I was living in the suburbs and working in the city. Consequently, I lived and died by the train schedule. Each day I drove to the train station, parked, and caught a train to another world. The trains ran rather regularly and had express routes during “rush” hours, but after the commuter trains stopped there was often an hour wait between the trains which made — every — stop. If I missed the last express train, I would be very, very late for work.
On this particular day, I had trouble finding a parking space.
“Damn,” I thought, as I drove around the lot. “I cannot miss this train. I can’t.”
I was working at a law firm where they proudly told new associates the story of how the founding partner died at his desk. This was something to aspire to, according to them — so long as our time sheets were in order (Ha ha — and by that I mean, not funny at all . . . but I digress . . . ).
Needless to say, strolling in late was, well, frowned upon.
Finally, I found a semi-legal parking space and ran down to the tracks just as my train pulled in. But I was “running” in dress clothes and carrying a briefcase. It wasn’t pretty — or effective, especially since the train pulls in on the opposite side of the parking lot and I had to run down the stairs, cross under the tracks, and run back up the stairs to actually board my train.
I didn’t make it.
As I climbed the steps on the other side I witnessed my train pulling away.
The next train, which was not an express and therefore would take the full 43 minutes to get to the city, would not come for another 50 minutes.
Sure, I could drive into town and pay an arm and a leg and my first-born to park, but I would still be late for work. I cursed myself and the world — Damn, damn, damn. I hoped the partners wouldn’t see me coming in late. I should have left earlier. I had no one to blame but myself.
I wished with all my heart that I’d made that train. I ached to have caught that train. But all I was left to do was just stand there — all alone — watching my train pull away. I was left there like the last dog at a shelter.
I think I even whispered out loud, “Come baaaack” before I hung my head in defeat.
(I hope you can feel the tragedy of it all. I was having a very bad day.)
But then, I looked up again.
The train . . .
The train . . . was . . . coming . . . back!
I thought I’d lost my mind. I did the cartoon character rubbing my eyes with my fists thing. I looked around to see if anyone else could see this, because it was surreal. But I was alone. Everyone else had actually caught the train — which was slowly, but deliberately, coming back.
Had I willed this to happen? (Was it like in that first Harry Potter when Harry makes the glass around the snake cage vanish, yet is totally oblivious of his powers?)
Was I being Punked? (Where were the cameras? Ashton?)
Things like this just don’t happen. Not in real life. Not in Suburbia. Not to me.
But sure enough, the train pulled back into the station.
Tentatively, I stepped up to the now open door.
“Can I get on?” I asked the conductor, sheepishly.
“Yeah,” he answered. I must have looked spooked because he volunteered that there was some sort of switching problem.
But you couldn’t tell me that I hadn’t brought that train back out of the sheer force of my will — or it was divine intervention — because almost as soon as I embarked, the train started again, and took me into the city, express style.
I smiled the entire trip.
It was a commuting miracle. A miracle, I say.
So, when I’m feeling a little blue, sometimes I think of the miracles in my life. And it’s not always the obvious or the big stuff — like births and graduations and crap. Sometimes, I think about the day the train came back . . . just for me.
Just Me With . . . a commuting miracle.
I was in law school. Or, actually I was done with law school and studying for the bar exam. In my infinite wisdom and with a splash of arrogance I decided I did not need the assistance of the bar exam prep courses everyone else took. No, I put myself on a home private study regimen. My husband and I had no children at the time, we were living in our little starter home with our adorable Labrador Retriever.
I would study most of the day, take a break in the evening when my husband got home, and then do a night shift of studying after he went to bed. My mini-split level had a pseudo downstairs den and a small damp room which I used as a study. There were sliding glass doors from the den opening to a small yard and beyond that, a wooded area. We hadn’t been in the house long. The previous owners used to leave the sliding doors cracked a bit so that their small dog could come and go, which, of course, allowed other critters to become accustomed to coming into the house. We, of course, discontinued that practice, kept the sliding doors closed, had the place exterminated, and didn’t have any problems with pests — or so I thought.
