by Jeffrey Hill       The people file out of the subway car.  The people file into the subway car.  It is cramped.  Some sit.  Some stand.  The man, woman, and child choose to stand.

“When are we meeting John and Theresa?” the woman asks.

“Around six-thirty,” the man replies.  “Which is thirty minutes from now.”

“But when are we actually meeting them?” the woman asks, exasperated before the man can even begin one of their seemingly endless arguments.

He doesn’t reply, so she changes the subject.  “How was work today?” the woman asks.

“Work,” the man scoffs.

“Never mind him,” the child interjects.

“He’s had a rough go these last few days,” the woman reassures, to no one in particular.

People are watching them now.  Restless.  Curious.  Not quite scared, but on edge.

“Haven’t we all,” mutters the man, checking his watch and seeing that they will no doubt be late.  It is already six o’clock and they have eight more stops and a ten-minute walk ahead of them.  It’s always best not to make John and Theresa wait.

The man, the woman, and the child ride in silence, returning the stares, the glares, and the glances at each stranger who deems them interesting, confusing, or downright threatening.  They are united in one thing: their hatred of on-lookers.

In every other sense, they are unique.  Different.  And, the woman would argue, special.

Eight stops and twenty-eight minutes later, they have reached their destination.  It is time to walk now.  The doors open. The people file out of subway car.  The people file into the subway car.  It is cramped.  Some walk.  Some run.  The man, woman, and child choose to run.

“Are we going to be late?” the child asks.

“Of course we are,” says the man, dodging a subway musician and getting a strange stare from the onlookers as he begins to pick up his pace.

“Don’t worry,” says the woman.  “He’s always worrying,” she fades, speaking to no one in particular.

They arrive at their destination at six-forty-three and John and Theresa are there to greet them in the back room.

“There’s a problem,” John says, taking the man’s coat.

“I can see that,” the woman replies, admiring Theresa’s new earrings.

There are only three chairs.

John sits.  Theresa sits.  The man sits.  The woman and the child are standing there, awkwardly, trying to stay out of the way until they can flag down a waiter.

A server walks past them.  A bartender acts like they aren’t even there.  But it isn’t until Theresa starts to cry and John holds her hand and begins to whisper to the man that it’s not his fault that the woman and child start to panic.

“Do we have to go?” the child asks.

“I think we might,” the woman begins, but she is cut short by John’s authoritative tone.

“Your mother and I,” he begins, clutching Theresa’s hands tighter and tighter as he chokes back his own tears, “We need to talk about this.”

The man is quiet, for once.  The woman embraces the child.

“It’s not healthy.”

The man looks at the woman.  The child.  And sees them.  Really sees them.

And then he doesn’t.

Theresa lays out a series of options.  Funeral arrangements.  Casket colors.  All tasteful.

“You need closure,” John tells the man.

“Honey,” Theresa whispers.  “They’re gone.”

And when the man looks behind him, they are.  About the Author:Jeff Hill is a moderately reformed frat boy turned writer/teacher splitting his time between Nebraska and New York. His work has appeared in dozens of publications and his mom has a binder full of printed copies for any doubters. He is the Chief Creative Officer of and is currently pitching two novels. Jeff is a regular participant of the Sarah Lawrence College Summer Seminar for Writers and has served as a faculty member of the Writer’s Hotel since 2017.  Follow him on twitter at jeffhillwriter.