19 September 2006

A Short Story

Chad stepped onto the Metro and folded up his map. Every seat was occupied, so he grabbed a strap. The sent of body odor mixed with perfume. Chad learned not to crinkle his nose at this combination. The woman sitting across from Chad raised her arm to hold the bar. Tufts of hair escaped the sleeveless shirt at her armpit. A woman in a business suit delicately crossed her pantyhosed legs under her skirt in the next seat. The arm-hair woman probably came from one of the first stops, where some suburban homes kept donkeys and chickens in their backyards. Maybe she took the train from a small town outside of Prague. Dickens would have a field day with this earthy peasant and business city girl side by side.
“Prištne štanize, I.P. Pavlova,” the woman’s voice announced over the speakers in Czech. Chad looked at the map over the doors and counted how many stops until Muzeum, his stop. He knew the number by heart. An older man with a cane read in the seat next to him and a woman cooed a baby next to the old man. Chad leaned on his back leg as the Metro stopped. The brakes screeched, and people pored in and out, playing musical chairs. The Metro started again, and the woman made her announcement. Next stop. Chad prepared early to disembark.
“Muzeum,” the woman announced, and the Metro stopped, and the doors slid open. As Chad stepped over the gap, a man in a leather jacket brushed against him running with a baby in his arms. The woman sitting next to the old man screamed and ran after him, tripping over her bag. She crossed the door just as it began to close. The woman yelled a slew of Czech words, none of which Chad understood. But he understood panic and chased the man with the leather jacket and the baby. The crowd moved aside like a vaudeville line, pointing and murmuring. The man looked back as he reached the steps. Chad panted only two steps behind him. The man threw the baby high in the air to make his getaway and scuttled up the stairs.
Chad stretched his arms out. The baby bounced against his biceps, and he closed his forearms tightly. The mother bumped hard behind him. He laid the baby in her arms. Tears streamed down mother’s and baby’s faces.
“Thank you,” she cried, half bowing. “Thank you. Thank you.” She kissed her baby and sang softly, touching the baby’s face, then hugging the baby close. Mother and baby walked away safely and waited for the next Metro.
Chad watched her until she stepped onto the train, then walked up the stairs.
Wondering down Václavské náměstí, Chad observed the nationality of the tourists. After two weeks in Prague, he was beginning to understand why the Czechs easily picked him out as American. He chuckled and made his way to the Cream ‘N’ Dream ice cream shop this side of Charles Bridge. Trying to choose flavors, the woman and her baby and the man in the leather jacket melted away.
“Mint chocolate chip, please,” he said, thankful that most Czechs spoke fluent English. His hand pushed into his back pocket for his wallet, but his wallet was not there.


R.G. Ryan said...

Nice sting! Very nice. Good on ya'!

Erin said...

Aw, MAN!

P.S. Good writing, Heather! You made me feel like the dupe.

Kevin Stilley said...

Too true for comfort. A very similar incident happened to me in London back in 1985. Man, I'm getting old.

Pamela said...

I. A.M. S.O. N.A.I.V.E

Robin said...

CHEERS! Oooooo, I love the "sting", too (if you've noticed, my favorite movie of all time).

I've waited purposely to read this; I knew it was a story, so I wanted to wait until I had time to read it s l o w l y. There I go, absorbing the scene you've painted for us, and as I neared the end, I wanted to know more--I had questions (lol).

And then, BAM!! Bamboozled!! Followed by a grin and a pat on your back.

Keep going......:).

Gina said...

Finally got to this via the carnival! Great surprise ending, though I'm still wondering if the guy and girl were in it together why would he throw the baby up in the air? Maybe she did it on her own as a way to thank him??? Way to keep me thinking about this story!

ChrisB said...

came via robin- good read didn't foresee the ending