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Live or Leap, My Response to Bill Holland's Challange #4

Chris has written more than 300 flash fiction/short stories. Working Vacation was 21st out of 6,700 in the 2016 Writer's Digest competition.

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Author's Note

Bill Holland has challenged us to take this one photo, the one at the top of this hub, and write a story of no more than 500 words...unless we just can't control ourselves and decide to write 2,000 words. Here is my response in 475 words.

Live or Leap

Floyd watched the landscape roll by telegraph pole after telegraph pole. He'd have to give up this life someday. Although, outside the train cars on which he served as a Pullman porter, he didn't have much of a life.

When he wasn't working, Floyd rented a room in a boarding house at the end of the line. He took his meals with the other tenants but otherwise kept to himself. He just bided his time until he worked again.

When he considered retirement, his mind went to two places. The first was the expanse of land across the west that was available to homesteaders. He had saved money and would probably be able to stake a homestead claim. If he could build a cabin and raise his food, maybe he'd be okay.

But Floyd was a melancholic man who leaned heavily toward depression when he wasn't working on the train. As long as he had passengers to care for, beds to make up in the luxury car, and luggage to carry, life was bearable.

That's why he so dreaded the thought of retirement. But he was getting old, and his superiors recognized that he was slowing down.

The second place Floyd's mind went when he considered life without his railroad job was any one of the many trestles that carried trains across ravines and river valleys. Could he walk out along that expanse to the place that was highest above the valley floor? Could he then play God?

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The train pulled into the depot. Floyd had the next five days off, so he gathered his belongings and headed for the office to pick up his pay. His supervisor was already walking his way, holding an envelope and a piece of paper. Floyd stopped and let the grim-faced man come to him.

The supervisor handed Floyd the envelope with his pay and the letter of termination. He couldn't even make eye contact but just turned on his heel and walked away.

Floyd crossed the street to the livery, where he kept a buckboard and an old mare. While hitching the horse to the wagon, he thought of the trestle a couple of miles to the south. The last building on the way out of town was the Regional Land Office.

An hour later, he stood in the middle of a half-mile long engineering marvel that joined the high ground on either side of the valley. The railroad had given him a life. Could he now use the railroad to end it?

#

In the late afternoon, Floyd walked out of the Land Office, holding several pieces of paper. The most important thing written on them was that he could occupy his property immediately and in five years, the government would send him the deed for his wooded land beside a creek in Colorado.

In the meantime, he would live and let God be God.

© 2020 Chris Mills

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