I’ve published a short collection of my flash pieces for free as an e-book at Smashwords. They are the same pieces I’ve featured here, HOWEVER, I’ve included at the end of each piece a brief afterward that explains where the stories came from. Sort of a glimpse into my life and mind. It’s free, so what do you have to lose? (I’m still trying to figure out how to get them free at Amazon and B&N… irritating).
You can find “Free Five” by clicking here. (Smashwords supports formats for all e-readers)
Also, only about a week and a half left on my .99 sale for The Imaginings.
What does the future hold?
Next Friday, I’m pleased to announce that I will be posting “Seven Questions with Author Penelope Crowe” as well as a short review of her book 100 Unfortunate Days. A fascinating read. Hope you stop by to check it out.
But without further ado…
As I mentioned last week, Waiting for the Train holds two distinctions in my writing history. First, it was the shortest complete story that I wrote… at least since I was a kid. These days it would probably be called “flash fiction,” except it runs a little too long for most of those limits (about 1600 words). Second, it was my first bit of literary fiction. No monsters. No ghosts. No supernatural occurrences.
Considering all that, I hope you still enjoy it 🙂
So NOW without further ado…
God, it was hot in the subway.
Marianne reached around and used her shirt to dry the bead of sweat that had been sneaking its way down her spine towards the small of her back. In the rush hour mob, it was a tricky maneuver, and she silently cursed the guy pushed up behind her. She was pretty sure he had been purposefully touching her butt. Marianne knew that the rule of city living was that, in a crowd like this, she was supposed to assume the first time was an accident and not make a scene.
When would that goddamn train get here?
There it was again. A hand on her butt. The second time it could be assumed that it was a little more deliberate, and making a scene was optional. Instead, Marianne just scowled to herself. She had never been really good in tight spaces with lots of people, especially waiting in an underground tunnel, breathing everybody else’s hot air, breathing in everybody else’s hot stench. She cringed at each cough or sniffle from nearby strangers and wished she were just a foot taller. Surely the air was cleaner up there. Marianne wriggled uncomfortably. The guy’s hand was practically massaging now. Marianne knew some women who only let them get away with one “accidental” grab. Some didn’t even allow that. Marianne gave them until three.
“Excuse me,” she said over her shoulder, but the awful truth was that she was a little sorry when the not entirely unattractive man first feigned surprised, then mumbled an apology and put his hand in his pocket. She could barely remember the last time Vincent had touched her like that.
Marianne looked at the clock on the wall. It was covered by a thick wire-grating that would often hide the hands of the clock entirely depending on the time of day. And for that minute or so, it was as if time would disappear.
Today the clock just told her that the train was running twenty-five minutes late. There must have been some major screw up on the track or at the last station. Maybe a terrorist. It couldn’t have happened at a worse time of day. Not that she had much to rush home to, even though it was a Friday night. Not that Vincent would want to spend a romantic evening with her. Not tonight. Probably not ever. Even though they still shared the same house, same bed and same last name.
Marianne Jordano. She had once thought that her married name sounded so much prettier than her maiden name, but after nearly 8 years of marriage she almost hated even seeing it on junk mail.
It’s not that Vincent cheated on Marianne. He wouldn’t give her that satisfaction, that last excuse she needed to actually justify leaving him. Until that happened, part of her had to believe things could get better again. But even though he didn’t physically cheat, Marianne knew that he betrayed her in his heart everyday with one woman or another. She could see it in his eyes, the way he looked at her when he came through the door after work, as if to say, “Oh, you’re still here.” Marianne figured that the only reason he didn’t leave was his family. Strong Catholic upbringing. They would have no divorce in their family. Vincent’s Uncle Mike left his wife four years ago, and the rest of the family disowned him. Marianne had even overheard her father-in-law suggesting that Vincent take on a “new friend, if you know what I mean.” Hypocrites.
But Vincent didn’t cheat on her. What he did was stop loving her. At least that’s what she thought. Of course, sometimes she wondered if he ever loved her in the first place.
Marianne sighed, then stood forward on her tiptoes and tried to peer down the tunnel for a glimpse of the train, but there were too many people packed in. God, people stood close to the tracks. Safety line, shmafety line.
And then, waiting and listening for any hint of the train over the chirping and whistling of cell phones and pda’s, a crazy thought struck Marianne. When the train finally came down those tracks, maybe she would just jump in front of it. She was close enough to knock a few people out of the way, bolt past a couple of others and then lunge. It was probably one of the quicker ways to kill yourself. Probably faster than slitting your wrists or even hanging yourself, unless you really knew what you were doing. Four years of working as an E.R. nurse had taught her that the human neck was more resilient than they portrayed it in the movies. You couldn’t just push yourself off any old footstool.
