Flash Fictions

Act One

Act One: Packaging train travel from the lounge car windows.

What remains of the industrial species are brick erections. Arms chewed away to hard calcium anchorages, gravity-pulled muscles dreadlock down the foundations. Across the tracks from these ruins are squatters with weak binoculars. They use rebar to crack away architectural elements from the empty residences of those that built and lost, all thumbs, these factories. Once they pull away enough weathered lion faces, cornice adornments and the oak flooring that rain water missed, they scoop them into prominent mounds.

They knit the stones into concrete and the cement into uniform excuses for representation. Necks form under buffalo heads, nickels and other coins are allies as they slide into machines designed only for symbols of prairie. Wheat the corn of dry climates.

These are elections for office in the smallest country apparent, ornamental granite steps. Wearing shoes is a relationship they tolerate out loud, and loudly talking, like the click, clack, click of watching the next couch car bounce.

Once they control the county, the squatters control the springs. Not water, not water and bathing is a five-inch metal sink. The lines appear straight, and in court the wooden benches, so long, so happily seating. Such, but wait, wait for tights here. Here.

Overhead the planes crack up into clouds, tossing their wingspans into hailstorms, into hailstorms they go. An energetic cologne from the breaking ice, the colliding stones burst, three hundred and fifty-four small winds every ten feet of flight. Even jet fuel pauses. Even this jet fuel pauses. Never repeat again. Again.

The purpose of steel draw bridges. Nothing so crosses.

A dirty fellowship with weeds, errant and through broken windows are trees, mature enough to shelter those birds attracted to economic despair. Throw seeds from your truck, bought with your reflection, a gift for someone’s mother or son who so desires many shadows. The birds will swallow, their feathers a core, derailed by tumblers whose arched spans cover just enough for sleep. Then….. and then.

Through the binoculars they watch or rather farther the last light I can see. And something as innocuous as this. And this is again what this is again. More ruins.

Four weeks more.

Passenger: Charlie Willow:

Seventy-eight years past you were riddled with a syphilitic posture. Prostitutes feared your stooped demeanor.

Act Two: Watching the diners in the dining car.

A box car unloads, although nicotine is angry making in the deeper throat. Maybe she makes herself coats, the collar more like poodle skin than fur. Through the stack of various notes and transcriptions she’s forming the faxes she’ll maybe send. Which layer pulls the pen away, her darker glasses and cheeks smell much like glasses and what houses the molars. If you record what spawns from other’s push to herd are you nuts? I want her to feel comfortable. Less awkwardly slumped. So, I’ll try a list: Two columns. One is finished, the other a stack of words and lined out words. 1. Numbers, the one is here. Or is the one here. 2. Wearing headphones, no music. Not sure why.

Train is losing speed. I’m in the third dining table to the north. Or at least north within the train, up being engine. We need herds of thirty-foot goats to graze through New York State and eat what’s left of industrial viability.

Her cough is deeper than what her age appeared. Stop using the word appear.

Something about what kills trees.

Her, not the she but the another women who feels young in the presence of her elderly friends, dad was tied to a chair by his mother. And then she exclaims some innocuous thing followed by the spoken boom, boom, boom. Is she a cannon? Should I attempt to avoid her muzzle? Will she explode towards, a heavy iron ball to replace what’s left beneath my hair.

A phone booth is at this end. The toilet is at the other.

More cows fighting. The fall foliage is exactly that. And the table is exactly that. And tell them the way it is is exactly that.

Another deep cough. Much much older than I had assumed. Black hair, dyed and cut hip, A paste face.

An older woman addicted to hairstylists breaks her muffin into sections. Do muffins have fissures? Maybe she’s discovered cracks in the blueberry muffin landscape and exploits her knowledge by dividing it into equally delicious bites. Weak tea distracts.

Less deep now. Throat clearing.

Small boulders designed for the inside view, small flat faces are transparent.

He, in sweat-making sweat pants and tough-making hood, tells the young in the elderly home women that it is “always good to know”. And I agree.

Construction in Rome. Why am I writing so narrative when all those in Buffalo.

Maybe she, again the cougher, is a Lego. Or the master of Legos. She builds her friends, her home, her transportations. And instead of plastic, she molds Legos from words, fitting them together entirely based in their shapes, how the up-slants and curly bits lock together.

The tables have rims, lips, ridges, whatever one calls the very small and sloped retaining feature trains use to corral spills. Have to return to the Lego master.

Should I ask her about her notebook? I’ll go back to a list.

  1. Radio towers are for radio. 4. Fall the trees aren’t dead. Is this fall? Did I leave the season on the last train?

More notes. The contrast between.

I suppose I don’t care about…..oh she’s opening the notebook again. It’s about three by five, with a pink plastic cover and perforated paper. The notebook is usable as folder, ditto machine and thought dropper. A dull phrase.

The elderly and young feeling woman are playing “go to hell”. They have never been in Oklahoma.

Part of the sign says “packin hacki” A vagina shaped tree scar. The clitoris is a limb. And the trains stops for every freight train. Every train has some problem.

She has written more then me. Jealous. She is singing slightly. Very low… then high…. I do enjoy her song

Watching the landscape through another train, a strobe light. The plow on the front of the train. It’s easier to go when the train is not moving. Amazing how long the train takes and how fast each stop is. Infrastructure lost.

Still a deep cough.

