Boo on the Choo Choo
by caitlin puckett
Based on true dialogue
By the time I reached the train platform, I was already drenched in sweat from the unrelenting humidity of a Brooklyn August. I huffed shifting over my tote bag to pull out my phone as a middle schooler tore past knocking down my phone. The middle schooler squealed as she ran over and punched her classmate in the shoulder and shouted “Stop fucking looking at me, Mikey!” and she zoomed back to two of her girlfriends.
“You wanna touch this dick, though?” Mikey called back while fist bumping his cackling buddy.
I silently cursed myself realizing what a mistake it was to take the train around 3 when school gets out. Kids leaving school always seemed so wild, absolutely no supervision. I winced, realizing how geriatric my thoughts were when they were interrupted by the rumbling of my approaching train. I breathed in relief stepping into the car and getting hit with the air conditioner. I was happy to see only one other person in the car, but then the group of middle schoolers came through the side door yelling and whooping.
I walked toward a seat at the opposite end of the car away from the noisy kids and sat across from a guy who looked like he was on his way to go run a door for a Williamsburg bar. I pulled out my earbuds to tune out the yelling from the other end of the car and put on a new unsolved mysteries podcast I was trying out. Even with cranking up the volume, it wasn’t drowning out all the noise, and I noticed I was clenching my jaw from how irritated I was. I decided to switch it up to something loud and started going through my Spotify playlists-
While I had my head down I was struck by something heavy and was startled to realize Mikey’s friend had just hit me in the back of the head full force with his textbook. Adrenaline was suddenly coursing through my veins. My body was ready to react, but my brain didn’t know what to do. Anxiety took hold over me, and I tried to figure out what to do next. If an adult did that to me, I know how I could react, but with a middle schooler....
Is there anything I could say? There were no parents to be shamed in front of. Is there anything I could say to compel them towards reason? If I flat out asked them why, would that encourage him to hit me again, with something worse this time? Could I stop him from hitting me again without hitting him? If he came at me with more force, I don’t think I could stop him in time. Would I be able to hit a 12 year old boy in self defense? If it’s not hard enough, then he would attack back harder. If it’s too hard then I could end up on the news as the adult who attacked a kid on a train.
Weird flirty girl and her friends were looking on from the other end of the train and were cracking up. One of them was holding their phone up, I think filming me. Shit, can I take their phone? This somehow felt just as bad as being hit with the textbook. I wanted to slap the phone from her hands and the big grins from their faces. I couldn’t do that, could I? What could I do to make them instantly realize how heinous they are being, to stop them from their goddamn laughter?
“Aw geez, I’m sorry, I thought I saw something on you.” Mikey’s friend said grinning widely looking and me and then looked at Mikey. “Uh oh, there it is!” he faked a gasp and elbowed Mikey. Mikey quickly reached in his pocket and threw something towards my face. I swatted it down as it connected to my cheek. I felt something sharp scrape against my lip while swatting it with my hand. I looked down to see a rat that was starting to decompose with lots of silver glinting on it.
As I squinted to see what was on the rat, I heard the Williamsburg-looking buff across from me stand up and yell to them, “What the hell are you doing?” Paper clips. The rat had straightened paper clips sticking out of his stomach like a crude porcupine. Mikey’s friend fell to the ground laughing.
“MIKEY, what is going on?” Flirty reprimanded, approaching. She snickered as she unzipped her backpack and pulled out two pencils and jammed them into Williamsburg’s eye sockets. She looked at Mikey and quipped, “You could hurt somebody!” and fell into a deep belly laugh as her two girlfriends slowly pushed and twisted the pencils deeper into his skull while he made an inhuman moan that sounded weaker than he meant it to. Williamsburg started frantically twitching; I couldn’t tell if he was fighting or if it was his body’s final convulsions. Mikey pulled out two pairs of scissors and stabbed them through Williamsburg's forearms. He then started tugging on their handles trying to pull them down from his elbows down to his wrists.
My brain stopped being able to understand what was happening. My primal self took control and started to dig around in my tote bag to find any defense I could. Out of the corner of my eye I could see the two of Flirty’s friends holding up Williamsburg while Mikey stood behind him with both his hands on the scissor handles. He was jerking around Williamsburg’s arms and saying something I couldn’t quite make out. What was he doing with the arms? Then I heard him more clearly. “What the HELL are you doing?” he said in a tone mocking Williamsburg. He was jerking the scissor handles to make his arms wave around like a grotesque puppet.
It dawned on me that it was just me and them.
My hand was still frantically rifling in my tote failing to feel anything helpful. I pulled up the most dangerous thing I had on me, my keys. I closed my fist around them and tried to position the keys like makeshift brass knuckles. I felt a hand touch my shoulder and heard, “Hey are you going to barf?”. As I looked up, I locked eyes with the now be-penciled eyed Williamsburg.
“You seem like you are in shock.” Mikey chuckled in his mock deep Williamsburg voice. “You look like they said something awful, my god, did they say...” Mikey dropped his voice to a whisper “...penis?”.
Flirty’s friend on the right said “penis” louder. Then Mikey’s friend shouted it louder. Mikey pushed the corpse roughly, and I was too startled to catch my balance and toppled over with the fresh corpse on top of me.
I tried to shove him off.
I was too weak to lift him, I started to try shimmying out from under him.
I felt a new crushing weight on top, one of the middle schoolers was sitting on top of us.
“PENIS! PENIS! PENIS!”
They were screaming at the top of their lungs and giggling uncontrollably. I couldn’t breathe. More of them were on top of us. My vision started to blur. My eyes were about to burst from my head. My lungs were vibrating furiously desperate to inhale.
The crushing weight stopped and my last burst of adrenaline shot my body halfway out from under the corpse. I gasped sucking in all the air I could. My vision focused and I saw 5 pairs of skinny legs heading out of the train. A pair of feet turned back towards me, “Go see if she’ll help you lose your virginity, Mikey.” a young girl’s voice giggled. Two feet stumbled suddenly to the right from being shoved. I heard a slap on the arm and then the patter of feet from a chase. Giggling. All the feet disappeared.
I saw a new pair of feet enter. I looked up and met eyes with a man with a wide brimmed hat and long white trench coat. I started to say, “Please, you have to hel-” but stopped when the man unbuttoned his coat and I realized there were two sets of young eyes staring back at me.
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