This was originally written for a short story contest invoving NPR and the Paris Review. Unfortunatly, I missed the deadline so I gave it a quick rewrite and here it is. The premise of the contest was the protaganist finds somehting and isn’t going to give it back, less than 600 words. This version goes over the word count.
From a distance he looked like a scarecrow that had lost its way and was standing on a city corner for some reason. Slender body, long arms and legs, dangling, he leaned up against the green pole signifying a bus/trolley stop. His thin brown hair hung loosely in a variety of lengths over his face. The cheap, tuxedo-like outfit he wore sort fit his body in that it was neither too short nor too long. He took a deep breath and let it out slow.
Tom was tired. Not just in need of sleep, although that was certainly true, but he was soul weary. The kind of tired that you feel in the marrow of your bones and the tendons that bind your joints. The kind of tired the comes from a long day of work followed by another long day of work followed by several more, preceded by a long weekend with your in-laws. Today was Friday. The TGIF-ist of all Friday’s he could ever remember. He stood at the trolley stop on the corner of 36th and Lancaster, just swaying back and forth, barely holding his 5’11” frame erect, listening to Bob jam on his earbuds, and waiting, like he did every weekday, at this exact time.
The clackety-clack of metal wheels on metal tracks disturbed him from his reverie. Looking left, he saw the stained, off-white, rectangular tube slowly sliding towards his corner causing the other denizens of the stop to begin scrambling for position. All sense of line protocol vanished, elderly women and men with canes and walkers sprang to life in a curb side battle royal to gain first access to the few remaining seats. Tom stood back and waited. The trolley bypassed them all and stopped directly in front of him. He stepped on first, dropped his token in the slot and flashed the driver his boyish smile. She smiled a toothy grin and winked back at him with her wandering eye. He headed towards the back looking for his wife.
Shelly sat in the “good seats,” the last row on the left before the back doors. Nobody behind the handicap seat in front mean leg room for them. There was an empty seat next to her today. He walked right up and plopped into it with a sigh. She looked almost as tired as he felt. Her red hair had been tied up in bun, but that now hung loosely on her neck. Her puffy eyes, half closed, followed here hand as she absently brushed crumbs from a recently finished muffin the faux Catholic School outfit the restaurant called a uniform. She leaned her head on his shoulder and matched his sigh.
“How was work baby?” He muttered.
“I served food to old men who stared at my butt and gave me money. How about you?”
“The same.” She gave a half hearted giggle. She held a MFA in music and worked as a waitress. He held a BA in English and worked as a bartender in a gay bar. They had been married 2 years.
The person in front of them stood and left. Something fell against Tom’s foot. He turned to tell the person, but he was out the door and gone already. Shelly reached down and picked it up. She pulled back the bag it was in and gasped, smiled at Tom, eyes wide. He looked at the object in her hands.
At first it just looked like a package of fresh baked brownies. Nice, but whose going to eat bus brownies? Then he looked closer and smiled, too. These brownies had a distinct green color.
“This weekend just got a whole lot brighter.” He laughed.
“Do you think we should?” clearly wanting him to say yes.
“Ja provide, who are we to argue?”
“I can’t argue with that.” She giggled. “We should call Angie and Bob.”
“Eric and Janet, too.” He nodded
Shelly sniffed the package once and smiled before she stuffed it back into the bag. They held hands, and felt their skeletons lighten at the prospect of good times. Tom began hum the tune to “Celebrate”. Shelly reached up and pulled the cord for their stop. They practically bounced off the trolley into the weekend.