I wrote this short story while riding on the train from Seattle to Eugene on a large folded Amtrak napkin. Here's proof I can do subtext. Enjoy.
The Coast Starlight
For once the train was on time. She gazed out the window of the lounge car with mild interest. The typically gray Pacific Northwest sky did nothing to liven the endless green landscape. She sighed and looked at her watch-again. She knew the time and the scenery all too well. She made this trip countless times. The train slowed to a stop long enough for people to come and go. A few minutes later a man came into the car looking about as he walked down the aisle.
“Is this seat taken?” he indicated the seat next to her. She sized him up before answering . He was tall and slender in a healthy way with a well toned chest stretching a dark t-shirt. His hair was as dark as his eyes-the gaze inquisitive but not intrusive. She shook her head and he sat down, stowing a small carry-on bag under his feet.
“Thank God the train was on time.” he said, making small talk.
“Yes, last week it was over two hours late due to track work in Tacoma. Hellish.” she added with slight irritation. She reached for her drink on the narrow ledge under the window .
“Blame UP, that company doesn’t give a damn about passenger rail ‘let them be late’ could be their motto.” his disdain equal to hers. They looked at each other for an unusually long time. He thought her long blonde hair framed the oval face attractively. Her blue eyes though, were cloudy, masking her state of mind.
“We shouldn’t complain, we get to our destination without crashing out of the sky and never have trouble finding our luggage.” she offered and put her empty glass down.
“This is true.” he agreed. After a moment of idle gazing out the window, she removed a slip of paper from her pocket and handed it to him without ceremony.
She got up and headed to the rear of the train where the sleeping compartments were and slipped into one. She placed a blanket and two pillows on the narrow bed. It will do, she noted as she removed her shoes, dress skirt and shirt. A few minutes later there was a light tapping on the door.
“Come in.” she commanded as she sat on the bed removing her watch. The man from the lounge car entered and locked the door behind him.
“No one saw you come here?” it was more a verification than a concern to her. He shook his head, he found her paranoia absurd. He dropped his bag and quickly undressed to join her on the bed.
They let nothing to the imagination but then they needed no exposition to explain their liaison. They were quick and volatile, writhing together to release pent up energy as the train rattled on. The narrowness of the bed encouraged the intertwining of their bodies as they fought to cross the finish line first. The release was palatable as they sank into their separate reveries; their bodies relaxed and spent from the effort. He looked down at her face, so serene and calm. So unlike the passive mask she wore as protection against the world.
He shifted his weight, his leg sticking slightly on her warm thigh. He was glad he pleased her. They remained still as a voice on the PA announced their next arrival in Portland.
“You have to get off here?” she asked, wishing to linger in the moment. He mentally rescheduled his plans. His meeting with the bank could wait until the end of the week. He would spend the day in SF to finish some other business then shop for his daughter’s birthday present. What did teenagers like these days, he wondered, suddenly feeling his age creep up on him. He shook his head at her question.
“Whatever it is can wait.” he replied, his face revealing nothing. but he saw her regret before it slipped behind her own veil. She rose suddenly, pushed him aside and dressed quickly.
“It can never wait.” she said in her usual brittle tone.
“I’m doing everything I can to accommodate you.” he insisted, stung by her accusation.
“On a fucking train?” she snapped, oblivious to the pun she committed. It wasn’t like her to be so blunt and she smiled weakly in apology. He impulsively took hold of her wrist.
“We don’t have to be on the move, we can stay wherever we end up.” he meant it, she realized, registering his pleading expression. She considered this for a long time as she gathered her things.
“I like traveling on the train.” she replied.