Friday, August 9, 2013

The Roundhouse


The coal powered engine crept along the narrow gauge track past the berm of goldenrod and 6 foot tall ironweed with its deeply burgundy flower clusters attractive to butterflies lined the way through the large bay opening into the roundhouse for routine greasing.

The heavy iron beast slowly rolled to a stop at the wheel block. His thick canvas yet warn glove grabbed hold of the vertical bar outside the engine’s open back caked with oily soot that had polished a black streak along the palm.

Stepping down facing forward toward the glorious curved design of the brick building filled like a railroad stockyard with its beasts getting tended to.

His dungarees stained with the grime of an engineer and boot leather nicked and scuffed from the hard work required each day.

Into the top center pocket went two fingers reaching for the candy bar, which he placed in it every morning at 4:30 as he stepped out the backdoor on his way to the yard.

Peeling away the wrapper, he walked out the open bay to where a patch of pokeberries grew full of their dark purple fruit lining the slender each individually positioned, one next to the other at the point to where they attach to the tiny stems like a ball upon the end of a very short pull chain. The juice stains permanently making an excellent fabric dye.

Bringing the sweet chocolate candy to his mouth, he placed it under his tongue allowing it to slowly dissolve, resisting chewing, letting the flavors mash upon the roof of his palate savoring what began as a solid, and now becoming a creamy gel further disappearing into a liquid.

The sun bright and warm upon his face as he lifted his head to accept the heat delivered from millions of miles away. Stepping back, his body leaned against a wall waiting for the next moment to arrive.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

A Future Tale


“Jonny”! My mother called me from the kitchen as she brewed her morning coffee and toasted slices of packaged white bread that she would lather with butter, which seeped into the lightly browned pores covering the surface. We have to leave in ten minutes, she said.

I was upstairs in my room enjoying Christmas vacation from my third grade class—the class of 1955.

The white, heavy and crisp snow was widely blanketing the entire vast landscape. Several inches had fallen over the last two days and our mill town, just outside of Pittsburgh, appeared to be not very bothered by the wintery weather. We expected it. December often brought snow. Tire chains, rubber boots, wool coats and hats, while wrapped in scarves never stopped the Appalachian mountain valley industrial worker. With only one car, my dad used it this day to drive his carpooling co-workers to the Round House where they worked on coal trains that hauled material to be used in the steel mill’s blast furnaces.

I dressed in heavy clothes then joined my mother at the table as she ate her toast deliberately and without hurry, then drank the last of her black coffee, while I had my Cream of Wheat drizzled with maple syrup.

We were waiting for her older lady friend she met at the Carnegie Library, which was up the cobble stone covered hill from where we lived. Mom and Millie were volunteers there while I was at school sorting and shelving books, and tending to the old millworker retirees who would spend their time away from spouses reading newspapers and magazines and hanging out with their pals. The old men enjoyed flirting with Millie, whose husband had died some years back from an accident in the mill. He was almost 60 years old when it happened leaving her alone. Millie found friendship with mom and her library work.

Millie was going to pick us up in her ’41 two door Chevy Deluxe, the first year of this model, that still had shiny chrome because it stayed much of the time in her garage behind her small one and a half story bungalow off the dirt alley. Today we were driving over the Mon River and down into Boston, PA, which most everyone called Little Boston, so as not to confuse it with the big eastern city of the same name-- Boston, MA. It was always easier to say little Boston so as not to have to explain that you were not about to be driving all the way to the other Boston hundreds of miles away.

When they named the town didn’t anyone realize it would be confusing when people began to own cars and could drive to a place like the other Boston and not have to take a passenger train?

Millie was taking us to Janie’s house like we had done once or twice a year for the last few years, and will continue to do so for many more years to come.

