At the Train Station (Flash Fiction)

Catherine paced between two stone pillars in search of shelter from the wind. The gusts that ripped by shoved ice into her pockets and snow down her collar. She rounded a small corner and found an empty bench at the end of the loading ramp. It was tucked behind a stone wall marred with graffiti. She hurried to it. The wood seat was frozen, but it was a fair trade. She could barely feel her butt anyway.

She sat and waited. The wind swirled behind the stone wall but the gusts were gone. She tightened her scarf and turtled inside of her jacket. The clock on the wall across the tracks was frozen. Catherine closed her eyes and tried to remember her vacation to the Caribbean. The sunshine and white sands and warm surf seemed like another planet. She never saw the man approach her.

He wore a ski-mask and a top hat and pink earmuffs. His black duster-coat flapped in the wind and revealed gray sweat pants that were caked with snow. He hopped from snowdrift to snowdrift like a child hopping from puddle to puddle. The dry snow silenced his steps. He stood quietly behind Catherine for several minutes before speaking.

“Wonderful weather, hey?”

Catherine was snapped from her beach-side dream with a gasp of icy air. She turned her body, not wanting to expose her neck to the snow, to see who was behind her. All she caught sight of were pink earmuffs. “What?” she mumbled through her scarf.

“I say it sure is snowing. Where ya headed?”

“Downtown,” she said.

The man behind her giggled through his mask and patted her on the shoulder. “Downtown sure is nice this time of year.”

Catherine frowned and felt the snow crunch on her eyebrows.

“Where ya from?” he asked.

“Here,” she said.

The man giggled again and placed both hands on her shoulders. “You’re from the train station!?” he said with a laugh. “No, no, what part of town here? What street?”

Catherine stood up from the bench and looked at the man. A row of white teeth smiled from behind his ski mask. His eyes were wide and unfazed by the swirling snow. The fuzz of the pink earmuffs stirred in the wind. “What business is it to you?” she asked.

The smile disappeared in an instant. His eyes, a cold blue, narrowed. He started to move around the bench toward her when the announcement for the next train came over the loud-speaker. He turned to look down the track. Catherine could feel the vibration of the oncoming train in her feet. He looked back and stared at her until the train rolled up and came to a stop. He never took his eyes off her, and her eyes never left him.

He moved around the bench and boarded the train. “Getting on?” he asked. He pointed his hand toward a row of open seats. The car was empty.

Catherine made no movement or sound. She stood and watched the doors close. The man pressed closely against the window and smiled with wide eyes. As the train pulled away, the last thing Catherine saw were his pink earmuffs.

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