by | Nov 15, 2012 | Fiction, Flash fiction | 12 comments

By Laura McHale Holland

My boy and I walk the bridge over the water, gray murk churning slowly by.

As a youngster, I longed to dive in, blend with the current. I threw my school pictures in each autumn instead, effigies of me, drowning.

My boy dashes ahead and climbs part way up the rail. I cach up, grab his arm. “Oh, Mommy, let’s jump in,” he says.

I wonder how fast we would fall, how much it would hurt to hit the water. “No, dear, we have a train to catch,” I say. I draw him down to the pavement and take his hand. We skip to the other side.

Soon we are by the tracks, hands in pockets. My thoughts drift from the bridge to the rails just a few feet away. Does everyone passing want to jump, or is it just a particular sort of person like me, like my son, someone with a bent difficult to explain, more difficult to shake?

The whistle blows; my son leaps onto the tracks. I leap, too, and await the train.


Photo by Lachlan

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  1. Robin Leigh Morgan

    For some reason I got up super early today, and couldn’t fall back asleep; so I decide to check if you’ve done a new post–and here it is. Anyway,

    Very interesting/powerful flash this week. A bit nostalgic as the mother hears her son wanting to do something–something which brings to her mind the days of her youth, days in which she would dream of doing the same something daring, the same something dangerous; and tells him they have to leave to catch a train.
    The past and present seem to come to a head when he leaps onto the tracks, thinking it would be just as much fun as doing it from the bridge; and when she merely follows him onto the tracks, instead of trying to save him. I get the sense she is deeply troubled due a recent tragic event in their lives; an event from which she totally escape from, however she doesn’t want to leave her son alone in the world without her—a world she feels alone in right now herself; an event she feels is too difficult to explain to her son or anyone else for the actions she’s taking. And here they both wait on the tracks for their train to come, to “take them away” from the reality they’re both are currently living in.

    For some reason I feel I’ve tuned into the same frequency your mind had when you wrote this.
    Well. let me see if I can fall back asleep now. :-)

  2. admin

    I think all that you say is plausible, Robin. In the first draft I did of this the mother pulled her son off of the tracks, which is what most parents would do, even very troubled parents. Then I decided to have her join her son, which makes for a more troubling, intriguing story, I think. I envisioned they’d get hit by the train, but now I’m thinking she could lift him up and jump aside at the last minute, too, like the game of chicken. Train tracks ran through th center of the suburb of Chicago where I spent many of my formative years. One family had several boys, four I think, and they lived not too far from the tracks. They played chicken. One of them got hit by a train and was instantly killed. But the remaining boys didn’t stop playing. One or two more died while playing the game. I can’t imagine the pain their parents went through. But that’s another story. Hmmm. Might be a good start for another flash.

  3. wordwranglingwoman

    Well that gave me a chill! Nice job. Patrice

  4. admin

    Thanks, Patrice. How’s your writing going?

  5. Susan

    I remember when Steve and I used to put pennies on the tracks and wait for the trains to squish them. I still have some of those too. Trains and train tracts have an interesting hold on young people. Maybe it’s the speed it travels is the issue. Drowning and being hit by a train are fears of mine, so I’m glad the mom pulled her son back. My mom always wanted to, “take a long walk off a short bridge”, so I can relate to this mom. I’ve never really thrown any “effigy” of me away. What was can never be again no matter how much we throw out, throw away, or wish it were different. We have what is right now. HUGS, my friend. How’s that knee? :) Love you!

  6. admin

    Thanks for your thoughts Susan. I put pennies on the track, too. There was something compelling about doing that. I never played chicken, though. I don’t fear drowning or being hit by a train, but I do fear dying in an auto accident.

    I don’t think the mom in this story pulls her son back; as I see it, she joins him on the tracks and waits for the train. Now, it could be that she will decide to save them both before the train arrives, but it could be that she doesn’t. It’s the thought of her not just instinctually bringing him back to safety that is chilling to me, because most moms would do anything we could to save our children. So this goes way against the grain. … My knee continues to improve, my friend. Thanks for asking. xoxoxox

  7. Barbara Toboni

    How sad. Until I saw the comments I thought they were going to jump on the train and go somewhere. Guess I was hoping for a happy ending.

  8. admin

    Thanks for your comment, Barbara. Susan saw a positive outcome, too. I saw it likely going the other way, but with the outcome not really known for sure. … We all bring our own life experiences to stories, and my interpretation for a story like this, even though I wrote it, isn’t necessarily more correct than yours.

  9. JazzBumpa

    Sadly, no. There can be no positive outcome.

    This is entirely the wrong way to train your child.


  10. admin

    Thank you very much for sharing your perspective, JazzBumpa. I don’t think this woman is even trying to train her child. She’s too wrapped up in her pain. I could possibly see another person who’s waiting for the train pulling them both up before the train arrives if there’s time. I don’t see her coming to her senses on her own though.

  11. JazzBumpa

    Sorry, I was making a gruesome word play on “train.”

    I lack the willpower to resists those kinds of temptations.

    lo siento,

  12. admin

    I didn’t even pick up on your play on words, JzB. Thanks for pointing it out. I’ve come down with the flu and am having a difficult week, but it’s likely I would have missed it even if I weren’t I’ll. Sigh. Anyway, I appreciate that you’ve been visiting here and commenting.

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