Updated: Aug 29, 2018
By S.C Taulbee
Tap. Tap. Tap. Bertrand pulls shut the front door. Key in the slot now. Click. Click. Click. With the deadbolt properly locked, unlocked, then re-locked, he can now proceed.
Twelve steps to the front gate. Tap. Tap. Tap. It opens with a quiet creak. Curious, Bertrand thinks, these hinges were oiled just this past week. Must remember to re- grease them this evening. Re-grease. Re-grease. Re-grease.
Bertrand pulls shut the gate. Tap. Tap. Tap. With three taps of his calloused index finger on the cold, metal latch, he is ready for the seventy-one steps that will bring him to the trolley stop at the corner.
Today is Tuesday, 15 May. The schedule shows a departure time of 6:24 am. Best to be waiting with three minutes to spare.
Having come to the corner, Bertrand removes his cap. Three minutes to spare. Three minutes to spare. Three minutes to spare.
A pigeon is hopping nearby. It must be in search of food. Wouldn’t hurt to observe the little creature for a moment. The toe of Bertrand’s black, polished shoe taps thrice on the cement.
He watches the bird peck at the ground. Another bird lands next to the first, curious as to what might be here for the finding.
Three times Bertrand lifts then lowers the left cuff of his coat before he can check the time on his wristwatch. 6:26 am. Won’t be but a minute now. The sun shows through a break in the cloud cover. May have a chance to open the blinds in the office today. Bertrand lifts then lowers, lifts then lowers, lifts then lowers the left cuff of his coat. 6:27 am. Must have been a delay. No matter. It’ll be along any moment now. The toe of Bertrand’s shoe lifts then lowers three times in succession. He turns himself slightly to orient down-track. Without intending to, he deepens the crease between his eyebrows. Tap. Tap. Tap.
There is a shop on the opposite street corner. A potted plant, not yet flowering, hangs from either side of its glass-doored entry. A brass bell sounds as a woman exits the door with a small, paper, pastry bag in one hand. She is thin and well-dressed; someone who most would consider beautiful.
Seven minutes pass. Bertrand knows this because he has lifted and lowered his left sleeve twenty-one times.
A mother and her young son have come to wait at the stop. They are holding hands. Bertrand allows himself to make eye contact with the woman. She smiles without showing her teeth and closes the distance between herself and her son.
Bertrand places his bowler cap back on top of his head. Tap. Tap. Tap. In one place, the brim is worn smooth and is slightly discolored. Standing erect, his feet shift to bring him back into a position perpendicular to the trolley tracks.
Morning train cancelled. Best to wait here for the next arrival. Three minutes to spare. Three minutes to spare. Three minutes to spare.
Nothing moves in his line of vision. Bertrand is still, as well. The child shouts and the mother leans over to speak into his ear. In his periphery, Bertrand can see the hem of her skirt rising up her leg as she does. He counts. One. Two. Three. One. Two. Three. The trolley does not arrive.
Bertrand doesn’t need to check the time on his watch to know that he is now on course to be late clocking-in for work this morning, but he lifts his sleeve thrice and checks, nevertheless.
6:36 am. The trolley hasn’t come. Nor will it. Twelve minutes ride to Mulberry Plaza stop. From there, one hundred-nineteen paces to the revolving door of the Enterprise building. Tip of my hat to Geoff at the reception desk. Tap. Tap. Tap. Inside of one minute to the fourth floor. Punch of the time card. Tap. Tap. Tap. And twice more to offset for the asymmetrical hole punch. Fourteen steps to desk. 6:57 am. Three minutes to spare. Three minutes to spare. Three minutes to spare.
Bertrand has never been anything other than three minutes early. He knows not what to do with himself, so he removes his bowler, as is his custom while waiting for the 6:27 am trolley, and holds it tucked under his curled left wrist, as is his custom while waiting for the 6:27 am trolley. Tap. Tap. Tap.
The woman with her child is pacing now. She stops, thinks for a moment, then comes to a decision. Bertrand watches as she walks away in the direction from which she came, child in tow.
Perhaps she will pull the car out of the garage today.
It is 6:45 am when Bertrand replaces his cap. The trolley hasn’t come. Nor will it. He doesn’t know how many steps would be required to walk the distance to the Enterprise building, but he knows it would take him longer than the twelve minutes he has available to him.
His fate is sealed.
Looking across the corner now, he notices that a young woman is standing on her tiptoes, pouring water from a long-necked, metal, watering can into the soil in the hanging planters.
Resolve steeled, he lifts one shining shoe off the sidewalk and lowers its toe to tap three times, testing the street. He is convinced of its safety. He places the sole of his shoe flat on the ground, and swings his rear leg out in front to do the same with the other shoe. This movement becomes a stride. He crosses the street, turning his head sharply back and forth from left to right.
His eyes begin to light up. A wide, toothy, smile does not take long to form.
When he has reached the opposite side of the street, he approaches the aproned young woman who has finished with her watering and is about to walk back through the open shop door.
“Excuse me, but…” Tap. Tap. Tap. She turns to face Bertrand, the watering can hanging at the end of a loose and lanky arm. “Have you seen the morning’s trolley?”
She looks at Bertrand incredulously, mouth slightly agape, before inclining her head in the direction of the trolley stop on the opposite corner.
“Trolley runs every ten minutes. Running dawn till dusk daily. Eastbound picks up just across the way.”
“Erm… Thank you,” comes Bertrand’s reply.
“Fancy a biscuit and a Rosy while you’re waitin’?” Bertrand licks his lips at the suggestion. He looks over each shoulder, then nods gently.
“Well come on, then.”
She holds her empty arm out, indicating toward any of the small, circular tables inside. Bertrand hesitates but a moment, then enters the shop in front of her without tapping on the doorframe.
The warmth of the sun has burned through what was previously just a small gap inbetween the clouds.
About the author: S.C. Taulbee is a multi-disciplinary artist who lives and studies in Portland, OR.