One night, during my late night study session downstairs, long after my husband had gone to bed, something ran across the room. It was NOT my adorable lab. No, this was smaller than a lab, bigger than a mouse, too fast to be a possum and had a long hairless tail. A freaking rat. A huge gray rat!
I gasped so hard, I almost swallowed my tongue. But, I’m a tough girl. Bugs don’t bother me. I’ll get dirty outside, I have a strange interest in serial killers and I seriously considered becoming a mortician at one point in my life — but vermin? — not my thing. I sat completely still waiting for it to come back. Afraid that if I moved it would come after me. I heard scratching; it was still in the house. So I did the responsible thing and ran up the half flight of stairs, through the kitchen, rounded the corner to the next flight of stairs, turned into my room, closed the door and jumped in bed. May have done it all in four steps. Studying done for the night. I woke up my husband, told him we had a rat. He didn’t get up, said he’d look for it in the morning. I had nothing more to do but wait for the sweet release of sleep, behind my closed bedroom door.
My husband went to work very early. As usual, he got up before me. Before leaving, however, he woke me to exclaim that he’d killed the rat with an arrow — he had hunted it down and stabbed it. He asked me if I heard it screaming. I had not. He was so proud. But, he added, it had gotten away and he’d have to find it when he got home because he couldn’t be late for work. Huh? I was half asleep, murmured, okay. Thanks.
I woke later. Looking down the stairs, I saw my dog’s butt. She was on her haunches staring into the kitchen.
This can’t be good, I thought.
I was right.
I slowly descended the stairs and peeked into the kitchen. My dog looked up at me as if to say, “Um, we have a situation here.”
There, on my kitchen floor, was a quite large, dead rat. It had apparently been wounded and emerged from its hiding place and did a death crawl to the middle of my small kitchen. Entrails hanging, a train of blood and guts behind it. It finally succumbed to its wounds equidistant from the kitchen sink and refrigerator, almost blocking the steps to the downstairs den and study where my books were.
My study regimen for the day did not include disposing of a dead rat. My knight in shining armor did not complete the job.
I freaked. Of course I did the mature thing and went back to bed.
That didn’t last. I was afraid my dog would play with it. Really, though, the dog was like, “I’m not getting near that thing.” Plus, it was Summer and we did not have central air. My husband was unreachable, this was before cell phones and he worked on the road. I hadn’t made friends with any neighbors yet. I was on my own . . . and I needed to study. I considered grabbing my books and heading out to the library, my parents’ house, anywhere, to study for the day. But my books were downstairs, through the kitchen. My husband wouldn’t be home for hours.
I cursed him. I cursed him like I’d never cursed him before (of course events in later years have elevated my cursing him to an art form).
How could he go all Rambo like that on the rat and not finish the job — leaving his wife to dispose of the body? What kind of man was he to leave me with this mess? Oh, he must have been so proud running around stabbing this rat and then walking off into the sunrise, leaving the corpse to me, a sleeping student suffering through the stress of the impending bar exam. Damn, him. Damn. Damn. Damn.
Cursing him to myself did not help. The dead rat was still in the kitchen.
I’d taken my dog out the front door and around to the fenced back yard. The dead rat was still in the kitchen.
I cursed my husband again. The dead rat was still in the kitchen.
I’d have to get rid of it, without looking at it, without feeling its weight, without dropping it. I still shudder.
Damn him (husband), damn the rat.
The whole disposal operation took me about two hours. I had to rest between tasks. My study schedule was ruined for the day. Once the carcass was removed, I disinfected the floor to a level beyond operating room clean, many trees lost their lives to make the mound of paper towels I used. Lysol was my soul mate.
But I don’t think I ever went barefoot in that kitchen again.
When my husband came home I was a raving lunatic. He laughed. He thought it was hilarious. At some point much later I was able to laugh about it, too. But I still cursed him. I still do.
Clean up after your kill, man. Clean up after your kill.
Just Me With . . . a dead rat, paper towels, a shovel, Lysol, and trash bags.
See also, Tales from The Bar Exam