As I was stepping into the world of ‘self-publishing’ I figured I should support my fellow selfpublished authors. I scanned Tellwells website and purchased two books I thought I might enjoy. One was good. The other… Oh God the other… it was just terrible. I didn’t want to send it back but I really felt I had wasted my money. I don’t like to be wasteful. Anyway, at the same time I had come across Reedsy’s short story contests, and I thought, what if I take something from the terrible book and recreate it. I did, and voila, out came ‘The Train’
The Reedsy Prompt was ‘write a story where someone things the just got a great deal on something only to realize…
“Naw, can’t be em, he died, on the cross two thousand years ago.”
“Mate, I tell yer, it’s em!”
Both boys leaned off the raised platform peering into the train, noses pressed against
the window trying to get a better look.
“Bloody hell Bobby, I think yer right!” Mikey’s right hand rose making a cross over his
body sanctifying and protecting in one swift motion.
Jesus turned and saw the boys staring. Jesus smiled. Jesus scratched his beard.
Jesus had a backpack on his lap. Army Green, an American flag stitched to the front.
“An American?” Mikey scratched his head, “An American Jesus? Well, I’ll be daft.”
“Boys, you come away from there this instant, get yer noses off that window, get yer
arses down them steps? I’m not coming after yer!” Kilkenny called from a pair of thick
legs stuffed into square-heeled patent pumps in gloss yellow. She opened her white
handbag, pulled out a handkerchief, and blew her nose. Her name is Sally, but everyone calls her Mrs. Doyle. Sally is a name for sweet little girls with freckles and
blonde curls. Mrs. Doyle was thick, and round, and red. “Did yer hear me?” she repeated as she stuffed the cotton cloth back in her bag.
“But Mama, it’s Jesus!”
“Jesus bloody Jesus me arse, come way from thar or I’ll give yer something worth
calling out Jesus’ name fer. Look, ear that? Last call to board, go on and get yer self
down thar you ear! Be Jezers, if we miss this train…” Mrs. Doyle shook her head “I got
the last three tickets boys, the last three ye ear, said a prayer to Mother Mary they ad
three, with a discount even! We would have ad to leave one of yer on the step for sure,
maybe both of yer, we was lucky, I tell yer! Get over ear now!” Mrs. Doyle bellowed.
The boys pulled away from the glass and scurried to their mother. Bobby was led
down the steps, his ear squeezed between Mrs. Doyle’s thumb and index finger. Mikey
a half step behind, left handcuffed to her right. Mrs. Doyle released her grip only after
the boys were seated. The ordeal left her winded. She opened her bag, pulled out the
handkerchief, and wiped the perspiration rolling down her neck before she dropped
into a seat beside Mikey. Her yellow pumps exhaled.
“Me goodness it’s hot in er.” Mrs. Doyle muttered. Bobby scanned the train interior,
and Mikey gazed out the window.
Jesus walked past them, caught Bobby’s eye, nodded, turned left, and stepped off the
“Off the train?” thought Bobby fleetingly. Quickly his attention was diverted by a
scrawny man stuffed into a black suit two times too big. The suit was moving. A head
popped out. Bobby grinned “Can I pet em?”
Scrawny man smiled “Yes lad, her name’s Daisy.”
Bobby leaned forward and scratched between the ears of the long-haired Dachshund.
Daisy licked his fingers. “Geeze er tongue is soft.”
The train lurched. The scenery started moving. Mrs. Doyle closed her eyes.
“When I grow up, I’m going to grow my hair long like Jesus,” said Mikey.
“No yer ain’t,” replied Mrs. Doyle, eyes still closed, face still perspiring. “Open the
window a little more will yer.”
“I am I tell ya.” Mikey replied reaching up to release the window from its latches. He let
“Over my dead body Mikey.” Mrs. Doyle continued “I’ll get me sheep sheers and clip
yer while yer sleep.” She smiled, eyes still closed.
He’d traveled until he called Montana home, under Ponderosa pines in a valley where
when the wind begins it starts with a distant roar; an International Loadstar rolling in
from the west slowly building until it thunders past unseen, pulling the forest top in
The man was good at math. Being good at math made him good at putting things
together so he did that. He put together his house from trees on his property, he put
together a turbine in the creek using washing machine inners he pulled from the
dump. Shelter and power. He lived comfortably alone with a basset hound named
Tank, a ginger cat named Charlie, and a Pig called Rosie. Her babies were his bacon.
Occasionally he’d go to town for supplies, flour, oats, whiskey, and smokes.
Sometimes he stopped at a bar called Billies for a draught before heading home when
he felt the need for company. He didn’t stop often.
Today he stomped the mud off his boots before stepping onto the porch. He eased
himself into the old rocking chair tucked between the kitchen window and porch rail,
it was getting harder to do, his old body hurt. He knew when he stood back up it
would hurt a little louder and he would have to hold the side of the house for a
moment to give his muscles time to remember what they are supposed to do.
He pulled a package of cigarettes from his shirt pocket. His front teeth drew one out
skillfully rolling it between his lips before he lit it with a silver lighter worn black in
spots. He leaned back in his chair, sucked in the smoke, and held it there.
Tank lay at his feet running in his sleep.
It fluttered. A breeze moved through the open window and caught the newspaper
clipping held to the cupboard with tape yellowed under years of tar and bacon grease.
The clipping was old and faded, and the edges cracked and curled. One corner had let
loose, it flapped in the gust.
He squinted now to read what he’d read a hundred times before. Age does that. The
clipping came from a time when his hair was as long as his bell bottoms were wide;
when his youth backpacked through Europe with muscles that worked and eyes that
could see fine.
He blew out the puff of smoke, it curled around his head before the breeze pulled it
He could still make out the headline.
Bomb On Train Explodes. Kills one. Injures three.
Below the headline was a photo.
Rubble resting in black and white. A little boy sitting in it crying, remnants of a
backpack with an American flag in the right corner, a shoe in the bottom left.
God that was a long time ago
God that first one was so easy.
He blew out a puff of smoke, scratched his beard, and smiled remembering how shiny
those yellow shoes were.