jumped down onto the tracks, the last thing I heard was you saying ‘no‘, and the last thing I saw was your hand reaching out for me. Right. Now, you reach out for me.

So, here I am tonight, alone in the car, our car, sitting in our seat, waiting for the first morning run to begin. I had always believed there would be a brightly lit garden with a fountain full of cool, sweet water, and wings. Everyone would have wings. I would have wings. And I would feel safe. But, there is no garden. There is no cool, sweet water. There are no wings There is only darkness and loneliness and regret. I didn’t know I would have to forever ride this train. I didn’t know I couldn’t ever touch or be touched again. I didn’t know I’d be frightened of the night. I wish now at that very last second I had taken your hand. Then we would have been together. Forever.


  1. These personal almost confessional narratives are really effective Joyce. You catch the imagination and put the hook in.

  2. Thanks so much, Richard. I wasn't sure how to approach this and it involved several rewrites. Then, I remembered back when I rode the train each day to school/work and it came back that in the space of an hour, you can really get to know people to such a great degree. That's when I knew how to get where I was going with the story. Glad you enjoyed it. Thanks, as always, for stopping by and for taking the time to comment.

  3. I liked this story very much, Joyce, this one feels like it has a very personal voice (not sure if them's the right words) and it's a very enjoyable feel. Inviting to read. The introduction of the reader as a character was unexpected - a neat thrill.

    What really surprised me was that, essentially, we had a similar story idea for the prompt! lol Telepathy in action...! But you did it much better, Joyce...! Looking forward to the next one! :-)

  4. Good job, Joyce. A different side from what you've been contributing. Refreshing. Ingrid and you had similar ideas, but still vastly different.

    Always a pleasure to read what you do with the prompts.

  5. Ingrid, Glad you liked my story. I'm glad I finally went with this version. I began approaching it from a whole different perspective and it just got so crazy I had to keep doing it over and over. I agree with your comment about our similarities too. When I read yours, I was really freaked out. Same prompt, sure, but the stories run parallel in a lot of ways. There's a mind thing going on here for sure! I really enjoyed your story and I appreciate your comments on mine.

  6. Ron, Glad you enjoyed my little offering. Crazy how Ingrid's and mine ran parallel in so many ways even though they were totally different stories. Crazy. This was really a different 'voice' for me. I thought I'd try something a bit different. Happy it seems to have worked! I appreciate your stopping by and your comments. Thanks much.

  7. Got to head off to work in a few minutes, I will read this and add you to my blogroll after things calm down there.

  8. Thanks, BB. Hope you enjoy it. I really enjoyed your story and I'm glad I found your blog. I've added yours to those I follow and look forward to checking in.

  9. Simply put I am envious, I hope one day to write half as well.

  10. BB, You are too kind. Glad you enjoyed this. Horror and spook stuff are not my usual fare, but lately, I've been dabbling a bit more into that genre. Always fun to try something new--if it works, that is! lol