John is a poet and short fiction writer who enjoys collaborating on stories with other writers, and partaking in challenges.
The Challenge Rules/Suggestions
This is the fourth in this series of billybuc’s photo challenge prompts. Like many other writers here I wait each week with baited breath (what does that really even mean?) to see what photos he will present us with.
”There really are no rules this week. I don’t like rules. I am going to shake this one up a bit and pose this challenge to you: try writing a flash fiction from just this one photograph. Usually I suggest a short story from five photos, so we’re going to shrink things down a bit this week.
Let’s say 500 words or less, okay? Of course, if you want to write a 2,000 word short story, that’s okay too, but try for 500, or even 250, and see what happens.
And that’s it! There are no more suggestions. I hope you have fun with the challenge.”
This week Bill certainly didn’t disappoint. I mean who doesn’t love trains, especially old ones. There is just something about them. Oh, and I worked for the railway department for 17 years so I guess I should have some sort of special affinity to locomotives. Hence, here is my short story/flash fiction “Charlie’s Winter Run.“ I tried to follow Bill’s suggestions and succeeded in keeping this to 507 words including the title. I hope you enjoy this short tale.
“The journey has its own lyrics
A duet of balanced motion
The rails and wheels in tune”
— Richard L. Ratliff
Charlie’s Winter Run
Charlie stared at the nearby train track. It had been awhile since he actually saw a train pass by on the metal rails. The once busy line was now only used seasonally, during the winter months, when people took the train to the nearby ski resort.
Most would be content to spend their retirement days in such a beautiful location adjacent to the lush pine forest at the base of the mountains, but Charlie felt restless. He missed his working days when his services were appreciated, and he always felt his retirement was premature.
Another winter was approaching and overnight temperatures were beginning to drop. It wouldn’t be too long before the first light snowfalls begun. That meant the ski slopes higher up the mountain would already be covered in a velvety whiteness.
A familiar rumble in the distance stirred Charlie. Then he saw the tell-tale puff of smoke, preceding the steam train that suddenly emerged from the trees and rounded the corner. It tooted loudly as it approached, announcing its arrival before the brakes were applied and it slowly eased to a screeching stop at the siding.
The sight of the powerful engine with its attractive green carriages made Charlie a little jealous. He wished he was still running this line, instead he had been decommissioned, three years ago, as a running passenger train and now his carriages were utilised as temporary accommodation for rail maintenance crews during the months that the line was active
When Charlie had been in service all wooden carriages were red, but these had obviously been refurbished in and out and painted an attractive forest green. An appropriate colour for the envy he felt. He didn’t know if this train had a name, but he’d call it Kermit.
The guard climbed down from the rear carriage, his van, and strolled up and down the line looking at the carriage wheels and surveying the situation. Then one of Charlie’s own occupants saw the guard and went to talk with him.
After some time both men approached Charlie. He heard them discussing if his carriages were still in running order and good enough condition to carry passengers. It was confirmed he had been well maintained and serviced regularly.
Apparently, not one, but two of Kermit’s carriages had problems with their wheels or brakes so the train was unable to proceed any further, or return, without significant risk to the safety of the passengers and crew. Charley was chosen to fill in for this winter season and he was excited to start as soon as his carriages could be coupled to the engine.
As soon as the passengers had been transferred the engine fired up and the driver tooted to indicate they were getting underway. Charlie’s wheels made a grinding sound as they turned for the first time on a track in three years, and he set off for the ski resort. He was excited and happy. Winter couldn’t last long enough.
© 2020 John Hansen