Car 38

By: David Ihnen

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This story is Copyright by David Ihnen. Please do not distribute without permission.

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The subway is a dangerous place. Trains streak beneath the city, carrying scabs and norms alike. Accidents happen.

The sleek driver car slid into the garage, only the creak of shifting springs and the scrape of trolley on wire marking its passage. Sam looked up from his paper. Then looked again.

"My God, Sylva! What happened to you?"

The subway car stopped with the sharp sigh of air brakes as Sam stood and walked around the front.

The carefully curved metal was dented. Dark smears of dried blood starred out from the dent, staining the silvery paint. The number 38 was distorted, almost unreadable. One of the lower headlights was shattered, blood staining the shards of glass.

A feminine voice spoke gently out the horn speaker mounted above the cab.

"I was on the red line. You know I hate the red line. The man... another scab... just, flew out... He was pushed... I couldn't stop. I couldn't do anything."

The whole car seemed to shiver, fans whirring, lights flickering.

Sam slid his hand gently down the sleek side of the car.

"Don't worry, You'll be good as new by morning." he murmured, climbing through the door that slid open for him.

The interior was a little messy, so he took the time to clean. He scrubbed off the pen graffiti. He carefully patched some weakening upolstery. He replaced the window protectors on two panels that they had tried to scratch. The car seemed to relax around him, the labored wheeze of the ventilator fans smoothing to a gentle whir.

"I do wish you'd stay home." he murmured quietly.

"Oh, Sam. You know I have to. I'm dead without tracks rushing beneath me."

Sam sighed. "Yes, I know. Its just... You're going to wear out. How long before your motors need rebuilt? What then?"

The voice hissed softly from the speakers. "I'll still love you."

Sam wiped some tears from his face, scrubbing harder at a stain on the floor. What good was love when you're just going to loose it later.

The sun was greying the depths of the night as Sam finished waxing the front of car 38. The dent was gone, the flakes of paint and number repaired to showroom shine. He stood back and nodded, turning to the supply closet. He carefully latched a new headlight into place. It flickered, then lit. He smiled, yawning.

His supervisor walked in, boots clanking on the steel catwalk.

"Sam! You STILL here? Wasting time on that old car again!? Your shift ended seven hours ago!"

Sam winced and looked up at him.

"I love her, boss." he spoke, "She was dented. I couldn't leave her that way."

His boss shook his head. "I told you when I agreed to activate that crate, no special treatment!"

The car snorted, releasing compressed air.

Sam pled, "I couldn't just leave her! She was hurt!"

The man shook his head. "Look, just know you will NOT be getting any overtime for working on this car!"

Sam nodded meekly. "Understood."

"And I expect to see you at work at noon!" The man growled, clanked off, the catwalk rattling as he went through the doorway into the next bay.

Sylva's soft voice whispered from the interior speakers, barely audible through the open door. "Should run over that prick. Would be worth it."

Sam chuckled and slowly climbed into the car, settling on one of the comfortably upolstered seats.

"He just doesn't understand you like I do." he murmured, "I'll stay with you today."

"I'd like that." Sylva whispered, the doors sliding shut with a hiss.

The car slid quietly out of the garage, clicking over the rails to the starting queue for the dawning day. You could almost hear an eager giggle in her horn as another cab howled by at the head of a string of cars.

The morning shift driver yawned and sipped his coffee, nodding to sam as he climbed into the cab. He hummed, "I'll be working on the railroad", not noticing the soft feminine voice joining his.

Sam sung along quietly, smiling.

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