Foggy Bottom

From DC’s skyline to it’s underground rail system, one has to wonder how the capital of our great Republic has come to symbolize so much decay and brokenness. Escalator outages pervade Metro, clogging the human flow. Congress teases us with shuttering the Department of Homeland Security, even in the face of recent threats. These perversions and abuses gave me reason to revisit this discard from my current WIP, a reflection on the great federal furlough of 2013.

FOGGY BOTTOM

Oscar Keye rode backwards on the train. Behind him, in the direction towards which he moved, all of Washington lay deep in a fog. His eyes returned to the sign: IF YOU SEE SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING. And there, on the stained carpet at his feet, the black bag with no obvious owner.

The shaking railcar slowed, stopped. The usual commuter panic ensued: doors opened; passengers squeezed out; passengers pushed their way in. Crammed like cattle, Keye thought, even during the shutdown. The doors closed and the train started off.

Keye rode backwards contemplating the threat of an ownerless black bag at his feet, an unfunded position at work, and a mortgage he might not be able to pay at home. He glanced at the Washington Express on his neighbor’s lap.

WORLD MARKETS UNSTEADY AS U.S. BUDGET IMPASSE DRAGS ON

SENATE ENDS GUN DEBATE BEFORE IT BEGINS

DECAPITATED BODY FOUND ON TRACKS

Distracted by the bag, Keye couldn’t get past the headlines. He submitted to the shake and roar until they reached his stop at Foggy Bottom. A barely audible recording announced, “Passengers are reminded that safety and security are everyone’s responsibility. Please report unattended bags or suspicious behavior to Metro Transit Authorities by calling…”

The doors opened before Keye heard the number. He disembarked, clutching the plastic bag that contained his lunch. Ahead of him the human mass backed up on itself. Commuters bumped him from behind as he slowed to a crawl.

I see something suspicious, Keye thought. All around him, people staring at telephones, plodding forward without seeing where they went, risking a tumble on the escalator.

Which, it turned out, wasn’t working.

Again.

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