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Short Flash Fiction: The Last Train. Why I Love Trains and Their General Appeal

Ann loves to write fiction of any kind. Flash fiction can be more of a challenge but makes us use words frugally.

Classic, Majestic Steam Train

by Robert Carr, my father

by Robert Carr, my father

Inspiration

This was first written in response to a writing competition, for an anthology of local work. I came across it by chance, whilst going through various articles, so I decided to use it for HubPages. I've tweaked it a bit and I hope you enjoy it.


The Last Train

He held on tight, soaking wet. A train sped past.

A dog with a bone; you know the type, won’t let go.

Right now, he couldn’t let go.

Why had she refused him? Joe had it all; good looks, house, fast car, money. What’s not to like? Yet she’d refused him.

You turn up on the doorstep of your girl’s house, dressed in Armani, brandishing a bouquet of velvet-red roses. How can she resist? You don the winning smile, make a fool of yourself on one knee, gaze up with doleful eyes and say,

“Marry me!”

Then, in front of the curtain-twitching neighbours, she says no.

Well he’d show her, tell her what he was going to do. Then she’d change her mind and come running. He’d sent a text repeating his proposal, adding his intended action if she said no for a second time. She was working and it remained unread. That was the final straw.

In the torrential rain, the bridge railings were slippery. His grip weakened. A second train rattled the metal beneath his hands. Maybe he didn’t really want to do this. A crowd had gathered on the grass far below. Was she there?

How to get back up to the track, though? One foot found a broad girder. His strong arms pulled up, his feet found further purchase and up he went, back onto the track. The crowd cheered. Then they started waving. He smiled in victory, waving back. The crowd starting shouting. He wondered why. Only at the last second did he realise. A third train thundered down upon him.

.............................................................................................................................


Why do I love trains?

It started at the age of 11. From September 1962 to July 1969, I attended secondary school on the other side of the South Downs from where I lived in Hurstpierpoint, Sussex. Each day, I cycled five miles to the closest station, Hassocks. Then it was one train to Brighton, transferring to a second which dropped us at a small platform near to school in Hove. Then back we’d go at the end of the day.


Home and Station

My home from 4-15 years old

My home from 4-15 years old

Victorian Hassocks Station (pulled down for a modern building - I cried)

Victorian Hassocks Station (pulled down for a modern building - I cried)

Clayton Tunnel

Northern Entrance to Clayton Tunnel, cut through the chalk South Downs

Northern Entrance to Clayton Tunnel, cut through the chalk South Downs

The train cut through the chalk of the South Downs by means of the mile-long Clayton Tunnel. The carriages clattered and banged like a pile of falling saucepans and sometimes the lights would go out.

In those days, some carriages were self-contained eight-seaters with a door on each side, opened by letting the window down on a leather sash, then leaning out to open the catch. Overhead luggage racks were netted string. We had great fun doing somersaults from the rack. How we never damaged anything I’ll never know!

But the best bit was the cycle home, freewheeling down a steep hill, whatever the weather. If we felt brave, it was no hands; fortunately I never ended up with no teeth as well.


My Bicycle

Not the Original but still my bike!

Not the Original but still my bike!

Fascination

What is the fascination of trains? Steam trains in particular awaken nostalgia and romance. Trains across Australia, trains across America, trains across Europe, they all have a majesty of their own, whether steam or diesel or electric.

You can take a train to get you to your holiday destination or you can spend a complete holiday on a train. More mundane, you can use the national network locally, to get to town for shopping or to go to work.

There are people (usually males), known in Britain as ‘anoraks’, who collect engine and train numbers so travel on them just to add to the list. Travel to all our main cities, travel to every county, travel to seaside resorts, there seems to be some compulsion to say you’ve done it, been there, got the number.

Trains give you freedom of movement. You have time to watch the world go by, look into others’ houses and gardens, survey the scenery complete with herds of cows or a group of horses galloping free. You can talk to as many or as few people as you wish. You can eat and drink in comfort, you can read, or you can sleep (just don’t miss your stop!).

Whatever you do, though, please don’t stand on the rails.


Do you like to travel by train?

What's your experience?

© 2020 Ann Carr

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