Trains Dream of Sweet Things – A Short Story

I had a very hard time today, coming up with an idea for a blog post. It didn’t dawn on me till late this evening that I might be feeling a bit burnt out. I thought about writing about going to see The Martian, but the words just weren’t coming. I thought about sharing poetry, but nothing seemed right. So instead I’ll share with you a short story that I wrote for a contest (which I didn’t win but whatever.)  Thanks for reading, and don’t forget about my giveaway! There’s only five days left to enter. 🙂 a Rafflecopter giveaway

Trains Dream of Sweet Things

They laid the train tracks back to front and this caused a great deal of confusion – you’d think you were on the train to New York and arrived in Kinshasa, or to Shanghai and found yourself lost in Istanbul. But that was then, and this is now. Now men with shiney shoes and money in their pockets rebuild old tracks to be better. “Everything must have order,”  they say, “we have fast, new trains now.”

Yes, faster, faster, more people need to go from here to there, don’t think, don’t worry. Everything will be fine.

If only they would ask us, thought a lowly train.

“The dreamers are my favorite. After twenty-five years of gathering tickets, helping businessmen not get lost, and listening to women tell me stories of the husbands they ran away from, I’ve come to the conclusion that dreamers are my favorite type of people.

They’re easy to spot.  Dreamers always sit next to the window. The dreamers are quiet, they don’t always look you in the eyes, but when they do, you see their eyes are wide and round, bright and alive, and full of the stars. The dreamers watch the rolling hills and cities with fascination, getting high off of the speed, becoming alive in midst of the daily life of a train.  Why are dreamers my favorite you ask?

Because they see something that most don’t.  Normal people come and go, they spill their morning coffee on the red rug, they let their babies scream for an hour. Normal people complain when the weather causes delays, they complain about each other, they spit and throw trash and dig their nails into the seats.

Dreamers do none of these things. They know that the train is every bit alive as they are. The dreamers can feel the train welling up with power at the station, the dreamers clasp the arm rests with white knuckles, gasping with pleasure as we all take off.  
The fact of the matter is, some of us know the truth, some of us don’t. Some of us are respectful, some of us aren’t.  My dreamers are present and alive.”

The ticket manager’s head nods as he finishes talking, and he drifts into sleep.

Yes, the train thinks, the dreamers are my favorite too.

“Evenin’ mister, twopence shoe shine sir?” A rough young cockney voice asks. Feet attached to briefcases hurry on without a second glance at the blond haired lad.

“Please ma’am, twopence shoe shine?”

“Leave me alone boy.” The matron scolds, pushing him back slightly.

The boy rocks on the edge of the tracks, waving his arms like a decapitated chicken.

“Steady there laddy.” An arm grabs the boy by his suspenders and pulls him back onto the platform.

“Dangerous thing to be doing there me boy, playing on the tracks like a wee youngin’.” The man has red cheeks barely visible underneath a black beard.

“I wasn’t playin’” The words are cross though the face is grateful.

The man’s eyes twinkle, “Well then I suppose you were shining the train’s shoes?”

The boy laughs, pulls off his cap, rubs sweat off his neck, and asks hopefully,

“Twopence shoe shine sir?”

“Aye, why not laddy, I might have some change to spare.”

The man sits down upon the boy’s wooden box and idly reads a small book while the boy works his shinning trade.

“Well lad, you’ve done a good job. Thanky.” The man hands the boy a few coins, tips his hat and walks into the crowd of people unloading from the train.

The boy stares at the coins in his dirty hands; he has more money today than he has ever in his whole life.

Thunder rolls in the background, shoes clatter on the platform, constant noise, constant movement. He’s always wanted to move, to fly, to go away.  A fresh chance smiles sweetly up at him from his hand. On the side of his body the boy feels the dim ache of the bruise he received last night from his drunk uncle.

The boy smiles back at chance, and buys a ticket.

The train feels the boy’s tattered shoes climb aboard and feels his excitement,

“I’ll take you on an adventure!” The train hoots.

The conductor takes pity on the small boy. He takes out a blanket from his trunk in the front of the train and lays it on the boy’s lap.  A small twinge in his heart makes a tear slip unwanted from his eyes. He remembers another boy from years ago.

“Grandpa!” The conductor can still hear the other boy’s voice.

“Such a long time ago.” The old man says, and strokes the train’s railings. “A long time ago. Before you and I were friends.” The old man sighs and feels as though the train sighs with him.

Then his old ears hear something else, the screech of the train’s brakes.

Oh, the train thinks, I was having such a pleasant time.

The train puffs and roars, rearing back against the hands of its masters. Sparks scatter off the tracks. Matter against matter collides into each other’s fiery embrace.

The ticket collector sees his dreamers flash before his eyes.

The boy is sleeping as walls surrounding him close around his body.

The conductor is thrown out the window, spreading his blood on the green of England.

The train’s last thoughts are “Now I’ve done it.”

From the platform the people standing can see the two trains moving at speeds too fast, brakes grinding, and finally fronts colliding with a sickening crash.

Men use briefcases to shield themselves and those nearest to them, while others huddled in doorways get up to survey the mess. The firetruck comes, the small town’s only doctor is rushed out of bed, but it’s no use. No one makes it out alive.

Rain dripping from the rusty gutters makes a curtain between the platform and the tracks.

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