The Train Man
= The Train Man =
A story by
Robert G. Griffith
“You can’t leave now, what about the children!”
That was said as her last hope of reaching him now. But in her heart of hearts she new he would be gone by nightfall. It was New Mexico this time. Before that it was Montana. His return to the bottle this time was the longest run she had seen him do in all the years they had been together. There had been times when the run would last a few months. Like a train, she called it. Very slowly at first, so slow in fact she could hardly tell it was moving at all. But she could smell the fuel on its breath. Blended in with the smoke from its lungs. The smoke that always poured from his mouth when he spoke. Her comparison of her husband to the train was her way of calibrating the changes in his moods. She learned this from many bottle battles with him over the many years they were together. She thought of those late night meetings at the office along with the loss of appetite. Her waking up in the middle of the night to find him sitting in front of the TV, with a glass of tea, a lit cigarette in his mouth and the ashtray full of butts became a nightly occurrence. Just staring into the box, his favorite movie in the machine. She knew at this point the train had left the station and had gathered enough speed to be unable to stop till it ran its course. Or as sometimes did, crash, leave the tracks that kept it on line to the place it needed to be. That place, only the train new of, and needed to be there as swift as possible.
“The man will lie, cheat and steal from you until he lies rotting in his grave!”
When she heard this or something just like it from her friends and family, she would defend him with extreme prejudice.
“The one reason you never trust a drunk is because he is a drunk. The reason you never trust a reformed drunk is he will bust you for points at his AA meetings. He will blame his drinking on you. He will make it sound like the reason he is that way is because his friends let him get away with it. How convenient for a drunk to say that. Reformed or not. The bottom line is, never let a drunk into your house or your life. They will turn it around to make it look like it was your fault. Easy out. After months of partying and sucking your trust from a bottle, they will turn on you. It never fails. A drunk like that always has the convenience of saying "I don't remember" "did I do that" "well I must have been drunk" "I never said that". And we are supposed to let it ride. "Please forgive me for I not know what I do" Bullshit. He will turn you in for a drink later.”
She once hit her own mother so hard with a coat rack it knocked all her front teeth out and the doctors had to sew her jaw shut for six months. But this was just fine with Betty. Six months without that bitch putting her man down with every breath was just damn fine with her.
She would defend her man with every tool she could muster. But the time she went to far was when he came home from a four-day bender and the front of his car was smashed in to the windshield. Blood was splattered from the broken headlights to the rear doors. Pieces of what looked to her like human hairs were caught in the front grill in layers of dried brown blood. She hid the car in the garage with the door shut. After a run like this the train would stop and fall to the floor. There it would comatose for days. When he woke three days later she asked about the car. Of course he knew nothing. He could not remember. It just needed more fuel so the wheels would turn. More fuel.
She took the car in the dead of night and drove it in to the town’s water reservoir. She watched it sink to the bottom. As the last rush or air and water escaped from the windows of the car she wished it had been him going down for the last time. The thought of him clawing at the windows of the car as it filled with the cold black water, screaming at the top of his smoke filled lungs, the blinding pain as the pressure from the water forced all of the air out and the water in, made her laugh. She was sick and she knew how to get well. And that was to get rid of the cause of her pain.
Her walk back to the house got her thinking. It would be so easy to fix things. She had his papers from work that she took out of the car. She stopped under the street lamp down at the corner from her house. She opened the briefcase that was locked in the trunk. She found a gun. A loaded 357-magnum pistol. She did know guns well and this was one she had never seen. One bullet was missing. She smelt the barrel. It had been fired in the last few days. She learned this trick by smelling the Trains breath, checking for signs of cocktails that were being covered by cigarette smoke to try and hide the odor of booze. She also found some papers in a separate folder. She read from the pages that were torn from a notebook. The words were smeared by water or most likely a drink. But the message was the same.
“Betty, man I just got a job in NM. So keep our conversations to yourself. I will be back in Feb next year. Now that you found God or the probation officer or what ever it is you found this time. You keep it to your self.
Signing off till next year. Good luck!”
The next letter was written on the back of an invoice from the gas company.
“On my way. Just keep your Bridge, AA, Sober meeting conversations to your self. Now that you are Holier than thou. Well keep it to yourself. Before you get totally sucked in to belief, only a few days ago you saw it differently. Keep my name out of it. There is nothing worse than a reformed drunk. Because he will be the first one to either turn you in or having you go to his AA meetings.
You know no one in Austin, especially me. The last thing I need is your Bible thumping, hypocrites knocking on my door or of any one I know. We never went thru this before! Duh. By the way did I mention my home address in Austin was 707 Lakard Ln. And that's all you need to remember.
