Thursday, December 07, 2006

NEU, Blogging and Me

Hi all,
I have been a bad blogger lately but it's not entirely my fault. My classes at NEU have really bogged me down this semester All of my creative writing was done for the classroom. So, while I have not been blogging, I have been writing and that's a good thing.
So, submitted for your review is a completed short story that I wrote for Creative Writing - Fiction entitled "Without Thinking".
Without Thinking
Frank Vance arrived at the train platform every day at 7:00. He always walked the length of the out door platform, beneath the conifer trees and past other commuters, and stood at the rear of the platform, just at the edge of the stand, so he could board the train quickly. From here Frank could clearly see the commuter footpath that led across the tracks from the small parking lot beyond to the train stop. Frank would always stand in the same position, removing his latest novel from beneath his arm, finding his bookmark and quickly immersing himself in his book. This was Frank’s quiet time, before the demands of the day were forced upon him.
It was a cool day today and without a wind break in place at this train stop he was forced to hunker down into his jacket a bit more. None of this mattered to Frank as he buried his nose in his book, Three Hearts and Three Lions by Poul Anderson, happily reading page after page while he waited for the 7:10 train to arrive. Frank liked reading about faraway lands and the heroes that walked there.

After all, where were heroes in this day and age?

It wasn’t the dog’s barking that broke Frank’s attention from his book, but rather the shrieking, trembling young voice that followed after it.

Looking up from his book, Frank saw a dog – a brown mutt - dart across the train tracks. Frank had seen this dog before, usually in the hands of a young girl who had just begun walking him on her own. Frank’s own daughter, Nancy, had waved to this dog and the girl – what is her name? - many times from their front steps. It was this dog and this girl that made Nancy ask for a dog of her own.

What was the dog’s name again? Frank chided his memory. Something Disney...? Simba – that’s it. What’s Simba doing loose?

A quick blur out of the corner of his eye caught Frank’s attention. Frantically running after the dog was a young girl, with a leash and broken collar in her hands, yelling for him to stop. Tears mixed with her cries. Simba had already cleared the tracks just as the girl ran onto it.

Suddenly, the train horn roared to life, shattering the morning quiet and rattling the windows of the homes that sat too close to the tracks. It was a long, powerful blast that deafened those in the path of its sound waves and stopping the girl (Jamie, he recalled) on the tracks, frozen in place, with an expression of fear and confusion scrawled onto her features.

Frank yelled a warning. She couldn’t hear him. He could still see her face as the unrelenting train hurtled towards her, the agonizing, useless squeal of the brakes added to the chaotic cacophony of the moment. Adding her voice to the din, the girl screamed. Her scream was drowned out by the long blast of the train’s horn. Frank knew that the train – an express run - would never stop in time...

Instinctively, Frank gauged the short distance from the platform to the gravel and dirt below and, finally, to the girl.

The train was fast but...

I can make it.

Without thinking, Frank bolted from the platform.

Frank had been a hero once, in his youth.

During the week Frank was an honor student. A quiet, unassuming boy who knew what his future held for him – a quiet, steady job - even as his imagination begged to be released from his mathematical prison. On weekends, Frank had played Dungeons & Dragons with his friends. He was Taurus Firehair, the Ranger of the Black Forest, Hero of the Lands of Exeter; Lord Protector of the Frost Lands of Mir and member (in Good Standing) of the Royal Arcanum of MistGate – an honorary title only, as Taurus was not a spellcaster of any type, which was a requirement of membership in the Arcanum. However, saving the Arcanum magistrate’s daughter from a score of Sky-Demons during the War of the Black Roses does allow for certain perks.

Frank enjoyed his time in make-believe, and followed his passion through college. Even after his freshman year began he still engaged in adventures full of swashbuckling derring-do, adventures where Taurus Firehair could be counted on to ride forth on his mighty charger to protect the innocents and save the princess from any foe.

Then he met Marcia, and suddenly his world had a queen, and Frank was her willing vassal. She was all he needed.

His feet hit the gravel. He balanced himself and bolted forward towards the girl, still frozen on the tracks, the sound of the squealing brakes roaring around him.

Frank thought about Marcia. They had met in college, he an accounting major and she a liberal arts student. They had dated for four years until Frank was finally able to land a position at a firm in the city. They were married seven months later, in a large ceremony largely paid for by her parents, who had insisted on a Catholic service in exchange for their checkbook. Frank – a Protestant - didn’t care; it was only Marcia who mattered. They moved into a small apartment in the city, Frank walked twenty blocks to work each day while Marcia worked on her novel while taking odd jobs as a copy editor for college students. Finally, Frank was promoted to the next salary level and together with the money Marcia had squirreled away over the past seven years they were able to buy their small house on the outskirts of the city. A year later, their daughter was born.

One step, then another... Gravel scattered from beneath his shoes.

Frank thought about Nancy, their daughter. Frank had now loved two women in his lifetime, one was his wife; the other was his daughter. Nancy had brought new joy to Frank and Marcia. In her they saw the wonder of God and the miracle of children. He doted on her from the moment she was born, arriving in the delivery room with a teddy bear three times her size. Frank was up during the nightly feedings and bottles just as often as Marcia, never once complaining about the task. He changed diapers, warmed formula, washed dishes, changed clothes and rubbed his wife’s feet after a long day with the baby.

Frank took another racing step as the blasting horn screamed in his ears. He was steps away from the girl – and she wasn’t moving. Why isn’t she moving?

Frank thought about Nancy’s first birthday, the cake cutting and her first bite of cake, which ended up on her dress instead of in her mouth. Marcia hugged him as he filmed this debacle and they both laughed at their daughter, who gleefully shoved cake onto every spot on her head. Finally, the frosting acted as a mousse and her brown hair stood up on end. Frank snapped a picture of her at this moment, eyes twinkling with her mouth full of cake and her hair full of frosting. The picture still sits on his desk in his home office.
The train is moving fast.

He thought of the plans he and Marcia had discussed.

Too fast.

Disneyland...

Cape Cod.

Too damn fast.

The dog that Nancy was going to receive next week from her grandparents as a gift for her eighth birthday.

He thought of Christmases and graduations. He thought of Nancy leaving home for college, a young woman with a life of her own.

I have to move faster.

His nieces and nephews.

Faster!
Grandchildren.

So close...

Growing old.

Sitting with Marcia on their front porch in the autumn of their lives.
Reach! Reach!
Frank could hear the screams of the other commuters on the platform. Why are they yelling?

NOW!
Frank leaped at the girl, arms extended, and her screams in his ears...
Oh, no.

The train towered over them.
Not fast enough.
No one would ever love him as much as Marcia and Nancy did.
I love you, too...

Frank wrapped his arms around Jamie protectively, to shield her from the impact.
Too late.
The train was faster, after all.

2 Comments:

Blogger FoxInDetox said...

Wow! Great story!...it ruined my day....but in a good way. Now I'm sad.

PS...you, my friend, know waaaay too much about Dungeons and Dragons.

12:31 PM, December 08, 2006  
Blogger Andy said...

I'm glad you liked the story. I'm assuming you found it engaging...?


PS...every name in the D&D part of the story was made up off the top of my head as I wrote the story. Thank God I read Fantasy novels for 20+ years. :-)

1:50 PM, December 08, 2006  

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