The Passenger

The Passenger

I used to commute from Hell’s Kitchen to Connecticut for work. Not so rough only an hour from Grand Central Station my destination in Stamford. But the unforeseen delays coming home were awful. It was not unusual to wait two hours or more for the ‘track to clear,’ or some other idiotic notion. Usually I’d just wear my iPod to avoid all of the complainers, and either read or draw other passengers. I enjoyed doing that, walking that fine line between sneaking peeks and staring that New Yorkers have refined, mastered.

But today, I’d left my iPod at the office, so when the train stopped, I whipped out my latest book, The Financial Lives of the Poets. Sometimes trying to read while traveling makes me a little pukish. And forget about sitting backwards. How do people do that? Not this guy, not on the subway either.

Within a couple of minutes of relative stillness, there was a whistle from the train. That was uncommon for Metro North. I wondered if I just hadn’t heard it before, maybe just didn’t pay attention.

“D’ja hear that whistle?” a black man asked. He was one seat away, facing me. His skin was caramel, and his eyes glittered.

“I did,” I nodded. “Rather unusual for this train?”

“Delays are not uncommon, but it’s getting ridiculous,” he said, looking out the window into the early evening dusk. “We’re in the middle of nowhere.”

“Probably a glitch with the train,” I said. “They’re old.”

“I’m Rodney,” he smiled. Colgate teeth. Big hand held out.

We shook. “Marvin.” I nodded. He was hot, but I was not single.

The door jerked open at the far end of our cabin. Two men with ski hats covering their faces stood there. They both held sawed-off shotguns. They looked like kids.

“Everybody down,” one shouted.

“What the f-” Rodney turned toward them.

I tackled him, ending up mashed against the same train seat, my heart racing. I was already sweating. In my mind, I kept repeating the phrase not me, not me, not me.

A deafening gun blast. Screams.

Rodney whispered, “I’m not gonna die.”


About Robert Vaughan

Originally from NY, Robert leads week long National writing retreats at sites like Mabel Dodge Luhan House, Synergia Ranch, and EarthRise IONS. His poems and fiction are published in over 500 print and online magazines, such as Necessary Fiction, BlazeVOX, Los Angeles Weekly, Literary Orphans and Smokelong Quarterly. He is Editor-in-Chief at (b)OINK magazine and leads round- tables for Redoak Writing in Milwaukee. He is six times a Pushcart Prize Nominee and his fiction and poetry have won awards, including a Micro-Fiction runner-up (2012) and twice a finalist in the Gertrude Stein Fiction Award (2013-14). His books are: Microtones (Cervena Barva Press); Diptychs + Triptychs + Lipsticks + Dipshits (Deadly Chaps); Addicts & Basements (Civil Coping Mechanisms); RIFT, co-authored with Kathy Fish (Unknown Press), and FUNHOUSE (Unknown Press).
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10 Responses to The Passenger

  1. Andrea says:

    Wow! That was a shocker! Do they survive and or hook up? Gripping.

  2. Dez says:

    Yikes, this was scary. The commute we take for granted about safety, much as we do schools, or libraries, or cafes. And yet, the most docile of settings can turn into some other situation in a quick second. Way to explore that, and scare the crap out of me while getting ready to take the train! LOL

  3. theprayerlady says:

    Oh Brother ! Another what the hell happened? Suspense at it’s highest. Good piece.
    Love Mom

  4. Shari says:

    My goodness, these are the kinds of movie scenes where I have to smother my face into one of the couch pillows! Still, I was right on the edge of my seat…scary indeed. And full of possibilities. I wonder if fear brings this out in many cases?

  5. Pingback: The Passenger « One Writer's Life Help

  6. Suzi says:

    Where do these ideas come from? Lord, I’d love a peek into your brain to see how the gears turn! A really intense and gripping piece.

  7. david says:

    well for someone who spent 3 hours in front of the train in Garden City when Colin Fegerguson had a “bad day” I know what your saying.. It is good to feel these INTENSE feelings.. I think that is why we are here… Thanks..

  8. Angela says:

    Did Marvin tackle Rodney, or one of the masked guys? I got a little confused here. Found myself feeling immediately annoyed at the “a black man asked” description. I would have been happier reading the description of “caramel skin, colgate teeth, big hand held out” to figure out the physicality of this character. Would you ever describe a character like…”a gay man asked?” Just asking 🙂 Interesting reactions from me that I had fun exploring. Would love to keep reading this one! x@

  9. Don says:

    Amazing sense of details in this and I wondered the same thing as Angie- who tackles Rodney at the end? I would love for this one to go on further. Hope you keep writing this!

  10. carolyn says:

    Reading this felt like I was there, on the train, wondering if I should hit the floor. Am I gonna die?

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