Hold Up

The Living End

The 5:45 from Central squealed to a stop just as Dustin Johnson figured out the answer to 17 down in his crossword. For half an excruciating minute there was nothing but the shriek of brakes and the moaning of a horn and the shudder of the carriage refusing to do as it was told. And swearing, lots of swearing, much of it from Dustin.

When the carriage finally came to a rest, Dustin found himself surrounded by turmoil. The man across the aisle had split his head open after crashing into the seat in front, sending blood gushing from a sickening wound. A young girl had been thrown forward and was laying in a heap in the aisle, weeping hysterically for her mother.

After steadying himself in his seat, Dustin rolled his eyes and looked at his watch. The train should’ve been pulling into his stop in less than 10 minutes, but God knows how late he’d be for dinner now. His wife and son would be waiting, and his steak would be getting cold. He’d lost his hat as he was jolted around in the chaos, but worse than that, he’d lost his pen and newspaper. Dustin swore again and crouched down to retrieve his belongings, doing his best to keep away from the man’s pooling blood and the girl’s tangled limbs.

Questions hurtled through the air about what had happened. Dustin did his best to ignore them and get back into his crossword, but he couldn’t remember where he was up to and tossed it down in frustration. He just wanted to get home, and didn’t have time for this bullshit.

A shaking voice suggested that criminals might have blocked the track, and Dustin huffed derisively. Another proposed that a car might have ended up in front of the train. That sounded more likely, and Dustin cursed the idiot stupid enough to drive onto the tracks. Didn’t they know he had dinner waiting for him at home?

In time, word filtered back through the passengers that it was a person who was hit by the train, not a car. Probably a suicide, most speculated, and Dustin let out a sigh of frustration. Why did this imbecile choose peak hour to end his miserable little life? Why did he have to stop a train full of decent, hardworking people who just wanted to get home to a warm meal? He checked his watch again and hoped they’d scrape the body off the tracks quickly, so they could keep going.

When the train started moving again half an hour later, Dustin peered out the window into the murky night, full of morbid curiosity. What was left of the poor sod who’d ruined his evening? As they crept forward, the blinking red and blue lights of a police car lit up an abandoned vehicle by the side of the tracks. Dustin’s eyes bugged out and his mouth gaped as he recognised the car with the open door. A yellow car that was supposed to be at home, its owner inside at the dinner table, waiting for his father to return from work to enjoy a steak dinner.

As the man howled at the window, the other passengers dropped their heads, happy to be moving again and looking forward to the warm meals waiting for them at home.

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