Flash Fiction – Timetables

Lana carefully maneuvered her purse to extract her phone and check the time. 4:17. The bus would leave at 4:30, so the train had thirteen minutes to go the last three stops. About four minutes per stop. That should be doable. She elbowed the large woman next to her as she put the phone away again.

“Sorry,” she said quietly. The noise of the moving train drowned out her apology but it didn’t seem to matter. The woman didn’t even appear to have noticed that she’d been prodded.

The next stop was a large transfer station and only ten people were left in Lana’s car. But there appeared to be problems with the doors, which chimed their warning before starting to close and then slamming back open again. A few seconds later, this was repeated and four more times after that.

Lana checked her phone again when the doors finally stayed shut and she felt the slight shudder that precedes the train moving away from the platform. 4:22. As the train raced on, she prayed that they would get to her stop in time. She did not want to wait around the station for a half hour for the 5 o’clock bus.

It was 4:26 pulling out of the last stop before she needed to get off. Lana smiled as she calculated that they would arrive at the station just in time for her bus. Then the train began to slow and Lana’s smile disappeared. She heard the brakes squeal and felt the slight jerk of the train stopping. No, no, no, no, no. The intercom kicked on and there was a mumble of voices before the driver made his announcement. “We’ll be moving shortly folks. We apologize for the inconvenience. There’s a bit of traffic up ahead. We just need a platform to open up and we’ll be on our way.”

She looked at her phone. 4:29. The train lurched forward. By the time they pulled in, she got off the train, up the stairs, and out into the bus bay area, it would be after 4:30. The bus would probably be gone.

But maybe not. Maybe the bus would be running a few minutes late. Maybe it would have needed to fill up on gas first and would be a few minutes behind schedule. Please let the bus be late, please let the bus be late. Please don’t make me wait till 5, please don’t make me wait till 5.

As soon as the doors opened, Lana began running as best as she could in her heels. She emerged onto the platform and saw the line of commuters waiting just outside the concourse doors for the 350 to show up.

Catching her breath, Lana took her place in line and glanced at her phone. 4:32. Gazing down the sidewalk, there were no buses waiting in one of the layover spaces. 4:33. Really? Where was the bus? Why couldn’t things run on time?


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