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A Tale of Two Men
Liam was a man set in his ways. Every morning, at precisely six o’clock, he would wake up in their tiny New York apartment, kiss his wife good morning, and make himself sausage for breakfast. He was getting old, getting close to retirement. Just a few more months.
After he ate his sausage, he would slip on his suit coat, straighten his tie, grab his briefcase, and slip out the door. He would walk down the twenty three stairs to the street and walk the seven blocks to the subway station. Once he was at the subway station, he would board the six thirty subway, which would take him exactly three point five blocks away from his office. Rarely did he break this pattern- only twice in the past year. Once, when there was a car pileup outside his apartment building and once when his wife had a minor heart attack.
Sighing, he pulled open the door to Wallace and Son, incorporated, said hello to Margaret, the secretary, and slowly walked up the fifteen stairs to the second floor of the building.
As stuck in his ways as Liam was, Jonah was the complete opposite. He prided himself in his ability to change his ways, his course, to make it different every day. Having no steady job of his own, Jonah often woke up as early as six in the morning, or sometimes as late as nine. He owned a small, rundown flat where, if he woke up early enough, he would play computer programer. He would create a website for anyone who wanted one, as long as it didn’t cost him too much effort. He had no wife, but he did have a girlfriend named Katherine. Groaning, Jonah rolled over on the rough, terry cloth couch, not fully awake.
A sharp buzzing sound wakes him up from his dream. His phone. Dang it, his phone. It vibrated itself right off the end table, where it was sitting, and fell upon the ugly green carpeting that muffled the sound. Standing up, he stoops to pick the phone up off the floor, bringing it to his ear. “Hey,” said the voice on the other end, “Hey. It’s Katherine.”
“What? Where are you?” Jonah said into the phone, glancing at the small digital clock on the wall. It was almost three in the afternoon. It was a late night of coding last night.
“I’m at the park,” She said, her voice weak-sounding and quiet, “Come here and meet me.”
“Ok,” Jonah yawned. He padded across the cracked linoleum of the kitchen, picked up a faded Bronx U sweatshirt from the floor, grabbed half a muffin from the fridge and headed out the door.
Three o’clock, and Liam walks down the stairs, just like always. He reached the heavy oak paneled door and lays a hand on the worn, brass handle. “Wait!” calls Margret, handing him a slip of paper. “They need you to stop by headquarters to pick up some more cases and stuff that can’t be faxed.”
“Can’t they just mail it?” Liam asks her, tiredly.
“Apparently not,” Margret says in her too-nasally voice.
“Ok,” Sighs Liam, upset that he won’t be home for enchiladas (It’s tuesday). He walks down the green stairway into the slightly damp underground subway system. He purchases a new ticket and boards the three ten subway. It was almost empty, and he sits down across from a young man in a slightly crumpled green Bronx U sweatshirt.
“So,” Liam asks the man, setting the briefcase on the ground, near his newly polished dress shoes. “Bronx University? I have a cousin who is a Psychology professor there.”
The man yawns, “Yes? I graduated last year. Now I code, websites and such. What about you?” Liam watches as the man crosses his legs and stretches. He looks really tired, the black bags under his eyes tell stories of all nighters.
“I’m a lawyer,” Liam says, leaning back. The conversation dies, and so Liam looks through the papers in his briefcase. He pulls out a pencil from the breast pocket of his dark blue suit jacket and begins to review a new case, one he just got today.
Jonah studies the man across the aisle from him. His black briefcase sits next to his black wingtip shoes, that compliment his black (or is it blue?) suit jacket. The only pop of color on this tired looking man is the bright green tie that lays nestled between his jacket lapels. He pulls a pen out from his jacket and begins looking over his papers. Whatever. Jonah pulls out his phone and begins scrolling through his text messages.
There’s a scream, the subway comes screeching to a halt. The lights flicker once, twice, three times before the whole car plunges into darkness. There’s a moment of night before the emergency lights flicker on.
“What’s that?” Jonah asks the man across the subway aisle from him.
“I have no idea,” the man says, barely looking up from his work. “These things get stuck all the time. I’ll bet the conductor decided to have a coffee break or something.”
The man seems so calm, Jonah just leans back. He’s right. These things go wrong all the time. It’s going to get up and start in a minute.
The subway car starts bumping along again, but Liam thought it was moving a little faster than it was before.
No, this can’t be right! The subway is picking up speed, and fast. Jonah steels himself, grabbing onto the metal arms of the subway seats.
The car’s going too fast! Liam pushes the papers off his lap, squinting out the window. The walls flash by. Strangely calm, Liam looks at the map on the wall of the subway. The little red dot, that signifies the subway, is speeding along the map, the drawn on tunnels.
“We’re going too fast!” Liam shouts above the din of the few people in the nearly empty car, “We’re not going to have enough time to stop!” The man across the aisle is holding onto the bench for dear life. Liam grabs onto the bar next to the door, watching his knuckles turn white...
Jonah takes a deep breath…