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Sunday, July 25, 2021

The Morning Commute: A Short Story

 This particular Tuesday morning was no different at first for the thirty-five-year-old paralegal from the south suburb of Calumet City, Illinois. Benjamin Blackman had hit his snooze button three times already, as his cellphone read 6:27 am. He rented a two-bedroom space in the Sandridge Apartment complex right off the corner of 159th and Greenwood Avenue, and his law firm was located in the heart of the Chicago Loop. He needed to catch the Metra train that arrived at the 137th Riverdale stop where he parked at 7:40 am so that he could arrive at work before 8:30 am. He had three important filings that needed to be stamped by the court before the end of the working day, so this task was first on his things-to-do list that morning.

He was showered and dressed a few minutes before seven o’clock, so he had a little time to brew some coffee before he hit the road. His stop was roughly seven miles away from his apartment, and he usually needed to allow himself at least ten minutes to get there, provided that there wasn’t a train blocking his path to the Metra station. He poured his hot coffee into his favorite mug, and he put three packets worth of cream and a couple of tablespoons of sugar in his beverage before placing the lid on and leaving out of his apartment. The weather was warm and sunny for a typical September morning as he briskly walked toward his car. His cellphone rang, and he sighed when he saw that the call was from his girlfriend, Tammy.

“What do you want, Tammy?” he asked tersely.

“We didn’t resolve anything from our discussion last night…”

“I don’t have time to argue this morning.”

“I didn’t call you to argue, Benji.”

“Look, I’m not going to do to you what your last boyfriend did…I’m not going to string you along for four years and not marry you.”

“I know what you’re saying, but I can’t help the way I feel sometimes.”

“I told you that my solution for us is for you to move in with me and stack our money so that we’ll be able to afford everything that we want.”

“You already know how I feel about that…I don’t want to move in with you without a ring. To me, a ring shows that you’re totally committed to our relationship.”

“Tammy, just listen to my plan. I need you to just hear me out, okay?”

“Okay, I’m listening.”

Benjamin looked at his clock on his dashboard, and it read 7:19 am. He was at the intersection of Sibley and Greenwood and had about twenty minutes to get to the train. He pulled into the Food4Less grocery store parking lot and placed Tammy on the Bluetooth speaker in his car.

“My plan for us is for you to move into my place for a year so that we can split the rent in half and save the other half. At the end of twelve months, we would’ve both saved close to seven thousand dollars apiece. Add that to what we already have in savings, and we will be able to afford the down payment on one of the dream homes that we saw in Homewood or Country Club Hills and pay for our wedding at the same time. Now does that make sense to you?”

Metra Train in Chicago

“Yes, that all makes sense, but there’s still one problem…”

“What problem is that baby?”

“You haven’t said anything about a ring.”

“I already have your ring picked out and sized, sweetheart…”

“Oh, really?”

“Yes, really. I knew I was going to marry you the first day that I met you, Tammy. You’re beautiful, smart and fun-loving, and I’d be a fool to let you slip away.”

“That all sounds great, Benji, but have you bought the ring already?”

“No, but I have two more payments on my car note, and then I’m going to finance the ring initially and pay it off before we set a wedding date.”

“Well, okay, Mr. Wonderful. I’m sorry I doubted you.”

“You have nothing to worry about, Tammy. We can discuss you moving in with me tonight over dinner somewhere.”

“Okay, baby, I love you.”

“I love you, too. See you tonight.”


Benjamin ended the call and the clock read 7:27 am. He then abruptly left the parking lot and sped down Greenwood Avenue toward Chicago Road. He took the shortcut through the lot to 142nd Street as opposed to making a right on Chicago Road and turning left on 142nd Street in order to save a little time. Riverdale was notorious for having trains on every track during rush hour, and every second counted when trying to make it to the Metra station in time.

He reached 144th and Indiana Avenue, and he saw that there was an eastbound train on the track obstructing traffic both northbound and southbound. Luckily, the train was moving swiftly, so he decided to wait it out. The clock read 7:33 am, and the last box car had gone across the track. However, he heard the sound of the horn from another train going in the opposite direction, and the crossbars remained down.

“Well, I’ll be damned!” Benjamin shouted to himself.

He quickly made a U-turn and sped south on Indiana Avenue to 144th Street. He then made a right turn headed west to School Street. He always had to check his speed in that area because cops were always clocking motorists and issuing tickets. Unfortunately for him, though, the motorist ahead of him was being extra cautious and driving a tad bit under the speed limit of thirty miles per hour. He sighed, and said, “I’m not gonna make this train.”

He finally reached School Street and made a right at the stop sign. He couldn’t punch it down this street, either, because there was a grammar school and children present a half mile down. There was a twenty-five mile an hour speed limit and a cop sitting at the intersection once he reached the top of the small hill where the grammar school was, and he made sure that he maintained the correct speed before he reached 138th Street. He checked the clock again, and it read 7:39 am. He knew that he was going to have to chance parking in a handicap spot at the front of the parking lot and run for the train.

He sped into the entrance of the lot and parked to the right of one of the handicap signs, hit the car alarm to his 2015 Nissan Maxima and ran toward the stairs of the Metra station. He heard the bells of the train chime as it was approaching the terminal, and he ran as fast as he could in order to reach the top of the stairs in time. The Metra conductor held the door open for him as he entered the train sweaty and winded.

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