Welcome to the Spot Writers. Today’s contribution comes from RC Bonitz, author of DANGEROUS DECISIONS and his latest novel, ONLY EMMA. The prompt for this month is “Trolley Car.”
RIDING A MEMORY
by RC Bonitz
Hands still resting on the steering wheel, he sat there staring out the windshield. He heard it before he saw it, the distinctive clack clack of iron wheels on the joints of iron rails, the ding ding of its bell as it approached the terminal. What brought him here again he did not know, but this was becoming a habit. Paul liked old steam trains and trolley cars, but at a time like this? He wondered what Helen would say. He smiled. She’d understand, she always had.
Stepping from the driver’s seat as the trolley car came to a stop, he headed into the museum to buy a ride ticket. The gray haired woman at the ticket window smiled at him as she took his money. She was getting to know him after all of his appearances during the last two weeks.
“You should sign on as a volunteer. You could ride for free,” she said.
“I might just do that,” he said, but of course he didn’t mean it. Obligations and schedules he didn’t need. What he needed was a place of peace when the pain hit him. This was a memory album, happy times with Helen and the children, Sophie giggling, Stevie running around the museum and jabbering at the motormen on the rides.
“Your friend is out there somewhere with her children.”
He blinked in surprise. His friend?
The woman noted his confusion. “That young woman who rides with you sometimes?”
He stared at her blank-faced, unaware of his expression.
She hesitated, then went on. “I’m sorry. I thought you knew each other.”
He shook his head, all the while trying to recall the woman she was referring to. Someone who rode the trolley with him? Was he so into himself he’d never noticed others who frequented the trolley too? Helen would admonish him for that. She would have. She’d always worried about him. He gave the ticket agent a smile and strode outside to the trolley, his steps just a tad uncertain. That young woman?
He saw her then, just boarding the trolley, shepherding two little boys ahead of her. The agent had been right; he’d seen the woman before. The kids too, but he hadn’t paid any attention to them either. The boys were about the ages Sophie and Steve were when it happened. Last month. Tears threatened and he brushed his eyes with his hand. Damn, why did that agent have to bring them to his attention? The trolley cars had been his place of peace, of forgetting for a moment. Now he’d forever see these kids and be reminded.
He slowed his pace and waited until the mother and kids were safely aboard the trolley, then got on himself. They were sitting in the front. He took a seat in the back. Two elderly men were the only other passengers and they chatted happily in the middle of the car. The motorman collected tickets and took his position at the front of the car. He faced them all with a grin, his hand on the controls.
“Everybody ready? Here we go,” he said and the trolley surged forward.
Paul stared out the window, trying to ignore the happy chatter coming from the front of the car. Suddenly he realized one of the little boys had broken away from his mother and was tearing pell-mell towards the open doors at back of the car.
“Brian,” the mother screamed, “Stop! Come back here!”
Paul moved without thought. He reached out and snagged the little guy as he tried to run past him.
“Whoa there, where do you think you’re going?”
The mother ran toward him, the other child in her arms, the two of them staggering from side to side in the rickety trolley.
“Oh, thank you so much,” she said as she reached Paul.
“You need another pair of hands with these little guys,” he said feeling strangely light hearted.
“I don’t have that luxury anymore.”
He studied her then. Dark hair down to her shoulders, she’d been attractive once. No makeup, now she looked gray and drawn, tired and in pain.
His heart lurched at the thought that hit him, an assumption based on the look of her and his own devastating experience. “I’m sorry,” he murmured.
She gave him a look of puzzlement, then studied his face carefully. “Nothing to be sorry about. We’re better off without the jerk.”
“Oh. I thought…”
“We’re probably better off, but I have my moments.” She smiled ruefully.
He nodded, somehow vaguely disappointed. “Would you like me to hang on to this little guy for the rest of the ride?”
She grabbed Brian by the arm and slid into the seat in front of Paul. “No thanks. I’ve got them both now. We’re under control.”
The Spot Writers–our members:
RC Bonitz: rcbonitz.com
Val Muller: http://www.valmuller.com/blog/
Catherine A. MacKenzie: http://writingwicket.wordpress.com/wicker-chitter/
Tom Robson: https://robsonswritings.wordpress.com/
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