Marianne read a short story once describing a futuristic government that would kill its traitors in these really horrendous ways, but the real kicker was that the government would clone the traitors, giving the clone every memory of the traitor right up to the point of their actual death. Then they would make the new clone go in and clean up the mess of whatever torturous thing they had done to the previous body. It was to teach a lesson, make sure the “new you” didn’t repeat any of the old mistakes. The first time they killed the main character, they had a noose that lifted him slowly away from the floor. No quick neck snapping, just slow suffocation, his feet maybe two inches off the ground.
No, thanks. Not for Marianne. It would have to more dramatic than just pushing herself off a chair with a rope around her neck. Besides, Vincent would find her dangling body and probably say something like, “that’s just like you, Marianne.”
Yes, it would definitely need to be something more dramatic. Like jumping in front of a subway train.
Maybe they would interview the butt-fondler. “She seemed like a pretty girl. Didn’t seem like she was freaking out or anything.”
Then Marianne looked at the man standing in front of her, and she decided on a better idea. She wouldn’t jump today. But what she would do would be the death of her anyway. When the train arrived, she would push him in front of it. Yes, that was it. And it seemed like the perfect plan to Marianne. She briefly considered that the lack of personal space might have been finally getting to her. Living here had been Vincent’s idea. She had never really liked the city, and in a time when all she really wanted was to be touched by her husband, she was instead berated by a mob of strangers knocking into her every morning and evening.
Whatever the reason, even if it was just city living, it still seemed to come back to Vincent. But at this point, Marianne wasn’t too concerned with the “why” that led her to this place of desperation. Now it came down to how to free herself, and Marianne convinced herself that this was the perfect plan, and the man in front of her was the perfect man. She knew that it couldn’t be anyone else. Not the teenage girl standing next to her. Or the old man who looked like he was going to lose it if the train didn’t show up soon. Not even the butt-fondler. No, it would have to be him, so determined to get on the train before her. Now that would be a dramatic way for her to go out, even more sensationalized by the fact that she would plead guilty. Marianne was pretty sure they still used the electric chair.
He was a good looking man. Marianne studied with contempt the portion of his profile she could see from where she stood. He had olive skin with a delicate nose that complimented a slender, European-looking jaw line. Flawless. His dark hair was straight and slicked back. The suit was expensive. He would be the one all right. There was no doubt about it. When the train came she would push him in front of it. She was pretty sure she could do it, too. He had a nice-looking body, but not a really big one. A good shove to someone not expecting it would do the trick. His legs would be relatively relaxed, and if she could get both of her hands just beneath his shoulder blades, he’d be sent sprawling. She’d push him, and then they’d fry her. Perfect. Marianne almost even giggled.
A murmur rose from the crowd to the left of her. Someone said they heard the train, and people started shuffling around, picking up their bags and briefcases, shouldering their purses. Conversation started again with a renewed energy, and Marianne found herself disgusted at their mundane comments about still being able to catch the pre-game show. A few people even laughed. Marianne could hear the train now. It was getting closer. She looked at the clock.
Thirty- two minutes past six. Man gets shoved in front of a subway train. More on the news at ten.
Another drop of sweat ran down her back. The train was almost there. She strained to look down the tunnel and thought she could see the light. The sound of the approaching train rumbled and grew louder in the confined area, and as the roar seemed to grow near deafening, her hands rose until they were at the exact perfect level of his back, poised. No one seemed to notice all of her muscles tense up or that she was biting into her lip almost hard enough to draw blood. If anyone did, they probably just thought she was getting ready to shove her way onto the train. Not today.
The train was seconds away. She didn’t have to look. She could just feel it. The reverberations rose up through her body and seemed to ignite her fingertips. Just a few more seconds. Three. Two…
Then he turned his head and looked at her. Marianne quickly dropped her hands, the fire dying already.
“About goddamn time it gets here,” he muttered. Marianne only shrugged.
The front of the train rushed past them and slowed to a stop. She’d blown her chance, the burning now gone from her hands as well as her heart.
“I can’t believe you forgot to call the Martins about dinner,” he said. “They’ve been trying to get in touch with us all week.”
“I know, Vincent,” she said. “You don’t have to keep reminding me.”
What do I want from you?
Well, what did you think? Have you ever had any irrational considerations like this (that you would be willing to share)?
Don’t forget to check back next Friday for “Seven Questions with Author Penelope Crowe”
And check out “Free Five” at Smashwords.
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22 thoughts on “Waiting for the Train- a short piece by Paul D. Dail”
yabba-dabba-do! that was a great short!
Thanks, Ani. I appreciate you stopping by and commenting. Hope all is well.
Wicked awesome. Perfect ending, I never imagined the man would be her husband.
