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"Blood Donor" -> "Bad Tips"

Ticket to Ride  by wolfram
He looked around, disgustedly.  10:00 p.m. on a Sunday and still a good half-dozen strangers, each weirder than the last.  A wrinkled Chinese-looking man reading a paper dotted with foreign characters.  A portly Latino teenager blaring his Ipod.  Probably a thug.  A filthy old black woman carrying an umbrella and muttering to herself.  A bald guy, scraggly beard and briefcase, tie undone, shirt half-tucked, playing on his mobile phone.  A group of college kids or tourists, whispering softly then laughing loudly every few minutes.

Ernest hated riding the subway, almost as much as he hated the people on it.  It was demeaning enough to have to work a second job in the city, just to make the mortgage payments on their ridiculously tiny house.  But riding this filthy hunk of metal teeming with the city's unwashed masses - some days he just wanted to jump out in front the train rather than board it. 

The kids or tourists laughed again.  One kid was guffawing like he was about to choke. 

It was all Joan's fault of course.  Can't sell the house because they had to live near her mom.  And near Ida, her fat cow sister and her loser husband, Mr. Tatooed Couch Jockey, and their messy, screaming brood.   "Five under five," they liked to joke, with their two sets of twins and the newest little stinkbaby.  He had one word for all of them - birthcontrol. 

The bald guy looked up, made accidental eye contact, and looked away.  Wanker. 

He wished they still had their own wheels.  Can't afford another car because Joan wrecked the last one and they owed twice the book value they got for it.  Book value - who writes those books anyway?  Probably a bunch of whiney jew accountants sticking it to red-blooded americans who can't afford to drive those fancy nazi cars.  Jesus.  Not that he's crying over not buying A-rab gas anymore.  But he'd like to have had the choice.  Thanks, Joan.

He looked over at her.  That beautiful blond hair still flowed, but her face had started getting splotchy.  He could see pudginess under her chin.  If she started turning into fat, dumpy Ida, Christ, he'd be out of there.  Why was he with her anyway?  Oh yeah, the sex.  Like he had time to find it elsewhere, or money to pay for it - yeah right.  Not with her spending every last dollar on her hair and nails.  One night, maybe he'd shave her head and cut her nails to the quick.  Probably save them a fortune.  He laughed.

"What's so funny, baby?"  Her voice irritated him.  So did the "baby." 

"Nothing."  He was not going to get drawn into a conversation with her, while he was in this mood.  Not on the subway.  Bad enough he had to endure it every day, but on a weekend?  All her pleading with him that they never go out, they never do anything, she wants to go into the city, he promised her, blah blah blah.  Well, at least now he could point back to this day.  Might shut her up for a month or so.

"Did you like the movie?"

"It was fine."  It was crap.  Lots of talking, no sex, no explosions.  Waste of time and money.

"I liked it.  I had a really good time, Ernie."  She put her head on his shoulder.

This should have put him at ease.  But it didn't.  It was all he could do not to shrug her off of him.  He knew he was starting to lose control, and hoped she'd keep her trap shut for the next few stops.  Almost home.

No such luck.  "Baby, can we stop and get some ice cream on the way home?"

Ice Cream?  Jesus.

"No."  His tone was sharp, and the baldie looked up briefly, but then down again.  Must stay calm.

"Why not?  We could go to that little stand that we pass on the way home.  It'll be fun."

"You don't need it." 

"I don't what?"  She picked up on it.  Dammit.

He ignored her, willing her to let it go.

"I don't what?"  Her voice was louder.  Shriller. 

"Quiet, we're almost home."  He could feel it, the warm rage bubbling slowly.

He knew she must have sensed it, but she kept going.  "Ernest, you better not be saying what I think you're saying..."

"What, that you're putting on the pounds?"  His voice was rising.  "That you're turning into a little porker.  Oink, oink."   He was leaning over and snorting in her ear now.

"Stop it, stop it."  Joan whimpered.

The bald man was looking at him intently.  The other passengers were starting to stare.  He didn't care, anymore.

"You must have noticed your clothes getting tight on you, baby."  He was pinching her.  "See here, here, and...", he jabbed her abdomen roughly, "...here.  Did you think you were pregnant?  Jesus gave you a miracle baby?" 

"Ernie, please..." she tried to push him.

"Please what?"  He felt a pleasurable rush as he grabbed her arm.  "Please let you forget how miserable you are?  How much you disgust me?  Stop your crying!"  His fist was now menacing her.  "You eat, you spend my money, you complain, and you can't even get pregnant you sterile bi..." 

"That's enough!  Take your hands off of her."  The bald man was still looking at him, but this time with disgust.

Ernest was stunned. 

"What, you thought nobody ever intervenes on the subway?  You thought you could just go ahead and beat your wife or girlfriend and we'd all sit around and play look-away?"

"Man, what the hell..."  Confused, Ernest gripped Joan tighter.

Joan was sobbing softly.

"I'm not a guy who does this kind of thing, but even I have my limits, and this...no way.  I don't care what your beef is, you need to let. go. of. her. now."  The bald man's words were slow and deliberate.

Ernest started to stand, but the bald man held up his blackberry.  "I have 911 keyed in and just a send press away.  You really want me to call them?"

Ernest noticed the tourists or college kids had gone quiet.  The other passengers were all watching him, expectantly.  Almost daringly.

Ernie shook his head, and put both hands in his lap.  The subway started to slow as a stop approached.

"Mister.  I suggest you get off here, alone.  She'll decide if and when she wants to go home."

Ernest started to say something, but stopped.  He knew the bald guy was right.  He was even a little scared at what he might have done had nobody stopped him.

As the train stopped, Ernie got up and stumbled to the opening doors, momentarily blinded by involuntary tears.  Turning briefly to Joan, he choked out a quick, "I'm sorry" and then he was gone.

The bald guy scratched his beard, unsure of what to do next. 

"Can I borrow your phone?  I'd like to call my sister."

He handed it to her, looking relieved that his part in this drama was now over.
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  'Ticket to Ride' statistics: (click to read)
Date created: Sept. 2, 2008
Date published: Sept. 3, 2008
Comments: 9
Word Count: 1585
Times Read: 823
Story Length: 1