Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Entry #36

Atomic Punk
by Caveblogem


The train dragged a cherry-red, superheated steel wheel down the Sierra foothills, bringing a plume of sparks to the foggy gloom of the vast Roseville, California switching yards on that spring day approaching the end of the Vietnam War. A lit fuse on an early Independence Day.

One of billions of tiny, young, evanescent, stars found its mark, a bomb of some conventional-yet-scary type, or a huge, leaky, steel bottle of propane. The phrase "chain-reaction" misses the way explosions began to leap from train to train, track to track.

It took all morning to convince Mom to let us out. Reliving a Cuban Missile Crisis pregnancy. She didn't want to risk the end products of that Vandenberg A.F.B. bunker morning sickness.

A sun-bleached pre-teen I carted my skateboard to the top of the hill, went over the chain-link fence, and stood, stretching to better view the growing mushroom clouds.

Grandpa had said they were bombs to fill the bellies of B-52 Superfortresses, the kind that Slim Pickens flew in Dr. Strangelove. They wouldn't reach Mather or Beale to be transported to Vietnam or possibly Cambodia.

Not this time.

Years before, the Country Joe MacDonald song endlessly looped through my brain, and I made my parents promise that they wouldn't let me be "sent home in a box." Older now. I leaned back, hoping that if one of the explosions turned out to be atomic, I'd leave a lasting shadow on the grey concrete behind me.

13 comments:

strugglingwriter said...

I loved the last sentence, particularly how it referenced the photograph. Nice work

Jim said...

I liked the mental image of the train yard going up in sequential explosions.

Fran Piper said...

Good story. Is it based on a real event? (The train explosion, that is - the rest of the events are very real indeed, and very well captured.)

caveblogem said...

Thanks, strugglingwriter and Jim.

Fran Piper,

The disaster at the Roseville Switching yards did happen at about that time. Most of the explosions, particularly the largest ones, were from propane tankers, or natural gas tankers. The small ones were the bombs.

Fran Piper said...

Thanks, caveblogem! I had never heard about this. (I wasn't living in the USA back then.)

Good punchy writing too. I particularly like the first sentence. It pulled me in immediately.

Anonymous said...

A strong opening and some powerful imagery. Good story.

Anonymous said...

This is clever, linking in the photo at the end. I've always liked post/pre-apocyphal stories like this.

Anonymous said...

i love this kind of story!

Christian said...

Vivid depiction of the beauty of apocalyptic chaos. Tasty!

S. W. Vaughn said...

Powerful in more ways than one!

Anonymous said...

Very powerful. The end jolted me; made me appreciate the writing even more.

Anonymous said...

I love this story! Big events felt by everyday lives. It's very real and exciting at the same time. Thank you!

jason evans said...

Loved the "flash" of attitude at the end! You wrapped it up nicely.