My Words, My World

First drafts – A few pages in the large wilderness of the world of writing

Archive for the tag “train”

A train, and Ernest

The train leaves Milan Central station and heaves over the tracks in the rain which streaks the dirty windows; its carriages are packed with steaming rush-hour tiredness and anger.

The young man sits in the corner up against the window, as the rain beats time, with Hemingway’s words falling off the pages as he tries to concentrate but can’t.  For Whom the Bell Tolls?  The bell was tolling for people who want peace and quiet on a train carriage to allow them to read, he thinks.

A fat man who’d possibly eaten only garlic for lunch sits opposite, hand wrapped around his phone in some strange death-grip as he seethes and steams, letting the person on the other end know as well as the other three occupied seats around him that, Cazzo! the fucking contract has to be there by Friday or it’s not just his balls on the line, understand?.  He doesn’t say which line, which is OK; the less he talks the better, the young man thinks, his own anger rising.

Through the red mist that descends before his eyes the young man looks up and sees her, in the opposite seat across the aisle.  Her silky, shoulder-length hair is dark, and her hazel eyes strike out from her face which seems to have had the benefit of a tan recently.  In her jeans and blue sweater with white stripes (a little French he thinks: oui mademoiselle, oui), she becomes his calm in a storm-tossed sea.  He watches from a distance, as her forehead wrinkles and she glares at the woman opposite her.

This woman opposite has her tablet on her lap and has wires and a mike stuck to her head as she babbles continuously, her voice rising, informing everyone that didn’t want to know that Cazzo! how the hell is she supposed to fit in another meeting on Thursday, she isn’t a fucking machine you know.  Sat there looking like Robo-Queen that could be debated, the girl thinks, as she lowers her head and raises her book in an attempt to block out the irritation. As she does so the young man opposite gasps.  A Farewell to Arms – Hemingway; she’s reading Hemingway!

Mr Garlic is making another call but its wafting anger slips into the background as the young man looks only at the young woman across the aisle, his book held up to his chest, now half-forgotten.  The train starts to slow.

Robo-Queen finishes her call and transforms into e-bitch as she proceeds to beat the hell out of her tablet, with two fingers having some maniacal life of their own as she sends an email, probably shouting Cazzo, cazzo, cazzo!

The fat garlic man wheezes his bulk into an overcoat big enough to protect a small car from winter frost and grabs his briefcase, stuffed full, as its leather creaks for mercy, and he makes his way to the door.

The young woman looks up.  She sees the young man looking at her and her eyes drop to his chest.  She sees.  Fine lines around her eyes appear and she gives him a smile.  He returns it just as e-bitch starts to make another phone call.  He waves her over to the now-vacated seat opposite him and they whisper words of Ernest, in earnest, as the train takes them home.

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Love thy neighbour…give me space.

Enclosed space behavioural patterns, what’s it called, lift behaviour? The doors close on two people who only seconds before were having a friendly chat over an espresso in the hotel bar. Now they shut up shop and silence ensues when the doors close like a pair of folded arms. The will to wish the lift to rise is strong and the relief is almost tangiable when it arrives. It seems like the lift and its occupants are holding their breath and finally let it out when the doors open, when those arms unfold. It’s a unique situation; it doesn’t happen when four people are squashed into a car. Space.

Then we have train space conservation; we do, so bear with me.

Four seats and only one of them occupied, their occupant relaxed and probably reading, playing Candy Crush or possibly, Heaven forbid, writing, with a pen and paper don’t you know. A second person arrives and sits down diagonally opposite. A shuffling of feet and space, reluctantly, is conceded. This is still bearable. The first occupant continues as before; reading, Candy Crushing or maybe writing. The new arrival starts to rummage in his bag and out comes a book, a phone or maybe, just maybe, a pen and paper. Two people sitting diagonally can share the same space comfortably; they may even swap greetings – sometimes it still happens, it really does. This sense of conviviality continues, each to their own doing what they’re doing with possibly the occasional glance out the window, looking at the black and white cows in the fields. Why are all the cows black and white when seen from the window of a train? Where are the other cow colours? Is there a law that says only black and white cows can graze near railway lines?

