Keith squirmed in his best clothes, the collar buttoned tight, a clip-on bow tie slightly askew. His new shoes were squeaky and mirror-finished - still too stiff to be comfortable. His hair was freshly cut and slicked down. This would be his first time traveling alone, and his first train ride. He shifted his weight from foot to foot, dancing with excitement tempered by apprehension. “Is the train coming yet, Mr. Simmons?" he asked the well-dressed man who was standing beside him, gripping his hand. "When will it get here?”
“Soon, kid,” Simmons replied, stealing a glance at his Rolex. “Soon, I hope. It should have pulled in ten minutes ago.”
“How will I know where to sit on the train?” Keith asked anxiously, his hand twisting in Simmons’ grip. “How will I know when to get off? Will the train stop long enough for me?”
“The conductor will take care of you, kid. Now stop squirming. You’re getting your new clothes mussed up. Don’t you want to look your best for your mother?”
Keith looked up at Simmons who, at 6’3”, towered over the lad. The man stood seemingly unmoved by Keith’s concerns, by the lateness of the train, or by the bustle and shuffle of porters and passengers. He wore his air of deliberate detachment like a well-tailored suit. He was simply making a delivery, Simmons told himself. Usually, he delivered legal briefs. Today, he was delivering a boy.
Brandon Simmons didn’t like to remember his own experience as an eight-year old boy, trundled back and forth between his divorced parents like the shuttle of a loom as it passes from side to side through a perfectly defined path of threads. Now, he found himself an accomplice in the same tug-of-war that had ripped his childish soul to pieces.
It wasn’t by chance that Simmons steered his legal career far away from the shoals of divorce courts. But today he was doing a favor for the boy’s father - an old chum from law school - whose appointment calendar could not be superseded by the Amtrak schedule. And he was hating it. Even now, the scars left by his own broken family were still raw - the memories still too fresh.
Simmons looked down at the tow-headed boy standing beside him and squeezed his hand gently in sympathetic understanding. He was rewarded with a smile from Keith. “Thanks for waiting with me, Mr. Simmons," the boy said, "I'm alright now.”
©2013 Phyllis Entis. All rights reserved.
A Note of Explanation: The "prompt" for this piece was a boy and a man waiting for a train.