Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Entry #123

Through a Wine Glass, Darkly
by Stephen Parrish


The train rolled along an iron ribbon that cut through hills packed crisp with snow. The train's wheels CLANK-clanked every few seconds in an unerring rhythm, like a mechanical heartbeat.

Inside the dining car the passengers toasted their good fortune. The atmosphere was reminiscent of an orchestra tuning up: clinking wine glasses and the distant clatter of cooking utensils punctuated the static noise of hushed conversations. Shards of light sprinkled down from chandeliers and bejeweled the crowded car.

The maitre d' himself poured the wine. The vintage? Thirty-three. A good one? Never better. One to offer a lady, he said, on a cold winter night.

Now the train rolled out of the hills and onto a plain. The plain was map-flat, as if a giant, oppressive thumb had pushed the hills down and smoothed the valleys over. And with the change of landscape came a change of season. The snow was gone, the trees were dressed in green, and grape vines were assembled in orderly rows for the vintners who pruned them.

The train slowed. Waiters cleared dishes and passengers gathered bags. Outside, guides waited along the tracks to escort the passengers through an arched gate and deliver them to the buildings beyond. When the train stopped and the passengers disembarked, the vintners avoided looking up from their pruning. It was just another arrival. They did not want to admit they had seen it.

24 comments:

Hoodie said...

What a beautifully crafted piece. Like music. Fantastic!

Kimberly B. said...

Wonderful use of descriptive language. I particularly liked this line:
"The atmosphere was reminiscent of an orchestra tuning up: clinking wine glasses and the distant clatter of cooking utensils punctuated the static noise of hushed conversations."
You really made me feel like I was there!

Laurel said...

Gorgeous, gorgeous descriptions. Makes me want to take a train somewhere!

Elegant piece.

JR's Thumbprints said...

This is a nicely crafted story. I like the variation in sentences and word choice. Bravo!

laughingwolf said...

another good one, thx steve :)

The Preacherman said...

This is stunning but why are the vintners determined to pretend they haven't seen the passengers?

33 vintage. Could this be a train in Europe in WWII or is my imagination going haywire - well it is 3 a.m. on a night shift....


Four Dinners

Catvibe said...

I'm with Preacherman. With your title as a clue, I get that the buildings these people are going to is not going to be fun. Am I imagining this? Beautiful descriptions.

Catvibe said...

are not going to be fun. I are a writer. Jeesh.

Kurt Hendricks said...

Wonderful. Oddly reminiscent of "Folsom Prison Blues".

lucy said...

It was all an illusion.....better to pretend not to see what was happening. That way you were not a part of it. Your writing made me part of your story. I got it!

Aerin said...

I couldn't comment at first because of the emotion that caught my heart in my chest. I don't do WWII very well, and you and Ello and PJD all pushed that button in my psyche...gosh I "love" having such intelligent eloquent friends

Precie said...

Mastefully done!

Deb S said...

Beautifully written. The pace and elegance of the writing really fit the train ride setting.

Chris Eldin said...

I agree---masterfully written!! So elegant. It has a subtle romantic feel which ends with a quiet forboding. I have many questions about the train and its passengers. This is simply a beautiful vignette!!

pjd said...

With still 35 yet to read, I've made this my #1 for readers choice. And there are some really good ones out there I like a lot. I didn't really get the train's destination until I read through the comments, but then it became clear. Just another arrival. Every bit of the description, the phrasing, the pacing of each sentence (I love the maitre d' talking about the win). Really admirable writing, as I expected.

Big f'ing bazooka man.

BernardL said...

Very full and rich in flavor. :)

Aerin said...

oy with the bazookas

Sarah Laurenson said...

More, please. I want to know more.

Awesome job!

Aniket said...

I am in complete awe. This is most definitely going to bag a spot in top 5.

Rich writing and soulful intent. Every word serves a greater purpose towards taking the reader to someplace else. I am glad it doesn't have the specifics cause it gives our imagination the freedom to perceive it as we would like.

Definitely in my top 5 too.

JaneyV said...

Stephen - I'm blown away by this. It's drainingly poignant. You write so beautifully. The image of the giant oppressive thumb sat on my chest as I began to suspect what was happening,

So very good.

September said...

Wow. This was absolutely beautiful. I loved it. Exceptionally well written and well told. Depicting a final destination through a train ride - amazingly done. I lift my glass up to you.

McKoala said...

Beautiful work, Mr P!

jason evans said...

Something diabolical is afoot. The description lulls us to that arrival. Only we've definitely seen it.

Congratulations on Honorable Mention!!

Jaye Wells said...

I love the juxtaposition of lush description and ominous foreshadowing here. Well done!