The Destination of This Train

By Lukas Tallent

The three of them boarded together, then stumbled single file to the empty seats across from me. A girl followed by two guys. All three were dressed in old work clothes, white and gray t-shirts covered in splotches of teal and beige paints. The guys were different heights, the taller one a blond, who, trailing the other two, slipped as the train lurched away from Packard’s Corner. His hand landed on my shoulder.

“Sorry bro,” he said. I waved, as if that meant, all is well, and felt every blood cell in my body barrel to my forehead. His other hand fumbled for the railing next to the girl, where he was able to pull himself together. She was a brunette. The other, shorter guy also had dark hair with a day or so’s scruff reaching along his jawline.

“That’s fine,” blondie said into his cell phone. Clearly, they were painters or landscapers or something. Their accents were pronounced, R-less, and clipped. “Where you think? We had to tear up the carpet.” 

“Tell him the sheetrock needs doing too,” scruff said.

 Only the working class in Boston carried the accent. Police officers, T-drivers, certain older waiters and waitresses. 

“We’ll have to come back tomorrow.”

“Where does he want to meet?” 

The girl would lean towards whichever guy was speaking, but how she kept track of what they said, I would never know. From the way she sat next to scruff, close but not touching, I assumed she was with blondie.

“The destination of this train is Boston College,” droned the automated voice of the T. At Harvard Ave, we were stopped by traffic lights. 

Blondie was still on the phone, suggesting potential meeting places like McDonald’s or Dunkin’. Scruff nudged the girl with his elbow, said to blondie, “and tell him if Miss Slow Pour hadn’t bent over so far to refill the paint, I would’ve been done a lot sooner,” then laughed hard, as if someone he really liked had told the joke.

A few seconds later, tires screeched, followed by a heavy thud, then a scream. 

Scruff jumped from his seat and hurried through the still open doors. The girl followed right away. Blondie reluctantly ended the call and went after her. Someone was hit. The body, wrapped snugly in a woolen overcoat, black scarf trailing from his neck, lay flat in the middle of the road. The white Honda that hit him reversed and sped down Comm Ave.

“Damn,” said someone in the train. 

With two fingers on the man’s neck, scruff hollered for blondie to call an ambulance. When blondie hesitated, I unlocked my phone. There was a new message, from her, asking about my plans for the weekend, telling me the day she’d be back from the honeymoon. 

By the time I swiped it away, blondie had already called. The body still did not move, except for the firm touches from scruff on his face and chest.

The lights changed, and our train moved towards Boston College, as if nothing had happened. My stop was the next one, but I missed it, trying to decide whether I should reply to her text or throw my phone into the Charles. A few stops later, I disembarked at Chiswick, and by the time I walked back near Harvard Ave where the man had been hit, all four of them had vanished. No police cars or ambulances. No glass or blood on the asphalt, as far as I could tell. The man must have been fine. I looked at the tracks to see if the three young people were waiting for the next train, but no, I’d lost them, too.

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Lukas Tallent lives in New York City. His work has recently appeared in Stirring, MaudlinHouse, Bridge Eight, and many other places. He is one of the founders of Wrong Turn Lit. You can find more of him at

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