Wednesday, August 05, 2009

500 Words III—Murphy Takes the Train

We are in week three of 500 Words, a game Lynn and I devised in which we write 500-word stories based on a literary sentence provided by Dive. Here is my story for this week, with the provided sentence in italics.

•••

Murphy Takes the Train

Murphy stood just inside the doorway of the train car and looked left and then right, scanning for an open seat. He would only have a few seconds before the train lurched forward, but he wanted to make sure he selected wisely. He would be sitting in one spot for a full hour and a half, and the ride would feel much longer if he chose the wrong roost.

There were two open seats half-way down on the right, and he made his way toward them flat footed, staggering from one side to the other as the train picked up speed, grabbing the seat handles and trying to avoid touching the shoulders of the other passengers. Once planted, he plopped his briefcase down into the seat beside the window and leaned his head back as he closed his eyes.

That dim-witted brother of his better appreciate the effort he was making to help with what Murphy was sure would be yet another unsuccessful business. He wondered how two people from the same family could mature to become so completely different, one able to support himself and one seemingly destined to fail time and time again in each half-baked attempt to earn his keep.

“Entrepreneur my freckled ass,” Murphy mumbled and then jumped when he realized he had spoken out loud. He looked around to see if anyone had heard him, and he caught sight of a young woman who was scowling at him over the top of her paperback novel. She quickly looked back down at the page and hid her face in her reading.

It was just two days before when Murphy answered a call from Bartleby and then sat quietly as his brother explained his new endeavor. “It’s simple enough,” Bartleby had reassured him. “I set up an office in a high-traffic area, and I sell myself as a tour guide. I’d be great at it. You know I would. I know this city like the back of my hand, and I’d make a mint showing people all the side streets, all the places they’ll never find in a whole shelf of guide books.”

Murphy snorted at the notion but agreed to come out just for a day or two to see that Bartleby had everything in order, that he had actually gotten the appropriate license and filled out proper tax forms, had thought through his business plan, and had at least put up a sign. Bartleby swore to having done all of those things, but his word was slippery at best.

From the station, Murphy walked the three blocks as instructed by his brother and turned the corner. Then, suddenly, with great clarity and precision, he saw Bartleby's window and the blank brick wall before him.

No sign. No apparent business at all. There were about to be harsh words exchanged behind that paint-flaked door as Murphy’s ire was peeked. But he had promised their mother he would do what he could. His word was solid.

7 comments:

Dear Prudence said...

Wonderful Robyn. How many of us continue to help those we love as they falter and flail through life? I can really relate to this story. Thanks.
Pru

dive said...

Ah, the poor, long-suffering Murphy and his amusingly freckled ass.

Anyone with a sibling will be smiling and nodding at the truth of this one, Robyn.

Wonderfully warm storytelling of a family where love will keep things together through thick and thin.

Kate Isis said...

Well done Robyn.
I can sooooo relate to this one as well.

Katherine Mercurio Gotthardt said...

I LOVED how you got the wall quote in there, Robyn! I wasn't expecting that. Nice!

savannah said...

impressive, sugar! xoxo

neetzy said...

As a Murphy, I can relate. I just cannot tell you which one of us is the competent one. (hee-hee) I can tell you we are all dreamers. Lovely story telling and I LOVED the way you wove the sentence in toward the end.

MmeBenaut said...

You had me hooked with this one Robyn. I love Murphy as a character but, had I been the woman reading the novel on the train, rather than scowlin, I think I would have burst out laughing at the "freckled ass" - what a fantastic expletive!