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Third prize winner of the 8th Annual Geist Literal Literary Postcard Story Contest.
A woman sits on a bench outside the Edmonton VIA Rail station. 11:36 p.m. Behind, the train hums and sighs. Service attendants huddle in long blue coats, smoking. Fresh passengers wait inside the station for the boarding call. In the parking lot to the east, a young man runs and skids on hard-packed snow, enticing his German shepherd to play. The dog sniffs the ground and tracks a line toward the lamppost. The seated woman lights a cigarette. Pockets the lighter. From around the corner a second woman approaches. She stops at the bench and looks around, squinting. Turns a full circle and then stops. She gestures to the empty portion of the bench.
—Is anyone sitting here?
The first woman shakes her head, no. The second woman sits down. Fidgets. Time passes. She looks the first woman over. Looks away. Looks back. Finally she speaks.
—Where are you from?
—Seattle. Sea-Tac, actually.
They both look aside.
—Like, you work there?
—No. I’m from there.
—From the airport.
The second woman leans back. Uncrosses her legs. Crosses them the other way.
—Like, in one of the hotels there?
—No. In the terminal. On the bench beside the stairs underneath the glass pyramid.
—I didn’t realize that was allowed.
—It’s a loophole they created with overnight layovers.
—Aren’t you coming from Ontario?
—But you’re American.
The first woman shakes her head, flicks a dry leaf of ash off the end of her cigarette and resumes smoking.
—How long did you actually live at Sea-Tac?
—Just one night.
—It was a long night.
—So you’re not actually from there. You just slept there between flights.
—I guess if that’s how you want to see it, yes.
The dog across the parking lot pauses, head raised, and stares intent at some hidden point beyond the realm of light. The station door opens and closes. Luggage wheels begin to roll and scrape across gravel-salted pavement. The second woman speaks again.
—Where are you headed now?
—What’s in Abbotsford?
—That’s where my family lives.
—Is that where you grew up?
—Not really, no.
—Let me guess. You grew up at Vancouver International?
The first woman smiles. She tosses her cigarette into butt-pocked snow covering a concrete planter.
—I’d say I grew up on the Trans-Canada Highway. Though my true adolescence was spent in Beacon Hill Park in Victoria.
—What did you do in Beacon Hill Park?
—I slept on a rock next to my puke.
—I’m just glad it didn’t rain.