On A Train

Contributor: Michael Plesset

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On a train, looking out the window. Wheat and people go by. Time to think,
and remember, what we wish the past was. Time to think, and wonder what to have for lunch, and what our great grandchildren will be like, and their great grandchildren. They’ll understand the universe, they’ll know what happens when we die. They’ll wonder how we got along knowing so little, and why we spent our time the way we did, sitting on trains with so much time to think.

It was a visit he wasn’t looking forward to, relatives with no common bond, postponed many times, until excuses have run out.

Two more hours, to get to where he doesn’t want to go.

Why haven’t you called?
We missed you at the holidays.
What have you been doing?

A wedding of one of their children, one he really doesn’t know. They’ll be happy, their big day, and he must pretend to care.

Suddenly the train slowed to a stop, what’s wrong. It hit something that shouldn’t be there, emergency. So there they sit, for what might be hours, on that train with still more time to think.

A woman across the aisle said ”I hope no one’s hurt.”
“Yes” was all he could think of to say.
“I’m going to a wedding” she said, “it doesn’t look like I’ll make it.”
“I am too, but to be honest I don’t care, I don’t really know them.”
“I’m going to my husband’s daughter’s wedding, she hates me” she said.
“Maybe we’re better off here, on the train” he said, “and we have a perfect excuse for not showing up.”
She laughed. “You’re right, this is the best thing that could have happened today.” And after a pause, “But I do hope no one’s hurt.”

He thought “No one was hurt? Oh yes, we were. We’ve lost this day forever, and that can’t be healed. Life carries us along, consuming us in tiny bites each day. If only time could be like this, instead of taking us in meaningless little steps to the end, it could stop, like the train, and let us rest.”

The woman said “We’re trapped here, what if we just got off and had a picnic, out here in the middle of nowhere.”

“I’m in,” he said “we could buy some food at a little store I saw a short way back.”

They got off the train, walked back to the store, got some food, and sat eating in the shade of a large tree, then just watched the clouds slowly drift across the sky, losing track of time. After a while, she said “This is the nicest day I can remember, I guess I haven’t felt very happy, but didn’t realize it.”

They heard the train start up again. Since the trains didn’t have a stop near there, they had no idea how they would get to either where they were going, or back to where they came from, but they didn’t mind, it was a strange relief to hear it going away.

“I guess we’re sort of like school kids skipping school,” he said.

She said “I never did anything like that.”

He thought about it seriously for a long while, then said softly, “Neither have I.”

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Michael Plesset has published poetry, short fiction, non-fiction, and wrote material for a stand-up comedian. He did graduate work in mathematics and philosophy, worked in high technology and teaches English to Chinese students.
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