Passenger: Poola Garchin:

Before white people used blankets to conquer, you sold pigeon feather pillows. You left sugar rolls on the roof to attract the most buxom of birds.

Passenger: Charch Chislon:

A few days before the 3rd Friday of the 3rd month you over wound a clock belonging to a girl you so dearly desired to “boink”. She said her mother made lunch, but not for you.

Act Three: The tracks are a DJ.

Sleepy. Your calves hurt after twenty-nine hours of balancing. These are earthquakes or aftershocks, or eleven-thousand leaps from five-foot brick walls, ribboning down the seats. Run, Run, run. They missed the train with strollers and a backpack that appears to be a dog. Fat men now shave their heads and grow chin beards to appear tougher than their slow doughy bellies allow.

From Oklahoma City south to Fort Worth Texas I force stares out the window. Never read online posts about other’s experiences in train travel. They curse you with a needless anxiety, schedule questioning, passenger fearing thread. Always read comments posted online about traveling by train. A subculture of hundreds pushing back the Amtrak system’s billion dollar demise.

My train from Fort Worth to Chicago, listed as an 18 hour ride, adds an hour of travel every six for various mishaps.

A freight train rams an abandoned car. I’m not sure whether the 80s Plymouth (odd the details conductors relay) was truly forgotten, discarded to warm the tracks, or “abandoned” was simply the term applied to a father inching a stalled sedan with his wife, their three shared kids and her two older children from a previous encounter from beneath the crossing gates.

A man gets drunk, then drunker, then loses his wallet by leaving it in his suitcase. Everyone on the train is a suspect, even an elderly couple, who clearly, according to the drunk man, need to the money for “all their medication n’ shit”. After berating an adolescent girl to do shots of Listerine with him, the train slows to walking speed in the woods of Missouri. And the drunk man is encouraged off the train, with his luggage dropped a mile later.

Five minutes after a stop in Illinois, a young couple is found ticketless, hiding in the bathroom. The attendant makes them a deal. For each lie they tell he’ll drop them one more stop from their destination. They move back five stops until they confess to having been riding the trains for free over the past two months. And when we arrive at their lie-determined stop, the attendant gives them what’s left of the evening’s dinner specials and transfers them to the sleeping car section.

Sleeping on the train is like jogging. I rarely jog, and when I do I stop every five blocks for a congratulatory rest. Imagine the opposite times eight and insert a roll bar. Plus two itchy pillows as comfortable as resting your head on a 99 cent bag of potato chips. There are two rows, with two seats on each row.

How many people are there in the world? At first there is a fascination with watching others sopped-up lives in bags, wearing clothing that identify them no better than hair color.

Washington D.C. Odd there is a man I shared the train with from Toledo. Now where is he going? Maybe to New York City? Remember to grab seat near him. Remember to lie.

Intermission: Nothing is out the window.

Quite so crippled. Quite so fence-legged, your arms pour up. Your name is Fog. I will never let you borrow any of the money I’ve hidden. A long box built all night in the hours so late, so late. Up and being quiet, nail file and clippers made the wood straight and rounded and small for small spaces signed for hiding. Disrupt my zoning, not for borrowing, no.

I should be crippled, like you are crippled. And you should be crippled like Sid Ceaser.

Act Four: A Station, all so big, all so built.

Train station at ……

Glass panes at 27 panes across or rather something like two stories. Across the span, the floor, are wooden benches extended. And why not sit here. You never answer. A man in a black backpack, not a man, something about his gait.

Stop saying something.

The child, buzz-cut and leather jacket, taller than his father and the gadgets make their way north. They are traveling in the sleeper cars north like machines.

Two ride what some might describe as an ornate ceiling. Let the balloons go.

Two more as statues. One a golden, no, gold-painted and wired into the wall. They are less electronic than actual wires. Hand-shielded eyes searching with a rooster through the glass-backed panes arched over the atrium. Or is it cavern, always the cliché of the cavern. I smell popcorn and have enough change for some popcorn.

A loud conversation echoes and you can make your breath push dust from the floor. Almost as if they recognize each other’s noises, they pull back the benches and the pigeons’ reckless heckling subsides. What are they baking between the even gates of four and six?

Could I make it louder by whistling? Could I tear back the flooring and find the league of Horaces, the curbed porches. Or does that quiet them, the Amish ride the trains.

What happens to the Amish when Amtrak dies?

This a courtship behind me. A jockish Amish boy with a beard, sparking a contented look, hopes the girl in bonnet and long dress beside him will be his wife. They must be told before they adventure out into these stations that they are superior. In gawd’s wide eyes comes the subject headings, oh the subject headings.

White hair, popped back tight with weight, the man across is moving. He has that charisma of “I am a mogul, money laden, who can make a zoo of the world, watching others creeping with amusement”. And everything is in quotes again.

Take away those tigers. The tigers they make the tracks all wet, so wet.

Passenger: Henridon Callo:

When you were 67, you discovered some medical papers in your dead parent’s attic. They proved that, yes, you were born with extraordinary intelligence. But still more documents showed that any gift you had, was lost to your inability to dodge in dodge ball and the resultant severe concussions.

Passenger: Vartina Chowbowski:

Your career was altered by a haircut. And if you could swim back and choose another barbershop or salon, you would. Because, although you know oak trees are an invading species, bulldozers are unwieldy creatures and your hands are thin like Portland rain. ◼


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