Saturday, December 12, 2015

Flash Fiction Friday, Week 16: The Last Train?

The prompt this week was to write a story using only dialogue. I thought I’d share a conversation between two strangers on a cold winter afternoon.

The Last Train?

“Excuse me, young lady, do you know what time the next train will be coming by?”

“Do I look like an Information Booth? You try to be left alone and all of a sudden, you get the Third Degree.”

“I’m sorry. I just thought since you were sitting out here on the platform that it might be coming soon. I can’t miss this one.”

“You’re a real chatty Cathy now, aren’t you, old man?”

“I didn’t mean to bother you, but you see, my wife, Alma, died a couple of months ago, and I get lonesome sometimes not having anyone at home to talk to. Seems I’m always looking for someone to pass the time with.”

“Woe is you then, right? No one to talk to at home? What about me? My house is like Grand Central Station, but when I talk, no one listens. My mother said it’s always about me, and my father called me a selfish brat. They said I’m never interested in what’s going on with anyone else. You have no idea what it means to be lonely.”

“I never looked at it that way. It’s true that you can be in the middle of a crowd and still be alone.”

“Not alone, old man. See? You’re not listening either. I wish to God I could be alone, even just for five minutes. I’m talking about…never mind. You don’t get it. How in the hell did I get sucked into this conversation?”

“Alma always said I was a good listener. I am sorry though. It’s just that I believe at times, alone and lonely go hand in hand. Do you mind if I ask about your family?”

“You don’t want to know about me.”

“If I didn’t, I wouldn’t ask.”

“Why not. It’ll help pass the time until… Okay. Let me tell you about my family. I’m an only child, but I guess I wasn’t enough. Mom and Dad decided to become foster parents and bring a bunch of broken down kids into the house so they could fix them. That way, Dad’s a hero at his Men’s Club and Mom’s a saint at church.”

“Why do you think there’s more to it than your parents trying to help those kids? I don’t know them, but I can’t help but wonder why you feel as if you weren’t enough for them. Weren’t you able to get close to any of the children? Perhaps to be a big sister?”

“Tell me, Mr. Good Listener, why do I need to get close to any of them? They’re not permanent. They’re just passing through. I’m the permanent one – or at least, I was supposed to be. Well, not anymore, because I’m done playing second to a bunch of homeless juvenile delinquents. Wait and see. They won’t miss me after I’m gone. I’m sure they don’t even know that I’m not in that zoo of a house of ours right now.”

“Do you really believe your parents aren’t wondering where you are or if you’re all right?”

“I do believe that. Why would they wonder where their selfish little brat is?”

“They may have said those things to you in a moment of anger, but is that a reason to run away? Haven’t you ever said things you didn’t really mean? There were times when I was tired after working a double shift and I would come home and Alma would complain about the…”

“Alma again. Look, you’re wife’s dead, okay? Don’t dwell. It doesn’t make any difference. They said those things to me and I don’t care why. They apologized, but you can’t take back what you say. They’re not the least bit interested in what’s going on with me. Do they have time to read my poems? Oh no. ‘Later, honey’. You know, I even started writing a book about myself. I was going to tell the world how it feels to be shut out of your own life.”

“Did you try to show them your poems at another time, or tell them about your writing a book?”

“Of course not. No way am I going to let them reject me again. And, by the way, I’m not running away.”

“Not running away? But, you’re waiting for the train to Chicago? Do you know someone there you’re going to stay with?”

“Look, I’ll tell you why I’m waiting on this platform, but don’t try to stop me, because I’ll just come back on another day. When this train gets close enough, I’m going to jump onto the tracks. There. Does that satisfy your nosy self?”

“Oh. I didn’t realize.”

“Like I said, don’t try to stop me. I want out, and this is the way I’m going to do it. Nice and quick. I’ve read about people doing this and it’s not even messy. You’ll be able to take the train, although there might be a short delay. But things will get back to normal in a New York minute. I mean, life does go on, right?”

“That’s true enough. But, I have no plans to get on the train. I am going to do the same thing as you are.”

“Oh my God, you’re going to jump in front of the train too? What’s an old man like you want to do something stupid like that for?”

“I can’t talk to Alma anymore. All I can do is bring flowers to her grave. It’s not enough.”

“Maybe you can’t talk to her, but, can’t you go to one of those old people places where they sit and talk and play cards? What about your apartment and stuff?”

“I left a note on the coffee table for the landlord to give my clothes to the Good Will.”

“But, what about Alma’s grave? Who will bring her flowers? Isn’t it important that she have fresh ones?”

“I didn’t think about that. She always did love fresh flowers. But, what about you? Who will finish writing your book? Isn’t it important to share how you feel with others?”

“I forgot about that. Writing it made me feel important. Maybe if I finish it, there would be somebody out there who could relate.”

“I was just thinking. One of us jumping in front of the train probably wouldn’t make too big of a mess, but what if we do it at the same time? That could cause all kinds of problems, don’t you think?”

“Yeah. I’ll bet it would. Besides, if I’m going to take myself out, I want the moment to be all mine.”

“Me too. You know what? Maybe today isn’t the right day for either of us. Do you like Root Beer floats?”


“Root Beer floats. Vanilla ice cream in a glass with Root Beer poured over it. You use a straw and a spoon so you make sure you get it all right down to the last drop. Those were Alma’s favorite.”

“I’ve never had one.”

“You don’t know what you’ve been missing. There’s a diner over on the next block that makes them in their biggest malt glasses. Why don’t we head over there and get us each one. My treat. We could have the floats and…well…talk. If you have the time, that is. By the way, my name’s Barney.”

“Sure, old man. I mean, Barney. Mine’s Sondra. I’ve got time. You know, maybe I could catch mom and dad after they put all the kids to bed and they could read a couple of my poems. They never actually said they didn’t want to.”

“Good thinking. Timing is everything, isn’t it? And I just remembered one of my neighbors goes cross town to a Senior Center every Thursday. He has a hot lunch and gets in a few games of checkers. Maybe I could hitch a ride with him and check it out.”

“Good idea. Make sure you tear up that note to your landlord though. Wouldn’t want him giving away all your clothes while you’re out playing horseshoes or whatever.”

“Ha, you’re right as rain about that. So, are you ready to try the best float ever?”

“I sure am. Let me take your arm when we walk over there, Barn. It was drizzling last night and the sidewalks are still a bit slippery.”

“’Barn’. Ha. Sometimes Alma called me Barn. I’d be proud, Miss Sondra. Over our ice cream, maybe you could recite some of your poems for me?”

“I could do that. It’s starting to drizzle again. Look, I’m really sorry for what I said about Alma being...”

“No worries. It’s supposed to snow tonight. It will be good to be safe and warm at home tonight, won’t it? Besides, there will always be another train.”

“Ha, Barney. Good one. Yes. It will be good to be safe and warm tonight. At home. Hey, please tell me more about Alma. I know she loved Root Beer floats. Did she have any hobbies?”


  1. Wow! That actually brought tears to my eyes. Such a sweet conversation. I'm glad they've both found someone to talk to.

    1. Thanks so much, Rose. Both coming from different directions, yet converge at the same junction. They both needed to talk and to learn to listen. Sometimes, that's all we need.

  2. Nicely written. And a happy ending as they realized they had something to offer each other. That bit at the end about it being slippery had me worried for a bit though, in case they slipped in front of the train after all.

    1. Thanks much, Mike. Such a positive outcome from a chance meeting and a little conversation. The stars certainly were in alignment that day for them both. Hopefully, they hung on to each other and were long gone by the time the train came along!