A Fantastic Commute

Contributor: Peter McMillan

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Lately, he hadn't been feeling himself. Overworked, burnt out. Covering for this person then that one. Pulled in all directions. Spread thin and stretched beyond his limits.

It was standing room only on the morning express train, and he stood wearing a freshly-altered suit with the back of his head mashed up against the roof of the car. In twenty years riding the train, he'd never been so cramped. From his vantage point, he could see the little heads, tucked behind newspapers, chattering away on the phone, or retreating behind shuttered eyelids and pulsing earbuds.

At Union he realized he was stuck and couldn't easily dislodge himself. Twisting his broad hips and long legs to the edge of the aisle, he watched upside down as the passengers shoved under and past, paying him no more mind than they would a column in the station concourse.

Once the car was empty, he was able to kneel and bend until he came loose, and in a semi-squatting stance, still stiff, he waddled out the door. After unfolding to his full height, he looked up and down the tracks for the nearest exit. It was on the other side of the tracks. Seeing that no one was looking, he grabbed the CCTV camera and pointed it away, and in one great stride crossed from platform 5B to 5A. Squeezing through the narrow double exit doors, catapulting down the station steps, and finally swimming above a swirling stream of tiny heads on short, bifurcated pedestals, he made his way to street level.

It was too early for the sun. The city lights cast faint shadows in the dawn. Cabbies honked and there was a multilingual cacophony of loud and excited voices in the cab rank. Pedestrians and drivers dared and double dared over the last bit of amber in the traffic light. A homeless person, unable to get his attention, spat at him as he walked by holding a handkerchief to his face. A gaggle of teenage girls crashed into him and, on turning their heads, screamed and ran.

He hurried away himself. In two effortless steps he reached the opposite curb where he knocked over the pompous doorman of the Royal who was signaling a limousine to pull up. Getting to his feet, the servant, red-faced and ripe, with a tone that comes from years of service, launched into a fusillade of spiteful and contemptuous remarks. Mid-sentence, the lumbering colossus, provoked, gazed down on the round, red, balding head and squished it between thumb and forefinger.

He waited in a makeshift jail in the port lands, while the authorities debated their extrajudicial options, namely whether to ship him to the zoo or the museum. It was the museum. There, a new tailor—this one a PhD in anthropology—outfitted him with clothing suitable for a wide range of exhibits BCE.

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The author is a freelance writer and ESL instructor who lives on the northwest shore of Lake Ontario with his wife and two flat-coated retrievers. In 2012, he published his first book, Flash! Fiction.
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