Reaching Into the Archives

for a bit of fiction from about 5 1/2 years ago.  I apologize for the lack of posts lately.  Life is being…well…life….

I hope you will enjoy this while I’m still figuring out what’s going on with Moira at the beach.


This is from The Write Brain Workbook: 366 Exercises to Liberate Your Writing by Bonnie Neubauer, for the 17th day of the year:

Write a man’s first name
Another man’s first name
An age
Name a body of water
A last name
A setting

Use these six items like blocks and build a story. Start with: The last time I . . .
This is my post:

A man’s first name: Hudson
Another man’s first name: Porter
An age: 92
A body of water: Yost Lake
A last name: Reed
A setting: Railroad tracks

“The last time I will do this…” Hudson mumbled it under his breath, hearing it so that he would not forget. He needed to be fully aware of this last time. With so many other far more important things he’d missed the finale: the last time he picked up his son and held him in his arms; the last time he’d made love to Mabel; the last time he plunged a hoe into a garden of his own. This one he wasn’t going to forsake, as though there would be a million more to follow it.

Yost Lake was nothing like it had been. It had been a lake to him back then; now it looked more like a pond. He was fairly certain he was standing about where the tank and pump used to be that moved the water from the lake into the steam engine paused and puffing at the water’s edge like a tired runner, on its way across the prairie to more civilized parts. Now it was all civilized, criss crossed with wires and poles, scattered with rooftops. Back then there was nothing but the call of birds, maybe the slap of a beaver’s tail, the snort of his horse.

He turned around and looked over the lake toward the bridge on the county road. Off to the left the slap on the water was the flailing arms of children splashing one another as they plunged into the water. A screen door slammed on the building not far from the water’s edge. He could smell pepperoni. Probably cost an arm and a leg for a plain cheese pizza these days.

That was enough of a pause. Hudson dug into the pocket of his pants in search of the penny, nickle, dime and quarter he’d put in there. He pulled out a dollar–the new presidential one–and decided it would be appropriate to include that in his little fiftieth-childhood scheme. The gravel slipped under his feet as he scrambled up the embankment, so he slowed a bit. If Porter Reed saw him go down that would be the end of this little escapade. “Escape” was a better description.

Photo by Zan Tirrigin

Photo by Zan Tirrigin

Hudson found the rest of the coins and lined them up on the rail of the track, remembering how all those years ago his mother had warned him, sternly, this was illegal. He could see the wisps of her hair sticking to the sweat on her forehead, right above all those little furrows that crossed it with her worry. She honestly believed a police officer somewhere somehow would put her in prison because her son destroyed U.S. currency. Just like his children were sure they would latch him to the bed if he dared leave the nursing home under his own steam to do what he wanted to do. Ludicrous. People were so enslaved to rules and laws and regulations. All the fun was pressed out of life.

He stood straight to view his handiwork. The sunlight caught a bump or two from the money and shimmied across to meet the greater glare of the steel rails. Now to wait for the 3:00. The sun felt like it wouldn’t be long before it arrived. The heat pressed in on him without mercy but Hudson refused to look at his watch. Instead he imagined thick dark mulberries dangling from the trees overhanging the bridge, and lazy large-mouth bass sidling between the wet wood the held the pavilion out over the water. A slip of a boy walked backwards on a waterwheel that churned through the water, while the children on the stairs lifting up to it shouted for him to throw himself into the water below; they wanted a turn.

Photo by Ken Kiser

Photo by Ken Kiser

Over all the ruckus, Hudson believed it was his well-tuned, 92-year-old ear that caught the whistle first. After all, the wind was blowing from the west, and the train was coming in from there as well. He was king of the mountain right on the tracks, while the rest of them were in the hole formed by the lake. Soon though, they had all heard it, because the sounds started to diminish. Hudson scurried down from the tracks to the water’s edge, probably a little later than Porter would have liked, and stood lakeside as the line of energy and steel moved ever closer.

Suddenly it was there, clacking and buckling in that familiar rhythm, without the hiss of steam, huge and monsterous, but so familiar. The swimmers behind him counted the cars in unison. It was a long train, and he wondered how far he would have to walk to retrieve his treasure.

Finally the train passed. The children went back to their summer amusements. Hudson caught a glance of Porter before he turned to go back up the embankment, probably because Porter was waving at him to come back. If they didn’t hurry, someone might discover that his roommate’s son had been kind enough to bring him here. Hudson didn’t want that to happen, but he hadn’t come this far, nor climbed this high, to go back without his prize.

The coins were where he’d left them, but wide and misshapen, just like he’d remembered. He tossed them in his palm a few times. They caught no light now, harbored no shadow because they were too flat. He folded his fingers over them and started back along the bank to where Porter had parked the car. Hudson would show him the coins and then Porter Reed might also understand how precious a day in the sun could be when one’s days had all but roared past in all their rhythm and energy and had left behind a flat, misshapen image of what life used to be.


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