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The Man, The Boy and the Train
They’d been on the train for almost 3 hours.
The man was in the café car, where they sold day old muffins and weak coffee. His eyes searched the other travelers. He counted 3 couples naively in-love, 2 old men doing crosswords and 5 kids begging for cookies only to receive a sugary fruit salad. He sighed and exited the mediocre food haven.
The boy was sitting on a seat by a window. He was wearing a black hoodie and bright red shoes. This was his first time riding a train and his brain couldn’t decide if it was excited or scared. He stared out the window at the green blur of foliage and pulled out the lunch his aunt had packed for him that morning. He looked inside and found a peanut butter and jelly on rye, an apple, and a granola bar. He grabbed the bar eagerly and then groaned realizing it was the almond cranberry one, which she knew he hated. He tossed it back in his bag and resumed his stare out the window.
The man had paced the train twice now. Once his feet began to protest against the walking he settled in a chair near the back of the train. He closed his eyes and reclined in his seat. He thought about his mortgage and his agonizing job. He thought about his perpetual discomfort with the idea of existing. He thought about his estranged son. Finally his brain settled on fantasizing about warm apple pie.
The boy had played 4 games of solitaire and had lost every one. The green blur outside his window had turned gray with infrastructure. He shifted his gaze from the portable table that contained his scattered cards and a half eaten PB&J to the man next to him. The man looked to be about 50. He had a slight smile on his face and his hands were clasped in his lap. The boy decided this was a happy man.
The man’s dreams of cholesterol-inducing desserts were interrupted by a boy. He had somehow managed to drop his cards everywhere. All 52 of them. The man sighed dramatically and lifted his body from its slumped position.
The boy looked up at the man, terrified. He had woken the peaceful beast.
“I’m sorry sir. To disrupt you, I mean.”
“It’s fine. I’m fine. Just a little irritable from hunger I guess.”
The boy paused, looked at his bag and then said quietly, “you like almonds?”
The man was so taken-aback by the candid boy that he laughed out loud. “Sure kid, thanks,” he said as the boy handed him a granola bar.
“How about go-fish?”
They stayed on the train for another 4 hours. And they both were finally calm.