Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The Railway

"God. Sometimes I want to scratch the skin right off my body."


"Don't you ever feel that way?"

"No. Not really."

"I can't wait to graduate and get the fuck out of here. I'm telling you. I sit in my room. I just sit there and wait for my head to explode."

"Understandable. I don't know how you deal with your dad."

"I can't believe we actually live in this place. The dirt. The shit falling down everywhere. Half the world's a Goddamn strip mine."

"You're really cheery today."

"Don't you ever think about it? How easy it would be? We slip down this hill and climb into one of those cars. We roll off in the sunset. Free at last."

"That train's not moving."

"Yeah, I realize that."

"It's been parked there all summer. Totally empty."

"Right again."

"I wonder why they do that."

"Oh, Christ."


"You know what? I'm going to come back here in twenty years. Just to visit. I'm going to stand here and think about all the cool things in my life. And I'm going to think about you. How Brad settled for a job down at the hospital emptying bedpans and how Brad still lives in his grandparents' house. I'm going to think about all these corpses walking around town. I'm going to think about how you turned into one of them."

* * * * *

He stood high above the valley replaying the old conversation in his head and remembering the restlessness. Maybe he still felt it. Maybe a little.

He thought of Brad and wondered what ever became of him.

He was right about leaving and about accomplishing many things. But he was wrong about how it would feel. He didn't expect the guilt over leaving them all behind and missing their lives. He wished he could ask Brad to forgive him.

Back in his car on his way out of town, he breezed through the old streets one last time. And when he met the eyes of a familiar face, he did not stop. He looked away and drove on.

(Picture: St. Michael, Pennsylvania, overlooking what was the bottom of Lake Conemaugh.)


Susan Abraham said...

Most of us would be able to identify with such true-to-life plots, Jason. Your dialogue structure was ever so tidy. You captured the flow well.
I really enjoyed this story.

anne said...

Feeling cheery today, are we...

Anonymous said...

Very nice. I think what I enjoyed the most was when he saw a familiar face, he looked away and kept on driving. We can never go back to a previous time, but we can reminisce.

normiekins said...

don't ask forgiveness for your success...just remember to be humble.... ;)

Marcail said...

I enjoyed this story and sure empathize with the protag. To hate your roots and feel guilty about these feelings is like hating a part of yourself. Damaging to the soul, it requires some resolution for remedy.

Thanks for a thought-provoking read.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...


jlb said...

This is wonderful Jason - I really enjoyed the reflection.

anne frasier said...

wow, jason. that was wonderful.

mermaid said...

The more we understand ourselves, the more we feel the presence of others. If he got 'out', he was also able to come back 'in' with a deeper vision.

Jeff said...

Insightful and well-written. Very nice, Jason!

Eileen said...

Great first line. Very striking.

Anonymous said...

Susan, thanks. I wanted to do a brief piece exploring some of the emotions of leaving a small town. Finding this parked train was a great opportunity for a picture too.

Anne, I don't mean to be a downer. ;)

Steve, this vignette is a mix of fiction and truth, as are many of the examples of this type of writing on my blog. The part about turning away is true.

Normiekins, very astute advice. :)

Marcail, very insightful. I do think it's damaging. I have yet to resolve my own version of this story.

Minx, didn't see that one coming? ;)

Bekbek, thanks. :)

JLB, much appreciated, my friend. :)

Anne, much obliged! :) Do you like the picture? I love the bend in the disappearing train and the fact that every car is clean and empty.

Mermaid, I'm always impressed by your insights, but this one especially. I've never considered that angle. Yes, you're correct. Leaving was an essential part of understanding what it was like to be there.

Jeff, thanks, my friend. :)

Eileen, first lines are wonderful and terrifying to write. I'm glad this one worked for you!

Manic Mom said...

Ooh, you're making me itchy.

Robert Ball said...

I loved the notion of a train parked all summer. Such a compact way of expressing the frustration of freedom being restrained and all of the associated frustrations.

I was also intrigued by the recognition/rejection of a familar face. A new twist to you can never really go back home.

BluJewel said...

Thanks for the stop by. This was a great read. I'm going to have to stop by here often.

Wilf said...

I liked the contrast between the two lives, past and present. His prediction about his future was somehow depressing.
I like to think that Brad left too.

Terri said...

Another stunning photo. I like the story too; it's very real.

anne frasier said...

jason, the photo is fantastic, but your writing had a wonderful, subtle punch that i really loved.

Anonymous said...

Manic Mom, I can't say I've had that effect on a person before. I hope it's not contagious. :D

Robert, thanks for the feedback. :) That train evoked the whole moment for me.

Blujewel, you're welcome anytime.

Wilf, thanks. :) I also liked the contrast between his brash youth and more reflective adulthood.

Terri, I just happened on this trail in the Johnstown Flood National Park. The best photograph moments are like that. Totally unexpected.

Anne, thanks, my friend. :)

Jaye Wells said...

Wonderful job--even though it made me a little sad. It seems the nostalgia and philosophical tendencies of fall have caught up with you.

mysfit said...

very real - i know this feeling...

i wanted to let you know that i stop by too even if i don't often comment...

Anonymous said...

Jaye, thanks, my friend. :) Yes, quite a lot has caught up to me this fall.

Mysfit, thanks so much. :) I feel a little extra brightness when I see a post of yours appear.

cheesemeister said...

Actually, I'm kinda feeling this way right now!

Anonymous said...

That's a little spooky, Cheesemeister. I like it!

writerwoman said...

I like how you captured the sense of wanting to break away from home and a confining small town atmosphere.