Then the train pulls into the next station. Both occupants look up from what they’re doing, look at the seats next to them, move their bags half an inch nearer their feet and wait. They hold their breath. Time doesn’t stand still but they wish it would; they want to remain with an empty seat next to them forever. They don’t want their space encroached upon but they know it’s going to happen, it has to.

The doors of the train open with a swoosh and people file in, looking for a seat, any seat. It doesn’t matter next to who, they just want to sit down, to have their own place where they can sit and read a book, play the telephone or possibly write. The two original occupants frown, engage in more feet shuffling and move their bags another half an inch to see if that is enough. If not they will sigh, sometimes audibly, and rearrange their space; four seats, four people. With space dramatically reduced the original occupants will have to get used to it. The two new arrivals on the other hand are as happy as Larry. They have their seat and now they can relax, coat off and a big, happy sigh of relief and then out come the books, phones or pen and paper (all four of them?  Oh come on…). They’re on holiday these newcomers, look at them! Any more relaxed and they’d put their feet up (well, if the seat opposite wasn’t occupied) and ask the ticket inspector for a pina colada. The two original occupants are most definitely NOT on Holiday.  Their winter has returned; it’s darker now the light from the windows has diminished in the crowded carriage. The book has become harder to read, Candy harder to crush and the thoughts transmitted from pen to paper are harder to come by.  Frowns indent foreheads and half-hidden glares stared.  Goodwill to all men, except those sitting next to you.

Love thy neighbour, but only if you have the space to do so.

You are reality

The heart doesn’t flutter;
it hammers, in my chest.
On the train,
the rolling motion,
my rolling emotions,
as the station nears.
The final stop; full stop.

Months in the waiting,
weeks in the planning
and my heart beats the seconds
that pass, too fast.

Am I the only one
alive in this carriage?
This miscarriage of humanity.
Where is the humanity?
Talk to me!
You! The Ipod girl,
in front of Ipad man,
beside Facebook boy
and Candy Crush sister.

Ah! Enough of them.
I’ve been drawn to meet you,
talk to you and kiss you.
As I hold your letter.
A LETTER!
Words on a once-tree,
the Parker Pen veins
stand out, draw me in.
As you stand in the rain,
black brolly Polly,
dark as mystery,
deep as a desert night
but not so old,
nor so cold.

Sand stinging, hand wringing
a nervous encounter,
here at the counter
of the coffee bar.
Spoons clink and rattle
And our nerves finally settle.

I’ll just close my eyes a while

Ah, at last.  I’ve finally written something fictional, it seems ages since the last one.  Thanks to Morgen Bailey and her Story Writing Exercises I found myself writing this at half past midnight, using the keywords:  need, leave, Nebraska, pick, song.  I went slightly over the 15 minute limit – 17 to be exact.  Then I left it, went to bed and came back to touch it up this morning.  So, thanks for that Morgen.  Great exercise!  So, let’s see how this little 550-worder stands up in the warm light of a summer morning shall we?

  ***

My back is sore, my legs cramped and my coat can’t be pulled any more tightly around me. My breath fogs and my fingers and toes seem to have left me for warmer climes, but my ribs, hard against the hard cold wood, jolting and jerking, are the worst.

I’d taken a beating before leaving Summer Creek. Panning for gold in them hills can make you feel like a king, but it can make others feel like killing you, make them envious. I’d gotten away as best I could I suppose, considering the kicking I got. Still, I kept my gold, or most of it. They only found a few nuggets and the rest was well-hidden. It was the gold I’d promised not to touch: Janie’s gold. The gold I wanted to win Janie back with, the gold I need to win Janie back. As I move I can hear her letter rustle in my coat pocket, a crinkled reminder of a love gone bad, and a love now gone.

