“Oh my,” thought Harriet.  “I should say something.”

She didn’t, though.  Nathan, her grown son, had begun to hint lately.

“I think you meant that the other way ‘round,” he’d say.  He’d smile when he said things like this, but it didn’t feel the least bit friendly.

But this was—what’s the word—not sanguine, not salient… singular.  This was a singular opportunity.

The man was no longer approaching, he was walking away, a train leaving the station.  What time was it?  Was she missing her train?

There’d be another train, she thought, trains aren’t singular.  Opportunities are singular.

She began to hurry as much as her right hip would allow.

The gentleman in the fedora stopped to look at the board where they post the track numbers.

She caught up with him.  “Excuse me,” she started.

He turned to her with the most sincere, the most wonderful eyes.  “Yes…?” he said.

Harriet was stuck.  Everything she’d wanted to say was stuck at the back of her throat.

“Do you need help finding your train?” he offered.

She shook her head and began fumbling with her purse.  She was blushing.

“I have…” she began.  “One of those… not phonograph…”

“No, no, I… I don’t suppose it’d fit in there…” he said with a twinkle in his eye.  “Perhaps you mean an autograph book?”

“Yes!” she cooed.  “And here it is!”  She handed him the tiny, ivory-colored book with the gold foil imprint.  It had an attached pen.  He took it and smiled.

“Is there… is there someone in particular I should make it out to?”

“Harriet,” she said.  “Please,” she thought to add.  “And Nathan.  That’s my son.”

“Harriet…” he said, as he was writing.  She couldn’t keep from staring, even though it was rude.  He formed a little “o” with his mouth while he was writing.

“Now, now there you go, I, I don’t want you to miss your train,” he said, pressing the book into her hand, the pen tucked in its loop.  “You, you have a wonderful day, now, Harriet.”  He smiled warmly at her.

In the middle of Grand Central Station, her heart was beating like a teenage girl’s.

She caught the next train.  Nathan met her at the station, and he’d almost gotten over having to pick up his mother during dinner.

“Do you want to know why I missed my train?” she asked when she’d gotten in his car.

“Wrong track?” he ventured.

“No...” she teased.

“How about you just tell me,” he said, navigating the DeSoto out of the parking lot.

Harriet waited until Nathan had pulled to a stop to hand him the autograph book, open to the page.

He held it in the streetlight’s glow.  He read it, closed the book and leaned over, taking his mother in both arms.

When they were driving again, Harriet re-read the inscription.

“To my new friend, Harriet, and her son, Nathan.  By the way, Nathan, your mother just made my day.  All the best, Jimmy Stewart.”


Submitted: April 27, 2020

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