Heading Uptown

by Ed Friedman

Sophia wasn’t surprised to find the train was full as it pulled into 51st Street. Being an experienced subway rider, when the doors opened, she managed to position herself so that she could stand securely and hold on to the bar above her head. From where she was, Sophia had at least a partial view of where Stavros was standing. She was sure he wouldn’t recognize her. The wig, sunglasses and the crowded train took care of that. The young man sitting directly in front of her continued to read his newspaper and avoid eye contact lest he feel like he should give up his seat. Sophia had long given up the presumption that a man would give up his seat to a woman. She wondered if this was the fallout from gender equity. Rather, she assumed that the guy sitting in front of her was tired from a long day of work and just hoped that the boring ride home would go faster if he could read his newspaper. Sophia reminded herself that the exception to the lack of chivalry was when a guy gave up his seat, only to try to pick her up. It wasn’t worth it to sit down if she had to listen to someone try every lame pick up line he could think of to draw her into a conversation.

The numbers of riders in her car remained constant, with same number coming in as getting out. Stavros remained standing where he was, lost in his phone. She wondered if he was playing a game or doing business. Given how crowded the train was he could probably conduct some of his questionable business dealings with no one noticing

When the train reached 125th Street enough people got out for Sophia to get a seat. She was able to find one at the end of a row. Stavros had found a seat as well, eyes still glued to his phone.

Sophia amused herself by reading the ads plastered well above eye level. She hadn’t been on a subway in a long time and was amazed that many of the ads were the same. Vocational training, foot doctors, and exterminators. When she tired of the cheesy ads Sophia glanced around the car and sized up her fellow riders. All or at least most, heading home from work; glad to be out of the bustle of Manhattan to their less crowded life in the Bronx. Cliché notwithstanding, this was a true melting pot, representing a huge swath of ethnicities using the most democratic of transportation options-the New York City Subway.

When the train moved above ground. Sophia’s pulse quickened. She knew that she was getting close to the point where she would have to act or abandon her plan. As the train continued northbound far fewer people got on then were getting off. Typical for 7:30 on a weeknight. While she could see out the window, Sophia didn’t find much to look at. Car repair shops, tire stores, Mom and Pop shops, and fast-food places.

At the Parkchester station many people exited which left no one standing in Sophia’s car. Stavros still hadn’t looked in her direction which made her slightly uneasy. She took out her phone and mindless scrolled through it pretending to read something on it.

Westchester Square is a transportation hub, so by the time the train pulled out of the station Sophia’s car was almost empty. There were only three stops before the last one. It was smart of Stavros, she thought, to ride the subway. He could just blend in with the mass of humanity. Also, smart to find a place in the outermost reaches of the Bronx. No one would think to look for him there. Certainly not the cops. Although legally he managed to avoid being convicted, there were many people outside the law who were unhappy with him. Those were the people who reached out to Sophia.

As the train lumbered to its final destination, Pelham Bay Park, Sophia gazed admiringly at the large amount of greenery before her. She did some research before pursuing her course of action and discovered that Pelham Bay is the largest park in New York City. With the sun starting to set behind the huge expanse of trees, it looked quite beautiful, she thought.

As the train pulled to a stop, Sophia’s pulse quickened but she willed herself to be calm. She took more time than necessary pretending to look for something in her large pocketbook but in fact, was insuring she would be the last person to exit the train. This allowed her to attach the silencer. Her left hand had her pocketbook draped over it, while her right hand held the gun underneath her long, but light spring jacket. Stavros was now ten feet in front of her. With no one either behind or in front of her, she said in a loud voice “Excuse me.” As Stavros turned, Sophia placed herself so that he would be between her and the train tracks. With only three feet between them Sophia fired three times. With barely an exhale, Stavros fell into the tracks, his phone following, bouncing twice before cracking open.

Sophia turned and placed the gun back into her large bag. She continued out the door of the train station which led to an overpass that emptied into the park. Though the sun was almost setting, many people were still enjoying the lush surroundings. Picnics and volleyball games were breaking up. Darkness was approaching. She scanned beyond the recreation areas to see acres of woodlands. Plenty of places to dispose of a gun.

Sophia sat on one of the benches opposite the tennis courts. A young couple was finishing their game and gathering their things to leave. Sophia punched a number into her pre-paid cell phone. As soon as she heard “yes”, she replied “done”, reminding herself to dispose of the phone as well.

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Ed’s prose has been seen in Flash Fiction Magazine, Fleas on the Dog, The Haven, Crow’s Feet, Center for Creative Writing, Submittable, Door is a Jar, and the Bronx Memoir Project Vols. I and III. His anthology Short Plays for Long Lives is published by Blue Moon Press. Ed’s plays have been staged throughout the New York metropolitan area and around the country.


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