The hell was she doing in Nebraska anyhow? What, or rather who made her leave? I knew the answer to that; she couldn’t live alone for long, she needed company and preferable the male-type. The Lincoln postmark was the first thing I saw when I received the letter, two months ago now. It made my heart sink, then I panned just that little bit harder, worked just that little bit longer to bring her some gold from the Black Hills, to get her to come back to St. Louis. I’m a fool, I know but this is no fool’s gold in my possession. She’ll see that, when we meet. I still can’t believe she’s gone even now. I can think of nothing else as I sit, freezing my ass in this slow, empty cattle wagon, shunting and bumping through the South Dakota night.

I lay my head back, close my eyes and listen to the movement over the tracks, each cross-tie and rail joint out to get me. I’m sure I can taste blood now; punctured lung? Could be, 6 pairs of boots can do damage to a man already weakened with a broken heart. I begin to hum an old song; The ship that never returned, one of our camp side favourites. Billy would take that banjo from the sackcloth and pick like an Appalachian angel. Billy. Billy bust flat this autumn, running up debts and making enemies. They took his banjo, then they took Billy. Mountain justice. No one said anything, we all had debts but most of us were panning enough for our need; except Billy.

All this gold weighing down my pocket and I’ve not eaten in almost a week; feels like my stomach is touching my backbone: it probably is. At least I’ve Janie’s gold, hidden good. I would write her a letter or a note but my fingers couldn’t hold a pencil. I’ll just sit here all quiet. I wish there was at least a cow for company.

I feel so weak, so tired, it’s getting colder. I can taste the blood good now, getting stronger with every jolt of the train. I think I’ll just close my eyes a bit. I know I shouldn’t but just for a short while, I’m so tired. And so damned cold.

The Train Window

I was still breathing deeply and out of breath as the train left Milan and entered the countryside.  My heart was beating like a hammer on an anvil.  Did I really just witness someone killed?  Did I really see those men take a life?  Did those men see me as I ran for the safety of people and the station?  I was too far away to do something and hopefully to far away to be considered a witness, at least by those men.  Who were they?  What had the dead man done?  I relax into my seat, breathing under control and look out of the train window.

The flat, still-green farmlands speed by my view at about a 100 miles per hour; la Frecciarossa – the Red Arrow – is the train taking me across the northern Italian plain.  The vineyards; with vines now stripped of their fruit and displaying their autumnal dress.  Shades of green, red, yellow and brown fill my view: The window view.  Like the mother whose son has upped and left home, bearing the weight of the grapes is now a memory for the vine, which will soon be bare for the coming winter.

The low pylon wires running parallel to the track, powering the great train on its way, keep me company but spoil my view of the pale blue sky, slowly suffocating under fat, moist, grey clouds from the east.

The tilled earth of the northern plain, the soil, freshly turned, contrasting with the green, showing brown but somehow…clean.  The appearance of a hard job done well, of a tidy desk left in its place after a day at the office.  For the farmer it is his desk.  Where is that farmer now?  Enjoying the fruits of his labours?  Probably not; it’s a little early to get on the wine but I appreciate his spotless fields.

Now I’ve left the fields and entered a town.  Grey, monotonous concrete destroys any view I might have had.  It’s strange how grey feels so dismal, especially concrete, even in the sunshine.  If I can’t see out the window then I prefer the black of night, at least I can use my imagination.  God forbid it rain; there’s nothing more depressing than a miserable, wet winter’s day, with the light failing early and the concrete, sodden and cold, both to the touch and eye.  But it ends.

The fields have returned.  In the sunshine the fields come to life, even in the autumn.  The sunshine brings animation, inspiration, motivation even.  Motivation to keep moving; to follow the sun.  To not allow the autumn sun to set forever on another year and be followed with a violent sadness by the arrival of winter.  The sunlight flickers continuously from the flashing shade of the pylons and I shield my eyes.  Then relief comes as the train enters a tunnel, if I remember rightly it’s a long one.  I continue to stare out of the window.  The train roars through and I can’t hear myself think, so I don’t: I just stare, waiting. 

It’s then I notice in the window a shape behind me, blacker than the tunnel wall.  A man; standing…also waiting.  In the reflection is that a knife I see in his hand?

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