I took today’s PROMPTuesday from One Word to keep it simple this week (especially after the labyrinth-like PROMPT from last Tuesday.
So this week, write on this:
On the subway platform, a six year old black girl clutched her little sister’s hand, and held her breath.
She’d witnessed something impossible, the kind of thing you only see in movies. But at the movies, you knew how to react. First you’d get that tingle along your spine, and then you’d laugh. Maybe you’d even cheer and clap. You cheered because it was thrilling, but ultimately, you knew everything was going to be fine. Everybody would be safe and the hero would be unharmed. But seeing such a thing in real life, Shuqui realized, wasn’t like that. Not at all.
And so she held her breath. While her knees trembled and her vision blurred and her brain wobbled around inside her head, she held her breath and tried to decide whether to cheer or to scream.
The man in the black t-shirt had been sweating. He was stumbling around a little, “like a half-dead fly” Aunt Linda would say. Her daddy had gone over to see if the man was alright. He was like that, always looking out for and doing for people. Like today, after daddy was done at work they had had fun. There had been hot cocoa and pizza, and a new pair of shoes for each of the girls. Now it was time to go home and this man was sick and Shuqui was scared; even more so when the man fell to the ground, convulsing.
“What’s the matter with that man?” Her sister looked up at her, wide-eyed, her face framed by the unruly tendrils that loved to wriggle their way free of her knit cap.
The girls and watched nervously from a few paces away. The brief bout of convulsions had stopped and Daddy and another lady were helping the man up, now. When he seemed able to stand on his own again, she turned away and answered her sister.
“He’s just sick is all. Don’t worry, Syshe. Daddy’s gonna help him. He’ll be okay.”
A sudden movement in her peripheral vision told her differently. She glanced up. Something else was wrong. What was it? The man. Where did he go? She looked at her father. He was on the far side of the yellow line where you’re not supposed to stand. He was staring down at the tracks. Understanding began to dawn on her. She put the pieces together one by one: the man, the tracks, the sound of the oncoming subway train. In the exact moment that she realized what had happened, she saw her Daddy jump down, bend low, and then he was gone.
Within seconds, the train roared out of the tunnel. The squeal of the brakes melded with a woman's shrieks. But the train hadn’t stopped soon enough. A line of subway cars stood over the place she had watched her father disappear.
She held her breath.
She blinked her burning eyes, hard. Unable to move. Looking around, she saw she wasn’t the only one. Everyone was stock-still and staring; at least a hundred people. A hundred pairs of eyes trying to bore their way through the train cars to see, to know.
Then two pairs feet came pounding down from the front of the train, propelling uniformed bodies. One uniform tried fearfully to peer under the train. The other yelled for everyone to stand back.
Shuqui holding her breath. Waiting. Waiting for what?
Daddy's voice: “We're O.K. down here, but I’ve got two daughters up there. Let them know their father’s O.K.”
Now Shuqui knew the score. This was the part where everyone cheers and claps. She let them. Her own brain decided she should laugh, but she let the tears come too.