And the winner is – 9/24

Jeremy shuffled down the hallway. Horns and whistles along with pounding feet continued to echo out of his subconscious.

“Morning,” said Stan. He flipped the newspaper before him as he leaned against the kitchen counter, fresh coffee already in hand.

“Hey.” Jeremy fumbled into the cabinet for his travel mug and poured himself a brimming cup.

The newspaper crackled as Stan flipped down a corner. “You alright?”

Jeremy shrugged and sipped, wincing as the steaming liquid hit his lips. “Didn’t sleep all that well. Weird dreams.”

“Like what?”

Jeremy frowned, the hazy memory slipping away like smoke. “I think there was a race track. But a whole bunch of animals were running, not just horses or greyhounds. These two, like a cheetah and a polar bear, were neck and neck at the end.”

“Sounds like you’re still trying to make up your mind.”

“Is that your professional opinion, Dr. Freud?”

“No,” Stan said with a shrug. “I’d have to charge you for that.”

Jeremy grunted. “I’m going to pick it out today.” He sipped again and let the brew burn his throat on the way down.

“So that’s why you’re up so early on your day off.”

“When else am I going to do it? I’m stuck commuting the rest of the time.”

Stan glanced down at his wrist. “Speaking of which. I gotta fly.” He folded the paper and tucked the gray pages into the crook in the arm of dress shirt. He disappeared around the corner leading to the front door with a swish of slacks.

Jeremy heard his loafers slap against the entryway’s tiles.

“Good luck.”

“Thanks,” he said. “Don’t bother locking it.”

“’K.”

The door closed and the latch stayed put. Jeremy straightened his damp hair, his gaze flicking to the digital clock on Stan’s microwave shoved into the counter’s back corner.

You’re going to miss it, he thought.

Wouldn’t have to if you could make up your mind, a childish voice whined from within him.

He stalked toward the door and tied on his sneakers. Sloughing on his jacket he headed out into the crisp morning. He cupped his mug in his hand as he headed out toward the sidewalk.

Stan’s sedan blinked at the intersection up ahead, and then he turned out into traffic.

Jeremy stopped at the bus stop at the corner and curled into his coat while a brisk wind cut at his lapels. His mind drifted back into a morning stupor until the rumble of the bus neared, then settled with a hiss before him. He swiped his pass through the reader and then dumped himself into one of the bucket seats by a window near the back. A squish sounded as he slumped.

“Not today.” He felt the moist lump along his right pant leg and lifted his knee. Lime green gum stretched in tendrils like mozzarella.

The bus surged and his coffee bubbled out of the drinking spout. He sucked up the fiery drops, burning a few more taste buds off his tongue.

He tried to forget the sticky substance and the sting as the bus began to crowd. Instead he gazed out the window as the minutes gathered into tens of minutes and then neared an hour.

The draping line of triangular flags fluttered around a nearing lot.

Jeremy yanked on the stop cord and stood, cracking his head onto the ceiling. He squeezed past those dangling from the hand rails and nearly toppled as a pair of travelers jumped for his seat at the same time. His hand grabbed onto the pipe by the back exit and he hauled himself into the stair well. The bus surged to a halt and the doors swung with a groan.

Jeremy trotted out and checked on the gum as the bus rumbled on. The mass had hardened and he picked it off, tossing the lump into the bus stops garbage can before walking along the line of cars glistening beneath the flags.

He turned at the first driveway and headed toward the stout, glass faced building occupying the center of the lot like a hole in a doughnut.

The door chimed as he stepped inside.

“Good morning,” said a rotund man rising from behind a sprawling desk occupied with files. He pressed down at his tie as he rounded the furniture and strode forward, hand extended. His broad grin sparkled like the top of his head. “It’s good to see you again.”

Jeremy traded the cup in his hands and shook. “Yeah.”

“Jeremy, right?”

Jeremy smiled and drew back his palm, his fingers wrapping around his mug and knuckles whitening. “That’s me.” He glanced at the black rectangle pinned by the other man’s tie and added, “Barry.”

“What brings you in today, test drive again or just a browse?”

Jeremy blew out a long breath and cast his eyes out the large windows. The flowing curves along the ebony sports car tugged at his gaze.

“She is a beauty,” said Barry. “Moves like a cheetah.”

Jeremy frowned and pivoted to peer through another set of panes. A stout azure hatchback with eco labels by the trunk stared back at him like a clear summer sky.

“Then there’s the environment to consider,” Barry said with a grim nod.

Jeremy swallowed and turned back to Barry. He shoved a thumb out into the compact lot.

“I’ll take that one.”

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