A Short Story by Daniel DiQuinzio
“Market East and Gallery.” Adrian heard the conductor shout as he entered the rail car. Those in front of him headed towards the rear section of the car. He glanced over his shoulder, saw there were no visible open seats making him decide he would instead follow the other passengers who boarded the R3 regional train at Market East and Gallery station whom were walking with their luggage to the front of the car. With no seats there, Adrian continued into the next of the five silver Budd Silver Liner rail cars comprising the SEPTA Regional train.
The carrying strap of his green duffel bag lay on the shoulders of his dark brown jacket. It housed the clothes and toiletries needed for the planned weekend at his girlfriend’s apartment near University City along with a pair of print magazines and current issues of several of the local newspapers. His fingers held his briefcase handle. Adrian’s current clothes consisted of blue jeans and a light brown long sleeve shirt. The rubber soles lining the underside of his sneakers squeaked as they pressed down on the metallic grating covering the central aisle of the car. His left palm wrapped around the black metallic points extending from the passengers seats so he might maintain his balance as he walked.
The car’s ceiling held two unbroken parallel lines of overhead lights. Like the other cars, in the train this one contained two rows of light brown benches running along the sides under blue oval windows. Along them ran silver metallic strips splitting the benches into multiple seats. Similar strips ran over the back of the seats with handles protruding from the corner by the aisle. Those on the right side were divided into two seats unlike those across the aisle that held three seats. At the front, both rows contained only two seats.
Adrian found a row that was unoccupied near the halfway point of the car. He stowed the duffel bag on the metallic luggage rack while carefully lowering his briefcase onto the leather seat. Discarded soda bottles, Styrofoam food containers, now empty cardboard coffee cups, and empty chip bags which were brought into the car by passengers who rode the regional train earlier in the day littered the car’s dusty floors underneath the passenger seats along with forgotten cardboard and Styrofoam coffee cups and their lids. The past few years of residing in Philadelphia conditioned him to ignore their presence and pretend that he was not bothered by those commuters who used the SEPTA regional trains as mobile public garage cans for the trash on the floor was a daily feature of commuting through Philadelphia on all of the regional rail trains.
Adrian settled into the middle of the seat. The passenger doors closed. He slid his ticket under the leather loop on the back of the seat in front of him. As the brakes hissed the regional train pulled away from the platform dragging, the passenger cars along the tracks pass the silver support pillars spanning the station’s two brick island platforms.
Through the oval shaped glass windows Adrian saw the inbound platform utilized by those trains coming into Market East and Gallery from beyond Center City. On the far side of the outbound platform was the mural depicting in painted colored tiles a landscape of yellow flowers, blue and orange bushes surrounded by a collection of thin and obese green trees with stout orange leaves behind them. It faded into the distance as the train entered the tunnel connecting Market East and Gallery to Suburban Station.
In the darkness, the floor of the passenger car swayed from the wheels of the passenger car spinning loosely on the tracks. The silver door at the front opened allowing the conductor to enter. She moved down the central aisle maintaining her balance by using her hand to grip the back of the seat around its edge. “R3 to West Trenton.” The conductor barked. “Making all local stops. All tickets and passes out.” She pulled her hole puncher from a pocket on the pouch hanging on her belt.
At each row, she punched every ticket she collected before returning it to the passenger. As she was making her way through the passenger car, she passed those who stuck their SEPTA monthly transit pass under the loops on the back of the seat in front of them. These passengers did not need to pay for a ticket at the station or buy one onboard the train since they essentially paid in advance by purchasing transit passes for that month.
The conductor stopped at seats of those who possessed neither a ticket nor a monthly pass. They told the conductor their destination. She told them the cost of ticket, which included a one-dollar surcharge since it was being bought on the regional rail train instead of at the ticket booth or at one of the ticket machines at the Market East and Gallery rail station from which the train departed from. After each of these passengers who forget to buy a ticket or did not have time to buy one for they were running late paid the conductor she gave them both change and a receipt for the recent purchase along with a ticket.
“Next station is Suburban station. Suburban station is next.” The conductor shouted while continuing down the aisle heading into the next section of the railcar.
Daniel DiQuinzio is currently a student at Seton Hall University where he is studying his Master’s thesis in History and Military. A graduate of Temple University, he is also a poet and fiction writer whose work has appeared in various publications including Spotlight on Recovery, Parle Magazine, Tymes and Sisyphus Quarterly, The Minority Report, Bull Magazine, and The Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine.