by Jenny Goss
I wanted to growl at the man boarding ahead of me—a real growl, like one of those extinct jungle cats projected at the zoo. I bit my tongue, though, worried that mimicking extinct felines could potentially get me committed. Instead, I protected my bulging belly from his wayward elbows as he fought through the small crowd for first place in line. I didn’t want my little girl brain damaged because someone had hit the snooze button too many times.
I shivered. The air this far below was so damp. It seeped through my tunic and bored its way through my muscles until it reached my bones. I hated the tube.
“Everybody’s in a hurry, huh?” The woman beside me murmured. She was also pregnant. Of course.
I offered a tight smile that hopefully spoke of my frantic desire for solitude. It didn’t. At least, if it did she chose to ignore it. The moment we’d entered the tube, she sat beside me and pointed to my belly. “How long?”
My delivery would be June 20th at 3:00 p.m., but I didn’t really think that was any of her business. That wasn’t the kind of question you asked a stranger. I had a sudden desire to confide something truly personal and grotesque just to see her reaction. Her already large eyes and high brows would turn her into a caricature if she were surprised.
The thought broke my face into a genuine smile, which made conversation with the intrusive woman a little more natural.
“June.” I said simply. “You?”
“May. I tell you, I wish they’d just clear pregnant women for teleporting already.”
Now that was a statement that I could agree with. “Tell me about it. My whole family is going to the beach. They’ll have been there for almost an entire day when I arrive!”
“Mmmhmm. My name’s Val.” The woman said, looking around the metal cavern.
“Kess.” I offered, grudgingly. Once she knew my name, she had me, I thought. The nearest restroom was too far away to excuse myself and look for a new seat.
“I have to wonder what that one is even doing on here.” Val lowered her voice and drew my attention discreetly to the man with the busy elbows. “Sometimes I like to watch the other passengers and make up reasons they’re not teleporting.”
I laughed. Maybe this woman wasn’t so bad after all. She seemed funny. “Maybe he has a heart condition?”
She grinned a perfect, white-toothed smile at me. “Well, if he doesn’t, he will have soon as high strung as he is, huh?”
I scanned the crowd. There were only a handful of passengers that weren’t pregnant. Most were so old that it could be several things, including a stubborn distrust for new technology.
“What about her?” I asked of a woman who wasn’t wearing a pregnancy ID cuff, but seemed too young for most untreatable ailments.
“Oh, I see her on here all the time. She’s nuts. Once she had a screaming match with herself over who got to eat her last candy bar.”
I smiled, imagining the scene. “Really?”
“Oh yeah. The kicker was she found two in her pocket, but they both had peanuts, so neither personality could eat it.”
I giggled. What a piece of bad luck for the both of them. “She’s got a peanut allergy, then?” I wondered if that could preclude a person from teleportation.
“Who knows? But she thinks she does.” Val told me and began digging through her carry on.
We were quiet for a moment and I was beginning to think that perhaps it wasn’t such a bad thing that pregnant women were forced to ride the tube. Perhaps I just made a new friend. It could be relaxing spending the day chatting with this woman, away from the stress of dealing with the kids. I thought of the last time we’d been to the beach as a family. It hadn’t been at all relaxing.
She broke into my reverie. “So, are you planning on the procedure? For the little one?”
The procedure. Ugh.
I was so sick of hearing the debate about the stupid procedure. It was all anyone wanted to discuss with pregnant women. Enough was enough!
“I haven’t decided yet…” I treaded carefully, unsure on which side of the fence she fell. “You?”
“Oh, definitely! I think people are crazy not to get it done. You know, a friend of mine opted not to and you’d never guess what happened to her daughter! She just woke up one morning….”
I began to tune her out.
So much for a relaxing trip. Pregnant women needed to be cleared for teleportation soon. Really, really soon.
Jenny Goss writes … I am a stay-at-home mom with two crazy children. I have written one Young Adult Sci-Fi novel for which I am currently seeking representation. I am also currently working on an adult comic fantasy that I absolutely love! I’m having so much fun writing it. I can be found on twitter with the handle @Goss_JennyM and I have just recently launched my website, www.jennygoss.com.
The idea for “The Commute” came when I was pregnant with my second child and my first was still a young toddler. We were on a long car trip and desperately trying to calm our crying child. My husband joked that someone needed to invent teleportation, but I argued that pregnant women and young children would still not be able to use the device.
His response: “But I could.”
He had a valid point.