Friday, March 16, 2012

Short Story in Progress

It's Just Another Day

            Rachel handed the cabbie a fistful of dollars. "Keep the change," she mumbled as she fumbled with the door handle.
            "It shticks," the cabbie said in a deeply Middle Eastern accent.
            "Damn, I'm going to be late," she fussed as she wiggled the chrome handle around. First Jerry had to rant at her while she was trying to stuff her Cell phone into her purse, making her late for the early train. Then it seemed like everyone and their brother was trying to catch a cab downtown. She'd had to walk two blocks with one hand up, the heavy briefcase tugging on her already sore arm. The pain reminding her again of Jerry.
            "You think you're a big deal, doncha, Rachet?" he'd sneered at her, using the dreaded nickname. She'd turned away from him and he'd grabbed her arm, swinging her back around to face him. "Big deal!" he'd repeated, spitting into her face.
            "Jerry, I've got to go. I have a meeting this morning…"
            "I've got a meeting this morning," he mocked her.
            "Look at the want ads. For God's sake…"
            He'd slumped down on the sofa, the leather creaking under him. She tried to ignore him and headed for the door. She'd heard him crying and didn't turn around. She walked out the door, closing it softly behind her.
            "Finally," she said as she angled the handle to the right position and opened the cab door.
            "Shee," the cabbie said with a toothy smile. "Just a little shtick."
            Rachel nodded absently and was shutting the door when she heard it, a locomotive coming down the street. No not down the street – in the air.
            Instinctively she looked up and saw the plane. In the next second she saw the plane hit the tower and a fireball blossom out from the side of the structure. One second later she was back in the cab.
            "Uptown," she whispered.
            "Wha' was dat?" the cabbie asked, craning his neck to look up into the sky.
            "Uptown!" Rachel screamed at the cabbie. "One of the Towers has just been hit by a plane." Debris was already beginning to fall around them. People on the sidewalk were looking up to the burning floors high above them, cell phones glued to their ears.
Rachel banged on the plastic partition between her and the driver and yelled again. "Uptown! Now! Something’s happening.” 
            A chunk of something, desk, airplane, something crashed down alongside the cab and suddenly they were moving and moving fast.
            "Where…where…" The cabbie looked into his rearview mirror as he tried to maneuver around people standing in the street, staring at the Twin Towers.
            But Rachel was turned around, looking out of the back window, watching the fire, the destruction, people running and then the unthinkable, a second plane was heading into the second tower.
             "Oh, my God," she said as she watched it hit. "Oh, my God."
            "Wha…." The cabbie said.
            "Keep going. Another plane just hit the second tower."
            "Allah," the cabbie whispered.
            "Dear God," Rachel said, thinking of her coworkers waiting for her at Windows on the World. The breakfast meeting that would never happen. Her stomach turned over.
            Should she go to her office? Suddenly her cell phone rang. She picked it up and looked at the screen. Jerry. She let it go to voice mail. It rang again. Lena, the receptionist at the office. She went to answer it and hesitated. It continued to ring. Why didn't she answer it? Lena was probably calling everyone who was supposed to be at that breakfast meeting. Then the ringing stopped.
            She knew why she didn't want to talk to Jerry, who'd probably seen the horrible crashes from their Hoboken high rise condo, if he'd been looking outside. The ringing started again. On the screen was her boss's name.
Maybe he thinks I was in an elevator, on my way up to the restaurant. Maybe…maybe…
The ringing stopped.
            "You not answer your phone?" the cabbie asked. Rachel looked at his face. "You supposed to be in the tower. People worried about you."
            And then it swept over her. It was if the cabbie's words had caused an epiphany.
            "Wrong numbers," she said as she turned off her phone
     It seemed as if her brain was running at top speed, just like the cab. Fire trucks, police cars and ambulances passed them. Some people on the sidewalks looked stunned, transfixed as they stared down to where the two huge towers were smoldering.
     “Miss…miss…” The cabbie was trying to get her attention. Finally her plan came to her, sparkling and clear. This was her chance, her get-away. She had to take it.
     “Forty-eighth and 10th Avenue.” Rachel finally answered the cabbie. She pulled out two twenties and pushed them at him and then once again struggled with the “shticky” door handle. Thank God for the door handle, she thought. Thank God for the traffic and even, yes, thank God for Jerry making her late.
     She jumped out of the cab almost as soon as it stopped, ignoring the cabbie’s words of thanks. Standing in front of the high-rise, she again gave thanks that her parents were in Europe for the month, their apartment empty. She dug the keys out of her purse and walked to the entrance. Another piece of good luck – a new doorman. She nodded and walked inside as if she belonged there.
     She took the elevator up to the twentieth floor. She looked up and down the hall before getting out. There were only two other apartments on the floor, but she needed to be sure no one saw her.
     As far as anyone knew, she had made it to Windows on the World in time for the breakfast meeting. As far as anyone knew, she was in there when the plane…
     Suddenly she heard a rumbling sound and felt the apartment shake. She ran to the terrace that face south. The towers were no longer visible, only a huge dark cloud that seemed to be filling the lower part of the island, knocking out the sun, blocking the sky.
     The towers had fallen. She was officially dead. She smiled, thinking that her plan was working and then suddenly remembered her coworkers. She shrugged off the feeling. “Not that I liked any of them that much,” she said out loud. Not even Sanders, her boss, the one who’d been pressuring her to leave her husband.
     She dropped her large briefcase and purse on the sofa, sat down and picked up the remote, clicking on the TV.
     Katie and Matt were still on and there were pictures of the planes then pictures of both towers collapsing.
     Twenty floors up she could hear the sirens going down 9th Avenue to the Financial District. Her Cell phone chirped again.
She looked at the number: Jerry – again.  She took the damnable thing into the kitchen and laid it on the wooden cutting board. Then she pulled a mallet from her mother’s cache of kitchen tools and slammed it, hard. Pieces of plastic and innards flew around the kitchen and Rachel began to giggle.
She was finally free. Dead to the world and free.

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