a short story by Gail L. Winfree
A man and his dog squeezed into the small train compartment where a woman sat looking quite proper but desperately unhappy. The man smiled, tipping his hat to the woman, and took a seat across from her with his dog at his side.
“A fine day to travel,” the man said. The woman clutched her bag and scooted closer to the window, turning her attention to the activity taking place on the platform outside.
The man smiled and rubbed his dog’s scruff. “Rex and me are going to Aberdeen to see my daughter. Ever been to Aberdeen?”
The woman rolled her eyes and said nothing, still staring out the window with the demeanor of a big toad sitting on a lily pad.
“Yeah, Aberdeen’s a fine town. Been a spell since I was last there. May I ask where you’re headed?”
The train began to pull out of the station, huffing and puffing, building up speed as the waiting faces on the platform blurred into warehouses and apartment buildings. The woman shuffled in her seat and propped her arm against the window, watching the changing landscape.
The man looked at his watch. “Right on time,” he said to the woman. “That’s what I like about riding trains. Rode many in my day.” He stretched his neck toward the window to catch a look outside. The woman’s ample body made it impossible for him to sit any closer to the window side. “Do you take the train often?” he asked the woman.
The woman started to wriggle and turned to face the man for the first time.
Rex lay on the floor pretending to sleep while keeping one curious eye on the squirming woman.
“Sir.” she burst out. “Can you please take away your dog? I feel a flea crawling up my leg.”
The man sat back, stung. His smile turned confused. He got up, looked at the woman, shaking his head and tugging on the dog’s leash. “Come Rex, let’s go find another seat. I believe the lady has fleas.”