The Train: A Short Story by Lizzy Baldwin

“Darn it” Angie swiped her hand through her dripping hair and cursed as she daubed the skin under her eyes. The thunderous storm that was brewing loudly outside had caused her expensive mascara to drip down her sullen face; One hundred percent waterproof my arse she cussed. As she pulled her suitcase off of the bus, thanking the bus driver, she looked up into the sky. The sky was a triumph of navy blue with a smattering of pinched white clouds. The rain was hurtling to the ground and splattering wildly on the pavement. Pulling the suitcase from its standstill she raced along the pavement until she reached the large red wooden door of the railway station. Pushing it forward it creaked loudly; when was the renovation due on this place? She sighed as she took in the beauty; the high ceilings with large beams where pigeons sat like kings watching the tired passengers drinking steaming cups of coffee and frantically checking their bags for their tickets. However no time for taking in the culture! Angie was late and there was no time for daydreaming. Quickly scanning the busy railway station she breathed deeply. As her eyes wavered over the blinking board of departures she realised she was on the wrong platform. Cursing once more she sprinted down the white and red tiled steps descending into the murky underground of the station. She barely caught a breath of air as she pushed and curved through the ambush of angry and disgruntled people all trying to gain access to the platform. As she went to push forward she realised a rather little elderly man had stumbled on the wheels of the suitcase of a brash and large breasted woman, who was shouting abuse loudly.

“Why didn’t you just watch yourself you imbecile keep your scrawny hands away from my luggage.” With a callous grunt she pulled the suitcase free almost uplifting the small man. Angie was about to shout abuse when she saw the man was chuckling loudly. She looked at him slowly, and as he caught her eye he smiled explaining,

“I have all the time in the world my dear, I’m an old man, way past my prime. However I have the manners of a charming Prince. Unlike that brute of a woman; she would definitely play the part of one of the ugly sisters.” He chuckled and smiled before pushing through the crowd. Angie followed him up to the platform and through the disgruntled passengers. She looked across the platform taking in the tired mothers rocking tiny cherubs back to sleep, and the cranky businessmen in straight cut suits staring at watches whilst supping espressos and texting a million characters a minute but the little old man had seemed to disappear. Pushing the thought to the back of her mind she fondled the bruise on the side of her neck. The train journey was supposed to be taking her far away from the life she had lived. Moving to the city had been a perfect decision. She was bright and youthful with her entire life ahead of her. Moving into the tiny apartment had supposed to be the best decision of her life. But then, it had happened. She sighed not wishing to re think the situation. Looking to her right she saw the huge engine hurtling towards the station. As she went to move closer to the platform the group of people behind her surged forward taking her out. Sprawled on the floor she felt the heat rising to her face. Pushing herself from the floor she rushed towards the closing doors, jamming her purse between them and pushing them apart. She walked solemnly down the aisle, until she reached the last carriage where the old man from earlier was sat quietly. He had laid his walking stick along the other set of chairs however once seeing her retracted it and offered her a cold but friendly hand. She took his hand and sat shaking his hand gently.

“The names Stanley, my dear. Named after the once famous diner in the United States. Apparently when my ma was pregnant she was obsessed with their baby-back ribs. Couldn’t get enough of them. So the name stuck.” He chuckled. His voice had an American twang that she couldn’t quite make out. He smiled at her confused face. “It’s a rather uncommon mix of Missouri and Texas. Some call it odd but I call it well travelled.” He smiled again until he saw that she was gently crying. “Hey hun, what’s up? Can’t be all that bad.” He looked imploringly at her and dug into his pocket for a handkerchief. It was covered in embroidered flowers that were delicately applied with tiny pink stitches. She smiled but shook her head,

“It’s too beautiful to wipe my tears on. It’s perfect.” He shook his head at her, and laughed out loud.

“My dear, it is a handkerchief. No matter how beautiful it is, it’s not perfect if it’s not being used for what it’s for.” He chuckled, “you kids are so sentimental about the smallest of things.”

She took it and held it gently. “Where is it from?”

He smiled warmly, “It was my wife’s, and I’m going to go to America to see her grave. See I moved here after she died. It was too much for me and I needed a new start.” He smiled gravely. “But you see when you get to my age, sentiment is all you have.”

