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Late

by Peter McMillan
 

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Peter
is a freelance writer and ESL instructor who lives on the northwest shore of Lake Ontario with his wife and two flat-coated retrievers. In 2012, he published his first book, Flash! Fiction


It's still dark. Seven by the dashboard clock. But that's nine minutes fast.

Engine idling high and the windows mostly clear, he takes a deep breath and shifts into reverse, zipping backwards down the driveway and crunching through the wake of snow and ice left by the plow.

Thank God, no one is coming, because that spin landed him facing the wrong way, and he needs a five-point turn to get right.

That's a minute gone, and the train leaves at 6:55. On dry roads, it’s an easy five-minute drive, but—

Steering with his knees as he struggles with the seat belt, he speeds down the snow-covered streets, dodging overturned blue and green recycling boxes, sloshing hot coffee in his lap, and flinging papers from his briefcase all over the backseat.

Under the circumstances, stop means rolling stop, and a red light means yield.

The station is still three minutes away, but its 6:53. A long stretch of nearly empty road makes it possible to drive twice the speed limit.

The second-last red light is the one that worries him. Thank God there’s nobody here! A stealthy left on red gets him through the light and into the final stretch. It’s 6:55 and the parking lot is almost empty. Running and slipping and sliding through the front door of the train station and up the escalator to Platform 3, he’s made it with no broken bones or ripped trousers.

Through the loudspeakers, a crackly voice announces that the next train will be delayed 20 minutes. Out of the cold in a glass-enclosed shelter, he pulls his cell out and leaves a message at the office.

Looking off to the east where the sun should be rising soon, he tries to make conversation with the attractive young woman next to him, remarking how he hates this time of year because of the short days. Leaning in to hear her reply, he sees she’s talking on her cell, so he apologizes but freezes when she says “Good night.”


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