A mentally challenged woman finds a baby on the train.
| Train of Thought
She had mingled with the shoppers all day and now stood on the elevated platform waiting for the northbound train to deliver her to the end of the line; then possibly a bowl of hot soup at the all night diner that wouldn’t satisfy her into the wee hours of the next morning.
The train rolled to a shuddering stop, full of foggy steam, in the damp chilling evening. Ellie Simpkins shuffled her sturdy body in after the swooshing doors opened. Amber light coated the interior and made everything appear as if it were draped in yellowish cellophane. She trampled across the day's newspapers, lying helter-skelter, left behind by rush hour commuters.
Ellie choose her regular seat, third from the entrance and plopped onto the dark green fake leather bench. The doors swished closed and the train jerked out of the station, weaving through the hub and then beginning its course of outlining the city.
Ellie was alone except for the sleeping old-looking man who sat in a corner seat with a brown paper bag, twisted at the top to fit the contoured shape of a pint bottle of whiskey. She set her oversized sack of belongings on the grungy floor next to the puddle made by her rubber boots. Her eyes darted around but did not register the overhead advertisements spray painted with graffiti. All the tagger symbolism was lost on her since she could only read simple words, but Ellie's eyes spotted the colorful holiday shopping bag beneath the facing bench seat.
Snatching it up to her lap, she peered inside. "Ohmygod!"
She looked up and eyed the sleeping drunk with suspicion, before looking back inside. Ellie buried both her arms into the glossy bag and lifted out the small bundle and laid it across her chunky thighs. She carefully opened the soft-fringed blue blanket and gazed at the resting baby. Her hands flew up to her mouth to stifle a gleeful giggle that turned into tears, which welled up, and spilled down, coursing through her rosy rouged cheeks-- compliments from Macy's cosmetic counter.
"Coochie coo, Roger." Ellie tickled the porcelain baby under the chin. "You've come back to me." She raised the baby and brought it up to her shoulder and patted its back in a gentle soothing rhythm. "Such a good boy."
After awhile she cradled the baby in the crook of her arm and stared into the sleeping eyes, caressing the smooth china face. Ellie smiled and rocked the doll in her arms back and forth, and cooed, "sweet baby." She fussed with the baby clothes for a moment and then spied the drunk staring at her through blue-gray smoke of a lit cigarette stub, thus ignoring the No Smoking sign in two languages. Rewrapping the baby inside its blanket, "I must hide you," she whispered to the doll, "but I'll be very careful this time." She kissed the baby's painted smiling mouth and laid it back inside the shopping bag.
The drunk took a swig from his paper sack and hiccupped. "Whatcha got there, Ellie?”
She shrugged and pulled on an old knit hat over her wiry gray hair, then tucked the shopping bag underneath the bench. She didn't want him to see Roger. He would get angry all over again and say mean things about how she didn't know how to take care of a baby. How she was too damned careless to mind a child.
The train pulled into the train yard. The interior lights dimmed to a queer yellow-green, indicating the end of the line. Slowing to an abrupt stop, the doors swished open. A cold chill invaded the car, and the drunk pocketed his pint inside his thin fraying overcoat.
Ellie stared at her own reflection in the cloudy window of the train car and tried to hide her trepidation as the drunk weaved his way toward her. She hunched her shoulders for protection. He stopped and held out his hand for Ellie to take. "It wasn't your fault," he said. "‘It was a decision we made a long time ago. Now come on...let's find something to eat and settle in for the ev'nin."
Ellie nodded and took his rough hand, following her husband out the door reluctantly. Her hesitation marked by melancholy of having to abandon Roger, once again.