Angie smiled and looked out the window. She thought of the sentiment she had felt when moving into the new flat. She had painted the rooms in a rainbow of colours to match the mood she had felt that she finally had her own place. She had furnished it with a mixture of old and new pieces to match her feelings. A new wall clock that stood proudly above a warn and tarnished leather armchair that she had found at the local tip. She had bargained with him for twenty minutes but she had wanted it so badly and he had eventually given into her pleading. She had wanted the flat to be warm and forgiving not like it’s outside. Living in the outskirts of Birmingham she had found the city cold and un-inviting with the streets littered with muck. However the job was perfect, marketing and advertising for a new funky fashion label. Warm and friendly people who had bounced ideas off each other had surrounded her; she was in her element. She had never felt so at home. However, three months in, she had been burgled. Angie was in the house and when the burglar had discovered her he had assaulted and attacked her. A tear dripped down her face as she touched the bruise on her neck. Stanley didn’t miss the action and quickly tried to comfort her.

In the tiny train carriage Angie spelt out her entire life story. Her difficult upbringing; a dad that had never been around, a sister who had become addicted to class A drugs, and who had died with Angie clinging to her, screaming like a caged animal. She had clung to her cold blue body and had screamed until her lungs had become clogged with tears and she could only whine miserably. The paramedics had pulled her from the cold and heavy body and taken her in their arms holding her close trying to constrain her like a wild beast. They had soothed her with corrugated cups of hot chocolate laced with whipped cream and marshmallows, but it had healed nothing. Nothing could warm the iced feeling in her stomach. Her heart had been split in two. Not down the middle but it had been ragged and coarse leaving Angie incomplete and broken. Two month later, her mother had passed suddenly; the paramedics said it was pneumonia, but Angie had known it was a broken heart. Throughout her story Stanley had encouraged and held her story with him, feeding her with confidence to spill the difficulties that she was holding within her. When it was all out in the open she had sat and cried and apologised profusely to the caring Stanley. He had reassured her, taking in all her emotion. She had felt her body tire and before she knew it she had fallen asleep. Her dreams comforted her and pulled her deeper into the dreamland. Stanley sighed deeply. He had lived a life of enthusiasm and excitement; he had seen the world twice over and he knew that the reason for travelling was for sentiment only. He smiled as he realised his earlier words

“You kids are so sentimental about the smallest of things” he spoke softly and smiled pleasingly. He pulled his coat from his shoulders and took the bag that he had been storing under the seat from its hiding place. He looked inside at the bundles of cash. Being a scared man he had stockpiled his cash, saving the money for his trip back to his homeland. But he smiled again,

“You kids are so sentimental about the smallest of things” He stood up suddenly and pulled the coat from his shoulder reaching inside the pocket for his notebook and pen.

Angie woke with a shock, she was covered in a coat and the old man had gone. She felt cold; had she scared him off with her sheer emotion. She felt tears creeping down her cheeks until she saw she had her arm slung over a large worn bad. A single sheet of paper was clinging to the inside of the bag. She opened it slowly and read the long slanted handwriting.

To my dear Angie.
Inside this bag is the money I had saved to visit my darling wife for the last time. I was a silly old sod and was always afraid of the banks. Yes, this money was held in my mattress for a number of years. However this money was meant to help not to dwell on the past. My darling Angie we may have only met for a mere while, but I know my beautiful wife would have called me a sentimental old sod and would have cursed at me.
You cannot run forever my dear, but I will take a bet, or a punt on you. You are an incredible young woman. Take this and make your dreams come true. Don’t let me down hun.
All my Love
Stanley.

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Thoughts please?

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The stubborn reader

I am a stubborn reader; I hate to give in on a book. Once I sit down to read, that really is it. I am drawn in, stuck, like an explorer that has wandered into a plot of sinking sand. Even if the plot line is tedious and the characters are meagre representations of real life identities I struggle on, clenching my teeth and ignoring the brimming headache. I ignore the clichéd perfect characters, with their plans for the future planned out much like the perfect lines of an underground map. Strong, straight and interweaving they move gracefully through the lives of minor characters flawlessly. Give me grief and pain. Give me suffering that is raw and rare. Imperfection pulls me in and makes me tense with expectation. Life is not without imperfections, nor graceful or blemish free; we all dip and dive through the difficulties that arise, the uncomfortable moments and daily situations that cause our cheeks to blush. Tell me them in gory detail and make me wince. Then pull me down into the grief stricken moments. Give me a book that will make me cry for hours on end, or make me unable to pick up another book for another week. A book hangover shall we say? Knowing the brilliance of the last book you cannot help but stop yourself from starting another. Much like that bottle of vodka you downed last week eh? Give me blistering romance and painful goodbyes. Please make it difficult, like love always is. Love, is all consuming, it burns and it hurts. But show me that it can rise from the embers, new and fresh. Pull me along so I cannot put it down, even though my eyes are weeping from tiredness. Finally prove to me that real books are not always classics. Don’t make me struggle through another Dickens or Eyre telling me it is a classic that I must add to the cannon I have already read. Show me the lost gems I am potentially missing. Save my time for a book worth reading. Give me a book. 

