Martin Maxwell’s Very Bad Day: Ravishly Original Fiction

Martin Maxwell walked towards the 6 train on 86th street, drawing his shoulders against his ears, trying to hide from the wind. 

Goddamn winter, he thought. Miserable fucking city. His eyes surveyed the shoe-filthy snowbanks bordering the gutters. He suspiciously eyed a puddle at the corner of 3rd avenue and deciding it was shallow enough to walk through, stepped into six inches of frigid water, the ice sharply cracking beneath his weight. Goddamn it, he hissed.

He drew his toes together feeling the wet sucking sensation between his foot and his now sodden sock. He caught the eye of a child across the street, also waiting to cross. The child was vaguely smiling. Was it at him and the puddle? Little bastard.

As the light turned and the throng of bundled coats began to cross the intersection, he waited until the child's mother was fully occupied before sticking his tongue out at the child as he passed. The child merely widened its eyes and its smile, misinterpreting Maxwell as a playful stranger. 

Little fool. Too dumb to even know I hate his fat little face. Maxwell shook his head, incredulous.

Gaining speed as the sidewalk opened up, Maxwell decided to test his nostrils, first the right, then the left. Nothing. Still hopelessly clogged. Each side emitted a pitiful snort, causing his ears to pop with the shifting air. Maxwell winced and drew a crumpled napkin from his coat pocket, dragging its edge across his raw nose. He winced again and coughed, feeling phlegm loosely rattle deep in his chest. 

He had taken so much Dayquil at work that day he was reminded of the first time he smoked pot in college and had the sensation that his head was only connected to his neck by the thinnest of fibers—his head could, at any point float away. 

His colleague, Susan Abrahams, who was in marketing, and subsequently altogether too friendly, had come into the office that morning bearing fresh rolls from the bakery downstairs. Maxwell had heard the happy murmurs spread up the aisle as Susan handed out the goods. The cubicles were filled with oohs and aahs and "oh my god, those smell amazing."

Maxwell could smell nothing. And told Susan so when she came around to offer him a roll.

"Brutal cold," he said. "I can barely breathe. So."

"You don't have to breath to chew, silly." She placed a roll on a stack of papers beside his keyboard.

"Feel better Max-y." 

He winced at the nickname and imagined planting his foot right against her receding backside.

Maxwell snapped back to attention hearing the shrill screech of brakes burst from the subway below. He took the stairs two by two, snatching his metro card from his wallet as he ran. He heard the metallic "bing bong" of the doors closing as he slid his card and slammed his hip against the turnstile, his body lurching forward. He glanced down at the screen. Too fast, it said. 

Maxwell theatrically moaned as he watched the subway disappear. He sighed audibly and tried his card again. Just used, it flashed. 

Goddamnit!  He walked over to the service booth snickering already.

Maxwell spoke up: "Excuse me?"

The agent glanced up from her crossword. 

"Yeah, baby?" The woman asked, poking her pen behind her ear.

"I have a monthly, and as per usual, your machines have failed to recognize that . . . " Maxwell began.

"Uh huh, swipe your card for me?" The speaker crackled and screeched. 

Maxwell could feel it in his sinuses. He tried to breathe in again. Nothing.

"Listen," he began. "Twice a week I come down here and I miss the train because..."

"Swipe your card for me?"

"I'm trying to explain that," Maxwell raised his voice to compensate for the noise of the oncoming train, "THAT YOUR SYSTEM IS BROKEN MISS."

"Run your card through?" Maxwell realized he was going to miss this train too. He obeyed and swiped his card.

"O.K. honey head on through the first turnstile."

"Thank you so much," Maxwell said, hoping for a final fleeting confrontation, but the woman had already returned to her crossword, her brow furrowed in concentration.

He hustled through the turnstile as the doors opened. He scanned the cars up and down the track, noticing that one was practically empty. He jogged down the platform and darted inside. 

"Ha!" he thought. "Suckers. All stuffed into those others cars like smelly sardines."

Maxwell barely glanced about, settling into a seat close to the door and against the pole so as only to have one neighbor, should any more people board this car. So far, he had the entire bench to himself. He pulled a book from his bag, sighing. His New Year's resolution was to read a few of the classics. He was sick and tired of people, saying, "Really, really? You've never read, blah blah blah."

His latest endeavor was Lolita. Sick bastard that Nabokov. Dirty old man. But despite Maxwell's attempts at obtaining a higher moral ground, he could feel his erection pressing painfully against his zipper as Humbert Humbert wrestled with his little lover. 

Maxwell raised his head slightly, anxiously glancing about the car before returning his gaze to the page, utterly absorbed. He sniffed and tasted this morning's coffee and the salty thickness of his cold. Still, he could smell nothing.

At the end of the bench, unnoticed by Maxwell, sat a homeless man, asleep and snoring. His bare toes curled up from his rotted shoes, the nails blackened, the skin bloated and raw. His trousers were impressively soiled; perhaps once they were brown corduroys.

Unbeknownst to Maxwell, a silent stream of yellow urine was sloshing up and down the blue plastic bench, creeping ever-closer.

The conductor announced that the next stop was Brooklyn Bridge, City Hall. Maxwell perked up his ears before settling down for the last few pages he could devour before exiting the train. As the train slid into the station and the brakes were applied, the urine made its final journey, gently seeping into the thick wool of Maxwell's overcoat. 

As the doors opened Maxwell stood up to exit the train. A teenager stepped on board and immediately clapped his hand over his nose.

"Dude!" was all he could utter from beneath his palm. His hand shot out and pointed to where Maxwell had been sitting.

Maxwell, utterly bewildered, stepped off the train and glanced over his shoulder.

He face grew very hot and his stomach dropped nine inches, joining his sodden socks in his shoes. 

No, no, no! he screamed inside. Please.  No. No.

He tried to maintain composure, but as he passed through the crowd, twisting his body sideways so as to make himself as small as possible, he watched the people's faces draw up in disgust, in confusion. He excused himself again and again, pretending there was an emergency waiting at the top of the stairs and ran outside. As his face hit the cold air, his nostrils suddenly cleared and the warm, wooly stench of his own overcoat filled the air.


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