Janie was about my mother’s age and had a lot of things decorating her wood paneled and wallpapered rooms, along with lace white curtains, and a large heavy deep red upholstered Victorian couch resting upon here hardwood floor. She liked cats, too, and had three that would like to curl up in my lap as I sat quietly on the couch watching the three women sit at the table drinking tea.

Millie and mother would sit across from Janie as she held a pendant that my mother handed to her. She would close her eyes and gently run her fingers all over the small silver locket and then, tell my mother things that had not yet happened yet but could be expected at some point in the future.

As I sat there stroking the calico cat’s soft, silky coat, I listened in on Janie’s predictions for my mother. How did this lady know the future of others? It was clear that there was a strong desire to know what has not yet happened, and then, see that story unfold was the ultimate outcome for those visits.

Change is time advancing, and time advancing is change. They both move around the clock face as does the second hand moves change from one second into another.

Mother had her secrets, which were kept close… She never revealed anything about those mysterious predictions. They appeared to move her closer to the truth she was seeking. Her eyes were always open to what might be. She was not fearful of it as many were. Her sight was keen like that of an owl in the dark of night perched on in a tree able to key in on what might be lying in the shadowed tall grass. The hidden crouches quietly trying to stay away from the sharp senses of stalking night creatures.  But once it moves or gives away its location, does the seeker reveal what lies still and silent before them.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

The Green Orbs


(This story was part of a contest, which had a theme. The theme was to write a 3-minute
story whereby the voice in the story was to leave a message on someone's answering machine.)

“Hello John. You won’t believe what I am about to tell you. The desert sun is setting out here as the sky burns with broad swaths of red and orange, yet there appears to be a green orb flashing in the foreground. I am standing before my picture window facing the vast open ranch land filled with grazing cattle. The green orb is coming closer becoming distinct. The shape is oblong with flashing lights.

It has now stopped about a half-mile away but remains as high in the sky as a flyover jet airliner. The vehicle remains still for the moment. Wait. Whoa! It has now shifted directions. It moved to the north at a very fast clip. You could say, the blink of an eye. But now it soared in the opposite direction at just as fast a rate.

It now is still. Hovering in the sky. Two other green flashing orbs have joined it. The color is of a deep forest green, although, very glossy. Sparkly. The sun is setting and the horizon is ablaze with wide swooping strokes of red, orange and yellow.

I am alone in the house. My dog Jones is also standing at the window. He sees the orbs, too. The hair on his neck is standing straight up in the air, and he is beginning to whine.

I don’t know what to make of this. I am feeling really anxious. What if it lands right out here? What do I do?

This message is to tell you that if I am no longer here this is why.

Hold on here! The green orbs are now joined by 6 more. These are white in color. There are now 9 orbs hovering in the sky to the south of me. They are now orbiting one another. Wait! They are coming closer now. They are spreading out to what looks like several hundred yards from down here. In the center are the three green orbs in a triangular formation, but all around them in a circular design are the other 6 equal distant from one another.

They continue to come closer!! Holy shit!! They are heading for the desert!! The cows
are all coming together congregating into a large herd and bellowing loudly. They are all calling out in unison!! What is happening? I am really beginning to sweat. My shirt is soaked. Jones runs in circles and then stops to look out the window.

I can see the orbs in detail now. They are oblong saucers. Just like in that old black and white 1960s movie, “The Day The Earth Stood Still!” They have windows all around but are darkly tinted, yet can see there is an amber glow inside the vehicle.

They appear to be a quarter mile up and about a tenth of a mile out. The orbs have all lined up horizontally. The three green ones are now descending, while the white ones are lifting. There is no sound as they move. The white orbs are very bright and have what looks like portals all around them. They are hovering around 500 yards above the green ones.

I am now holding binoculars and can see that on the underside are four smaller portals the size of car tires. In the center is a larger one the diameter of a tractor rim.

One green orb has separated from the others, and is now slowly moving toward the house.

It has landed 100 yards in front of me! Oh my God! It is opening up, John! It is opening!


(596 words)