Thursday, December 27, 2012

Chapter 1...More Digital Dusting


Chapter 1

Does this ever happen to you? You think of a story and begin writing it and write about 21,505 words and then you ignore the story for about a year? too. I'm so sick of not writing, of this thing just being something I started. I've decided that I'm going to start working on it again. Today I'm including a portion of this story for my blog post. On 7 November 2012 I included another portion of this story (a bit that follows this chapter...). If you're interested in reading that post again, the link to it is: HERE.

This is a bit long. I hope it's worth your time, and I hope it gets my posterior in gear to get back into the writing saddle and go to town. Wish me luck! 

Chapter 1
            The train that transported Susan McDonald to her job in Washington D.C. was late causing the mass of humanity already waiting on the train platform to curse the lightly falling snow. They also cursed the bitter cold front that descended upon the east coast as the commuters now standing on the Alexander Union Station silently stood. The gray sky introduced the laborers to the morning of April 15, 1977.
            The cold air engulfed Susan as she wrapped the wool coat tighter around her shivering shoulders. Like most mornings the 28-year old managed to stand right behind “him,” though Susan didn’t know who “he” was. She only knew he was an incredibly handsome man who took the same 6:37 a.m. train into the city to work that she did. Ever since Susan began her job with the United States Department of Commerce the summer before—a job she was hating more and more with each passing day—the stranger stood in the same general vicinity on the platform to catch a train the two shared with the morose mob.
He wore his horsehide coat this morning, Susan thought as she bounced lightly on the tips of her toes trying in vain to keep blood coursing through her extremities. She thought the man might wear his London Fog trench coat that morning. She hoped the snow wouldn’t get any worse, for she was more concerned for the man’s coat than her own struggle to keep warm. The man lifted his left hand to check his watch. As he did a gleam of light glittering off the man’s gold wedding band; Susan noticed. The small spark of life in the cold gray world shot like tiny daggers into Susan’s heart. Again, just as she had done numerous mornings before, Susan sought comfort in her pity. He should really be wearing his gloves, Susan almost said out loud as she saw the man’s pink fingers surrounding the gold band disappear into the deep warm pocket of the coat.
            The train rounded the final turn approaching the station and as the huge metal behemoth slowed, piercing sounds from the train’s whistle ripped the air. The train stopped and the moving mass crept aboard, each rider choosing a place to sit on the cold plastic seats adorned in pastel blues and dull browns, the chosen colors of the Manassas Railway years earlier. The mystery man took a seat as far from the door as possible. Susan McDonald sat on a seat close to him, but not close enough for her to ever speak to the tall man sitting alone on a cold bench. Susan stole one final look almost daring the man to look in her direction before she turned away. The man did not look at Susan, but with suave motions, retrieved a pack of Marlboros from his shirt pocket and lit a cigarette. Susan only heard the sound of expelled carcinogens being released into the frigid air as she nonchalantly looked elsewhere.
            As the train lumbered toward Washington D.C. Susan watched through the small Plexiglas window as the darkened scenery flew by. The divorcee, whose married ended three years earlier when her immature husband finally agreed that it would be better for two people to live miserably apart than miserably together, used the morning commute as an escape. She often pictured the train ride as a representation of a commute to Hell. The though vanished as the train passed another intersection where several cars waited for the train to pass.
Bored by the view, Susan glanced around the car being careful not to catch his attention. In the seat across from Susan sat a woman reading The Washington Post. A headline on the front page below the fold caught the young woman’s attention. The angle was bad so Susan wondered if she read the headline correctly. In a manner as to not give anyone the impression she was doing exactly what she was doing, Susan shifted in her chair and looked again. The bold Bureau Roman font headline read: Arlington N.O.W. Chapter Urge Unwed First-Time Mothers-To-Be To Seek Health Options. Susan could not read the article’s fine print, but felt no need to do so. Right after her divorce Susan attended an event at the Arlington branch of the National Organization of Women. A coworker at the Department of the Interior invited her to a mixer at Ford’s Theater. She went hoping to find a sorority where the E.R.A. and other important women’s issues could be discussed. She left early after finding the whole experience less than uplifting when the atmosphere at the mixer felt more like a political rally and less than an opportunity for educational discussion surrounding the Equal Rights Amendment and its success of actually passing. Susan had not thought about that night for years…how many years, she wondered. Two? Three? How time flies.
            With the interior of the train car offering little as far as mental stimulation, Susan returned to watch the world outside the cold plastic window. She sat backward in the car so that she saw the places the train had just passed. It reminded her of her youth and riding in the backseat of her family’s station wagon. As a child she had loved seeing where she had just been.
            Susan watched the office buildings, storefronts, and front yards fly by, the cold ground matched her spirits. A gleam from the east caught her attention while the aluminum-sided train coursed through the sleepy D.C. suburb; the first golden rays of the morning sun arrived bringing color to the slate-gray countryside.
            As the sun’s ray crept across the landscape, the train headed toward the 14th Street Bridge under which the slow-moving Potomac River silently flowed. Susan scanned the river, transfixed by the millions of light refractions as light and water mixed on the river’s surface. Susan wondered if anyone on the train saw the incredible light show she was now enjoying on this cold April morning. Probably not…
            The train entered the bridge; Susan continued watching the water. The ambient sounds of the train changed as the earth fell away from the tracks and the train crossed the bridge. Susan’s eye focused on the shore quickly retreating in the distance and noticed the land gently rising from the water’s edge. The tranquil vision of the shore was interrupted by the huge metal supports of the bridge which gave the scene an quality similar to watching a movie where the speed in which the human eye processes motion is manipulated and life as processed by the sense of sight no longer reflects a representation of truth.
            As the train continued Susan decided her momentary escape from reality should end. But before she did, she took one last look at the west shore. Something had caught her eye. There was something small that could be seen softly bobbing atop the pristine surface of the water not far from the frosted coast. The distance between Susan and the object made properly identifying the object difficult. Of course, the first thought she had caused Susan to laugh out loud for what Susan thought she saw seemed so out of place that simple logic pushed the idea from her mind. Because what she thought she saw floating tenderly down the Potomac River on that cold April morning was a picnic basket.

*The Award-winning photo was used without permission from the following website:

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