The Kindle

“Craccckk”
The noise stirs my subconscious, bringing me from the realm of comforting sleep and into the promise of an early morning. My eyes waver as they open, blurred by the tack of sleep that hides in the corners of my eyes altering the picture of the world I would normally see. I stretch to discover the noise that rudely woke me but none is apparent, until I turn and my hip cracks noisily against the worn springs and flimsy material upon my bed. As my body takes in the new morning my brain crackles for the only thing I desire this early in the morning. I feel for the broken bedside table and clumsily graze my knuckles against the worn oak. Tipping the tobacco and filter into the transparent paper I try to gather enough saliva to roll the cigarette strongly. I light quickly and desperately, needing to feel the ash and the smoke curling inside my mouth. As I hold the smoke I can feel it snug in my throat, it’s deep taste cloying. As I finally give release I need to draw again stronger and deeper….As my body doubles coughing I think to before all of this…when things were different …

Running

I’m running, running from a place, a person, a feeling. The air is whipping against by cheeks making them flushed and red, like an embarrassed teenager. My hair is knotted by wind the as it makes flight, stray wisps flick around my face and are ingrained upon my cheeks. The wind rushes and whistles around my face and my lungs pound against my frail ribcage. It beats like a motor telling me to stop, to place my hands on knees and bring gushes of air into my lungs.

 

I guess I should take it back to the beginning. I always loved to run, when the other kids where grumbling and pulling up their knee high maroon socks as we stalked onto the football pitches in the winter, I would be limbering up, stretching my lean muscles ready to push myself to the limit, the final boundary of collapsing, breath all gone, feeling the grass on my face as my body doubles up on itself and finally falls. However it’s not only about the running, but what I’m running for and where I’m running from. Image

my first (very) short story

When I was younger I used to write a lot of short stories and read them to people that I knew. In recent years I haven’t had any time to allow myself to continue writing. I must admit I am a little rusty so here is my first attempt at a very short story that came to my mind yesterday. Feedback would be brilliant! 

“BANG”

Greg woke with a shock; Startled from his sleep, he regrettably left the warmth of his duvet and with his vision impaired he stumbled over to the bedside table and retrieved his glasses. Slipping them over his nose he lurched forward, falling over a wayside mug of cold coffee from the night before.

“Shit,” he growled, as he begrudgingly picked up the mug and the handle that had fallen from its side. He gingerly picked his way down the stairs, past the piles of books and swiped aside the bills stamped with the red letters WARNING!  As he swept down the stairs he touched his favourite photograph on the stairway. A photograph of his wedding day to his beautiful wife Alicia, with her blunt fringe, her large green eyes that she used to blink when she was nervous, and her dry, sarcastic sense of humour, she had become everything to him. But that was a long time ago, now were the arguments and yelling. The frustrated pacing and arguments about the house, the mess, and the bills was rising up and drowning their relationship, like a broken ship, without an anchor.

As he swung into the kitchen and placed the mug down on the sideboard, he looked up. The most peculiar vision met his eyes; a large pterodactyl was perched on the draining board, clawing at the silver, putting large marks into the tinged metal. Suddenly the monsters eyes flew to him and cocked her head the same way that Alicia always used to. Still in a moment of shock Greg wiped his glasses and pushed them back up his nose. The same view greeted his eyes. But now the beast was getting increasingly angrier, she beat her wings and swung at him, directing her large claws into the middle of his back. As he yelled out in pain the beast stopped for a second and blinked her huge eyes at him, and fidgeted nervously. The resemblance and movements were shockingly similar to Alicia’s. He slowly moved towards to beast and running his hand through his long fringe, offered a hand to the beast. The now silent creature bowed her head and turned to face the window outside. As he looked out to where the creature was staring he noticed that his glasses had been bent in the attack, changing his perspective of the world. He took them off slowly, not taking his eyes off the creature and slowly reshaped them. With his vision blurred he carefully placed them back on his nose. The beast had disappeared and his beautiful wife was sat, staring into the morning sun. She turned and cocked her head and giggled

Greg wiped his eyes, knowing that his sleepy stupor had finally worn off. ‘Right, lets get this sorted,’ he said with a hazy smile.