I think we all have irrational thoughts at one time or another. The question is do we act on them? I can think of one occasion…Let’s just say prison time doesn’t fit guilty verdict and I wish I’d had the courage to deal out a more appropriate punishment. (Hugs) Indigo
Thanks, Indigo. I would agree with you that we all have irrational thoughts. I think the problem is that some people don’t consider them irrational. And without knowing more of the details, somethings I think it’s our justice system that isn’t rational. But that’s a whole other can of worms.
Thanks for stopping by. Hope you have a good weekend.
This story is awesome! I got so tense, waiting for the shove – not realizing it was me who was going to get the big whammo when the man’s identity was revealed. The ending was like the arrival of the train in the story: I really didn’t see it coming.
As for irrational impulses, I’ve often considered just driving right off the end of the upper level of my parking garage. In the summer, the trees look so shady, green, and inviting. It looks like perfect peace. Of course, the truth is that my tiny car probably wouldn’t even bother the concrete wall, I’d end up paying tons in damages, and probably get some really annoying, painful, and long lasting injuries. Which is, of course, what makes the consideration irrational! I content myself with having lunch at the picnic table shaded by those green trees. It’s an excellent reading spot, especially when it’s been dry and there aren’t any mosquitoes.
Thanks for sharing ‘Waiting for the Train.’
Hey Aniko, thanks for your comments. This was a tricky story. I wanted the ending to be a surprise, but I didn’t want my readers to feel like they were tricked. I tried to put a couple details in that would clue the reader off if they read it again. They’re very subtle, but that’s all I could do in such a short piece.
And ah yes, the vehicle plunge from a great height. I think “Thelma and Louise” made this seem like the way to go if we are going to do ourselves in 🙂
Just be careful when you are picnicking under those trees. Make sure to be aware of what’s going on overhead.
Great story…you were in complete, absolute control of the reader’s mind until the end. Certainly not horror in the sense of quirky demons named Mashart, but certainly horrific in its own way…especially for Vincent and Marianne as well for taking some perverse pleasure in fantasizing about her own demise as punishment. Goes to support my contention that horror/supernatural thriller writers are among the best writers no matter what the genre.
One person’s irrational impulse may be another person’s thrill…think about it.
Thanks for the kind words. And yes, I agree that one person’s irrational impulse may be another person’s thrill. As I said to Indigo, that’s kind of the scary part. What I consider irrational might be what a sociopath considers completely normal.
Marriage is the most complicate thing on earth. And I know of a lot of geniuses who freely admit they do not and never will understand women.
When people asked me with my first child if I wanted a girl or a boy, I said without much hesitation, “A boy.” But it wasn’t some masogynistic thing. It’s just as you mentioned. I still don’t really understand women. A boy I would at least understand. Thanks for stopping by, Mac.
Great ending Pablo, had my attention all the way!
Thanks, Tony. Glad you enjoyed it. Hope you’re having a good weekend.
I love mind bending stories like these. This piece was gripping.
I used to wish I would go blind when I was a kid so my parents would feel bad about making me do chores. Does that count?
Hey Kodi, that sounds completely rational to me 🙂
Glad you liked the story. Hope all is going well for you.
To push or not to push: that is the question! I never cease to be amazed at how boredom and discontent lead to so many failed marriages. Sometimes extreme measures are taken when it is merely a matter of walking out the door.
Great story, Paul!
And the real tragedy is that some people will stay in that bad situation forever, completely unhappy. This is how I envision Marianne in the story. She will probably have a hundred other of these fantasies, but in reality she will probably live out her days unhappy, being thrilled by the gropings of a stranger in a crowded subway station.
Glad you enjoyed the story. Thanks as always for stopping by. Did I already ask if you’re going to be at the World Horror Convention?
A lot of people stay in these relationships with physical as well as emotional hardships. Very sad.
Sorry to say, I won’t be at the convention. Maybe next year.
Hi Paul, good story, I enjoyed it.
You threw me as well, I never even thought about the man’s dientity until you revealed it. Nor did I feel like I had been tricked.
Well written, with a nice build up of atmosphere.
Keep up the good work!!
Thanks for stopping by and for the comments, especially that you didn’t feel tricked. I’m guessing you read that it was a concern of mine. Glad you enjoyed it.
Paul, you’re the man. I cheated and scrolled down to the end before I started and I was still surprised! Nice job. Just downloaded your two books of Amazon. Super proud of you. I’ve always wanted to write/publish something. Sometimes I think the only thing my English degree is good for is correcting 8th students’ essays. Great job!
Aha, so you’re one of those readers, eh? 🙂
Glad you stopped by and enjoyed the story. And I say, by all means write something. Your English degree probably makes you more qualified than most. Now, if you decide you want to try to make a living off your writing, we’ll have to talk. I think one has to be a little crazy to take on such an endeavor.
Hope you have a good weekend.