Monday, January 31, 2011

Riding the Rails: Part Three

(Wreck of the Old '97, Thomas Hart Benton, 1943, Hunter Museum of Art, Chattanooga, TN)

I tiptoe delicately into the cell.

Everyone is sleeping soundly.

This does not make me happy.

I want to sleep soundly too.

But do I get to?


I don't!

Instead, I get to read.

Until 4:30 a.m. when I realize that my back is killing me.

I try desperately to find a comfortable position on the tray.

But nothing works.

I decide that I better get vertical for awhile.

Maybe standing will relieve some of the pain.

For the next several seconds, I become a frustrated contortionist.

Finally, I am on my feet.

I am facing the cell door.

My back is facing the sink.

I am not armed.

I am not particularly dangerous.

But I am in position.

If the warden decides to pop in unexpectedly with new plans for our train riding "comfort," I'll be ready to take him down in a nanosecond.

The train is shaking so violently that I lose my balance.

I attempt to recover my equilibrium by grabbing the edges of Bob's and Matt's trays.

But that's not gonna do it.

So I stand with my feet apart and brace my legs against the bottom beds to achieve more stability.

I am hanging on to those top trays with everything I've got.

Bob and Matt sleep and sleep and sleep.

I hate them.

Tara rustles her sheet for a few seconds.

Is she going to wake up and talk to me?

My hopes evaporate as she turns over and relaxes into a deep slumber.

Please someone - anyone - tell me when I am going to get some SLEEP???


I am now within minutes of loosing what is left of my crumbling mind.

I decide that I hate everyone who has ever lived.

I hate everyone who is currently living.

And I hate everyone who is yet to live.

I hate people because they are stinky, dirty, and just plain nasty.

I hate them because they reproduce too fast.

I decide that I hate every form of transportation known to humankind - including feet.

I hate life because it's not fair.

I especially hate EUROPE!

This is all Europe's fault.

If Europe did not exist, I would not be standing on this creepy train suffering like a caged animal.


Hate Europe?


I may have mildly disliked it for a few seconds here or there.

But I have never, ever hated Europe.

I can't even imagine under what circumstances I WOULD hate Europe.

I think silently, "I am seriously scaring myself."

Then a new thought flies into my head:

I could......

I could just suck it up and deal.

But before I can dismiss that ridiculous idea, I hear these frightening sounds:


'What in the world?" I ask myself, "that terrible screeching noise sounds like 10 million fingernails clawing across 10 million chalkboards all at once."



The train comes to a complete halt.

I look at my watch.

The time is 4:50 a.m.

Silence settles over the train.

A deadly, quiet silence.

"Did we just run over a cow?" I ask myself.

"Or worse yet, an actual......... HUMAN BEING???"

"And even if we did run over something soft and crushable like a body, would we even realize it at the speed this train is going?"

My mind races back and forth as I desperately search for answers.

I glance at my companions.

Bob is snoring as usual.

Matt is sprawled out on his tray, sleeping like a bear in hibernation.

Tara is curled up into a comfy ball, oblivious to the world around her.


I am within two seconds of letting out the biggest scream of my life.

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