Sunday Storytelling, #19: Sheila Goes to Portland, Part 4featured

Sunday Storytelling {the ponytail diaries}

Sunday Storytelling is where I post a piece of fiction on Sunday. It might be a complete short story, a snippet of a work in progress, a character sketch, a response to one of the thousands of creative writing prompts I’ve collected through the years. Most of them won’t be polished or “final,” so feedback and criticism is welcome, but please be constructive in your comments. Read other Sunday Storytelling pieces here.

Read part 1 of Sheila’s story here, part 2 here, part 3 here.

I finish my drink in one gulp, throw a twenty down on the bar, and leave. I march with some sort of determination I haven’t felt in ages towards the train station.

It’s empty when I get there. It’s in the middle of the city, yet as soon as I walk in, I almost feel like I’m in some Old West town. It seems dusty and grimy. I feel like I should be smelling the faint remnants of gunpowder and there should be a haze of smoke hovering over the empty benches.

I clutch the rest of my cash in my fist and approach the ticket window. A woman sits behind the glass, flicking through a magazine. She looks about my age, but her hair is pulled back in a bun and she’s wearing one of those godawful pink and gold statement necklaces over an ugly green cardigan. About as WASP-y as you can get. Which is hard to find in Reno. I clear my throat.

She looks up, shoves the magazine aside. A fake, practiced smile springs to her face. “Yes?”

“I need a ticket to Portland. When’s the next train leave?”

“Well…” she started tapping at her computer. “Looks like you’ll need to take the Zephyr to Sacramento and transfer to the Coast Starlight there. Unfortunately…the next train doesn’t leave until 8:36 tomorrow morning.”


She shrugs. “It’ll get into Sacramento at 2:13 in the afternoon. Then the Starlight departs at 11:59 at night and arrives at Portland Union Station at 3:32 PM the next day.”

I’m stunned. I can’t get out of here until tomorrow morning? And then it’s gonna take…what, thirty hours or something to get to fucking Portland? “Um…well, how much does it cost?”

She taps the keys again. Tappety-tap-tap-tappety-tap. “Would you prefer a sleeping car or coach?”

“How much for the sleeping car?”

“The Superliner Roomette would be…$438.”

Fuck that. “Coach?”

“A value ticket would be $99.”

“I’ll take it.”

Her tapping goes into hyperdrive. I roll my eyes and look around the station. Still deserted.

“ID, please?”

I fumble around in my pockets. Shit, I left it at the bar.

“Um…shit, I must have left it…can I just buy the ticket now? I’ll go get my ID and be right back.”

“I’m sorry, we need to identification for every passenger for booking.”

I roll my head back. I’m honestly scared if I don’t buy the ticket now, I’ll go blow the money on something else and end up stuck here even longer. “Okay, look. Can I leave some cash here to hold the ticket, and once I come back with my ID you can…you know…book it?”

She looks nervous. She leans forward just slightly and looks me up and down. Her eyes narrow. I narrow mine right back, then try to force my expression to change. I open my eyes wider, pleading. “Please?”

She looks around. “I’m really not supposed to…but…” She rummages around in a drawer behind her and hands me an envelope. “Here. Write your name and the amount you’re putting in there and I’ll hold it for you. But my shift ends in two hours, and I can’t just leave it in the register. Understand?”

“Yeah, yeah, thank you.” I breathe a massive sigh of relief as I grab the pen – the little chain that’s supposed to attach it to the desk is broken. About two inches of chain swing freely as I scribble my name on the envelope. She watches me carefully count out my cash and I shove the envelope back at her. She tapes it closed. “Thanks again, and I’ll be back real quick, promise.”

Comments, feedback, and constructive criticism welcome…