Cards on the Subway by Everett Lewark

Jefferies Station was huge—lots of tracks ran through the station, and trains were constantly coming and going. The tiled white roof hung in a series of arches above us like an Olympic swimming pool for bats. Standing there in this huge room crowded with grown-ups, I felt tiny. Their words echoed off the walls—almost louder than my own thoughts.

“Yeah, I saw that one—bloody stupid if you ask me.”

“You guys want pizza or sandwiches?”

“Thirty-seven. USPS is fine. But make sure they’re marked fragile.”

My sister stood next to me, holding a trading card. I glared at her. “Julia, that’s my card. Give it back.”

 She shook her head and stuck her lower lip out at me.

 “Mom! Julia won’t give my card back!”

 Mom stared at a subway map on the wall, scratching her chin.

 “Mom! Please!” I tugged on her sleeve.

 “Can you please not do this right now? I’m trying to find the purple line so we can see your father at the hospital, and this”—she waved her arms at me and Julia—“is not helping.”

 I thought of Dad, lying in a bed with his body hooked up to tubes and wires. When the 911 people came to take him away, he looked so delicate as they carried him through the front door. He was taller than the stretcher they brought in, so his feet hung over the end. I felt myself start to shake.

 “The purple line? You mean that one?” Julia pointed at a purple-striped train across from us.

 I tried to push the thought of Dad out of my mind. Julia and I followed our mom towards the train, until Mom looked up at the screen on the front, which said, “Wilcox Station.”

 “Jules, I don’t think that’s the right one. It’s the wrong station.”

 Julia yanked Mom’s arm toward the train. “It’s purple.”

 “Maybe, but I don’t want to get us further off track.”

 Mom walked over to the wall of the station, where a man sat behind a desk reading a newspaper. With Julia behind me, I crept up behind Mom and listened in.

 “Pardon me, is that the purple route train right there?”

 “Looks purple to me.”

 “Yes, but it says Wilcox Station. That’s the wrong way.”

 “Oh, the screens get stuck sometimes; you’ll have to ignore them. You’d better get over there, it’s the last one of the day.”

A loud screech made me cover my ears as the purple train started to leave. After the train rolled out of sight, Mom just stood there, staring at the empty tunnel as if the train might suddenly turn around and come back.

Julia bobbed up and down and ran her fingers through her hair. She took my card out of her pocket and played with it, bending it in her hands.

“NO!” I grabbed the card back from her. “That’s mine!”

 My card was still okay, no crease. I started to slide it into my pocket, but was interrupted by the sound of Julia sniffling. Her eyes were filling with tears.

 “S—sorry,” she said, putting her face in her hands.

 I watched Julia as she stood there crying. I felt something in me give way. My sister was one of the toughest people I knew. I couldn’t stand there seeing her like this.

 “It’s okay. You can have it.” I offered the card to her, but she backed away, shaking her head.

 “No, I just—is… Is Dad gonna be okay?” Julia could barely be heard over the people around us.

 “I’m sure he will. He always has,” I said, with all the confidence I could muster.

 Mom walked back over to us, sliding her phone into her purse as she did so. “I called a cab. It’ll be here in ten minutes.”

 We climbed up the stairs leading out of the subway. Standing in the pouring rain on the street corner for what felt like forever, I could barely see ten feet past the edge of Mom’s umbrella. Lights from shops in the distance shone faintly through the rain.

Eventually, the cab arrived, and I slid into the car next to Julia. Suddenly, a thought came to me. I checked my pocket, and my card was missing—it must have fallen out. As we pulled away from the curb, I saw my card laying in the rain next to the lamppost, with water soaking through its tiny portrait of a spiky blue mouse.

 

Bibliography:

I started taking classes at Aims in 2016 and graduated with an Associate of Science in 2019. Growing up, I was homeschooled by my parents. I was allowed to study whatever topics interested me, such as computer programming, which I taught myself when I was nine. Under this idea, I returned to Aims last summer to take a course on creative writing. After a year of the pandemic and a fall full of wildfires and smoke, I was feeling things that were difficult to express. Part of what drew me to writing is how it provided a way to communicate these complicated feelings to others. Poetry is interesting to me because it can say so much with very few words. Haiku is especially famous for its conciseness, with a typical format featuring three lines of five, seven, and five syllables. However, this structure is not always required, so haiku can be even shorter! My favorite writer is Douglas Adams, because his style is incredibly distinct, with a uniquely dry, humorous voice. However, some other media that stuck with me and led me to write were indie video games such as Celeste, Omori, and OneShot. These games featured memorable characters and locations that made me grow deeply attached to their stories, and I was fascinated by the games’ use of techniques like symbolism and foreshadowing. Someday, I hope to make a game of my own, though I know it is a large undertaking.