Thursday, August 6, 2015

From A Holler To Here - #FridayFlash

 
      I can remember the walk to the train station.  Fields of corn rustling and creaking, alive with chirping and buzzing, the night/day interface soft, heavy, with a hint of damp. Air like a thick warm quilt, fever-soaked, somewhere between comforting and suffocating.  Near the borough line a sign shot full of holes announced The Churches Of Norgood Welcome You and there was somewhere for everyone if you were a Protestant. I always assumed that the Catholics let the nuns do the recruiting, although the various phrases associated with the convents - Adoration Of the Blood Of Christ, Perpetual Sorrow, Our Lady Of the Snows - always brought to mind the Creature Double Feature on Saturday afternoons.  Maybe one day I will visit a nunnery, ring the bell and ask if I might have a look around.
      They will ask me where I'm from, and I will be tempted to say "NoGod Holler" which is what some folks called it instead of its official municipal name, which started out as "Norgood Hollow", but then they dropped the Hollow because only dirt-poor country places with shotgun shacks and barefooted, crust-covered kids had names with Hollow tacked on the end.
     They will ask me my name.
     Others did that before, but I first made the mistake of saying I don't have a fucking clue and so any moniker which I subsequently produced was instantly viewed with suspicion.  But it was easy to just walk away, took my clothes from the drawer and joined in the cattle call visiting hours are now over and once outside to find a bench, sit down and consider my options.
     It's funny, not ha ha funny but funny in that peculiar way you look at a three-legged dog or an old woman plastered with aquamarine eye shadow and fire engine red lipstick, that my memory encompasses a finite channel from the Holler to here. That comes of catching a beating from someone, somewhere prior to catching the train.  The bad thing about trains is that they require you to present ID.  The good thing about trains is that nobody bothers to enforce it.  You buy your ticket at an automated kiosk at the station (because no one wants to pay a body to sell maybe two or three tickets before 7:00A.M.), you board the train, you pick a seat - not too close to anyone, not in the first car (if there's a derailment you'll die) and not in the last car (if there's a derailment you'll die) and not in the middle car (because everyone else who's afraid to die will sit there, along with their cellphones and screaming kids) - and you put in your headphones, pull down your cap and stick your ticket under the little clip on top of the seat in front of you.  The conductor isn't going to shake you awake to look at your ID.  He's going to punch your ticket and sway along the line to the next and the next, a marginally better job than building sandwiches at Subway because the pay and benefits are higher.
     Maybe one day I will be a train conductor.
     But then I will be forced to choose whether I will ask for ID or not. I will scrutinize each face and if it bears the telltale signs of bruises or the swelling of tears or the lackluster gaze of the lost, I will ask them questions and I may or may not know what to do with the answers.  I will never even make it past the first few seats and so I will not be employed very long as a train conductor.
     Besides, here is where I need to be for now.  Here is a postcard-perfect town with a summer Chautauqua and a year-round community of artists. Here is a place where someone with nothing can get by on dreams and sweat and a pinch of luck.  Here is where all of these things are printed on glossy brochures and lying on just about every available horizontal surface.  And even if it seems just a little too desperate, just a little too much like a going-out-of-business sale, well it has to have its basis in something.  Every bit of advertising has a speck of truth in it, somewhere.
     A well-fed couple strolls by, the woman sailing along with a prow barely restrained by fabric, waves of decaying rose overwhelming the natural sea air.  They stop at the town fountain, and the man reaches a hand into his pocket, rummages around, examines the withdrawn contents and then tosses them into the basin.
     Their wishes grant mine.
     Perhaps that is the natural order of things; that what we wish for is given to others, and what someone else desires comes to us.
     When they have moved on, I nonchalantly make my way to the fountain, take a seat on the edge of the concrete basin, and dip my fingers into the water.  People have either made extravagant wishes, or they have left all of their pennies in jars at home.  The fountain is filled with silver and I carefully scoop the coins and put them into my pocket.  When I have as much as I deem safe to carry, I stand up and realize that my pants are soaked.  And so I extend my arms in the fountain, and whoop, and loudly display a manic enjoyment of the water on my skin.  The few people still walking in the area take note of my exuberance and are relatively unmoved.  They perceive me as a fellow vacationer, not a thief or a drunk.  Thieves are quiet and slink about in darkness; drunks take off their clothes, or curse, or fall face down in the fountain and then stagger out and off into the night. I retrieve a fragment of information from storage.
     It's very hard to kill a drunk.
     So I am here, I have money, and I have a name.  Not mine; that appears to be gone for now.  It is yours, written in silver metallic Sharpie on the insides of your shoes, it is here, written in purple ink on the outsides Pascutt Shore Or Bust!, the dot at the bottom made into a little flower, the treads still clutching grains of red clay from home, the pull tabs rubbing my heels raw as I walk.
      If I don't find you here, there is always another train. Always another road.
     Always another way.
    
     

19 comments:

  1. what a great character! Loved the meditation on how to succeed in train travel. Good tip about the ticket in the hat to avoid being woken, I shall remember that

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    1. Glad you like her, Marc! There's a big chunk of me in there. Yes, I did steal money from a fountain but I was only about 6. And I didn't have the presence of mind to do something about my dripping pocket, so I was caught and punished by my mom.

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  2. The bit about the train derailing and you'll die cracked me up!

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    1. I thought everyone gave due consideration to where they will sit on public transportation in case of emergency! (Arrive early if you're taking the bus. Choose a seat with an emergency window so you don't have to wait for some idiot to read the instructions and fumble with the handle after the bus rolls over.)

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  3. I've seen people do that, take from the wishing well or fountain. One woman looked like she had more money in clothing and jewelry than I've spent on those things in my lifetime.
    I liked the narrator in this. Seems cynical, yet oddly hopeful.

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    1. Maybe that's how she financed her wardrobe.
      Yes, cynical but very hopeful - or maybe just a "everything will eventually work out one way or another" type.
      I've been debating whether I want to turn this into a serial, or part of a collection of inter-related flashes. Perhaps the latter. Either all characters from Norgood Hollow or all characters who somehow ended up in Pascutt Shore.
      Decisions, decisions.

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  4. My grandmother lived in a holler, and your description is spot on. This is great, your descriptive work - amazing. I can't wait to read what you do for the WEP challenge. Thank you for signing up, and posting it on twitter!

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    1. Thank you, Yolanda! Looking forward to what WEP has in store!

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  5. Hi Li. Loved your flash. What great characterisation. So many interesting things to learn about train travel.

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    1. Thanks for dropping by, Denise! I've seen some very interesting and strange sights while riding trains, both onboard and outside the windows.

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  6. What wonderful piece of writing Lisa! I loved the narrators voice in this, the way she drew on past recollections and experiences. The bit about where to sit on the train made me laugh too! I've missed your writing, so glad you're back. ^_^

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    1. Thanks Helen - glad you got a laugh! It's nice to be back. :)

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  7. FWIW - I would love to read a collection of related stories of characters from Norgood Hollow. Nice work on this one.

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    1. It's worth a lot Tim - I'll give it some thought. Populating an entire town would give me plenty of room to work on various styles and voices as well as fun characters. Thanks for dropping by and commenting!

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    2. What a very effective and delightful commentary. I must attempt to emulate this writing style myself some time and see what happens!

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  8. Beautifully written. The voice caught my attention and kept it until the end. :-)

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    1. Thank you, Misha. I had a lot fun writing it!

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  9. Incredible story. So much detail and feeling, felt like a lot of truth packed into this.

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    1. Thanks, G! I tried to make it as realistic as possible.

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