Don't let me find out any different.
Well, have fun and praise the Lord and all your Bridge people.”
She had forgot about the house in Austin. She remembers that was the home where her youngest child, Garrett grew up. The date on the other side of the invoice was two years old. That was the same year that CPS and the Austin Police Department came after her for taking the children to an AA meeting clear across town in and old church. She was drunk, and was a little pissed because her husband had not showed up to watch the kids while she left to complete her probation requirements handed to her by the great state of Texas.
Reading this crap made her blood boil. She new what she had to do. But timing would be everything. She looked up the street to see that the train must be up and running. She could see all the lights on in the house. He was probably searching for the car keys. What an even bigger surprise was when he looked in the garage to see that the car was missing. She put the papers back in the briefcase, but put the gun in her purse.
Now she had another problem. When she was removing the briefcase and the other belongings from the trunk of the car she found a bowling bag. With the initials LMK stenciled on the side of it. She pulled it out along with the other items she felt that might link the car to her or her man.
Ten pounds she thought. It must be the new ball he had bought for another member of the company bowling team. She thought it might belong to the new team member. The name Larry was good enough for now. Larry MK. Not sure. But the bag needed to go with her back to the house. And as she got closer to the house she could see the Train through the windows. Steaming back and forth. Picking up speed.
She dropped the bowling bag and the briefcase in the bushes next to the back door. She made sure that the purse was opened and the gun was well hid but still within reach. She didn’t know what to expect this time. The usual bender was predictable. Fuels, smokes, drink, and then more sleep. Too much racing though her mind to put up with his usual crap this time. The blood on the car. The gun in the trunk. The papers in the case. The bag belonging to someone named LMK. She knew the routine. Get the stash out of the back closet. Fix a “stops em from shaken” and make damn sure the smokes were out. She was ready.
The phone rang about the same time she turned the back door knob to go in. She waited for him to answer it. The microwave went off at the same time. The single ding of the timer. Then there was nothing but silence. The latch on the door let lose a loud slam. It must have been herd only by her because he just held the phone to his ear and stared into the clock of the microwave oven. She could see the time flashing through the windowpane of the back door glass. It was flashing twelve o’clock. The lights were on all over the house. The clock gave it away. While she was gone taking care of the car, the electricity in the house must have gone off. 12:00 meant trouble. She could see the TV in the reflection of the hall mirror. Some kind of hair regenerator scam was pushing their product really hard. He hung up the phone without saying a word. He felt her presence there at the kitchen door, that stare, locked on to her eyes at the same time he slammed the phone to the floor. It had begun to snow. She did not notice the flakes landing on her glasses. Melting into drops of water. She could barely see the Train at this point. But she knew it was out of control and the fog was beginning to roll in. The doctor’s term for this is called picks disease. Every time she thought about that she wanted to drive a pick into the side of his head. Now that would be picks disease.
It wasn’t always this bad. She was in LOVE. She was eighteen when she first met him. Fresh out of high school. Looking for a dream. A dream she new not what it was. He was on his way to college. A smart man with an uncanny aptitude for numbers. He chose Texas, in Austin. She chose A&M in Bryan College Station. She wanted to work with animals. He wanted to work with physics. They met at the bus station from Hugo Okalahoma. The bus would carry them both to Austin. There he would stay and she would spend three hours waiting for the next bus to Bryan. They talked on the bus. Ten hours is plenty of time to get to know one another. She thought he was handsome. He thought she was a misfit. But they had similar backgrounds. It was the summer of 1953. Hot with no rain for months. Both their parents were sharecroppers back in Okalahoma. Both parents broke. Both the oldest of five. Both the first to go to college. She was from Antlers, he was from Hugo. Never met before. The ages were the same. The closest they ever got to each other was a high school play-off football game two years earlier in Okalahoma City. Antlers, was defending the state championship against Hugo High. Two hours before the game a tornado came into town. It missed the hotel where the two opposing teams were staying for the weekend, but destroyed the stadium on the east side of town. Both teams went home the next day without a victory. But they remembered it well. That’s how the two began to talk on that bus to Austin. And that’s how they bonded. Linked by a storm.
The tornado hit the field without any warning. The marching bands from the two towns were spending practice time on the field. The hail began to fall from the dark clouds that pushed in from the west. It beat down on the band members. It pounded the Trumpets and tore through the drums. The stones were so large they beat down with force of a thousand cannon fires. The lucky ones from the group were knocked out immediately from the pounding. They lay flat on the field unconscious and in a dream. When the twister hit she tore up the bleachers. The wooden planks that served as seats were launched like missiles in every direction. Impaling the kids that were left standing. When it was all over, twenty-four young men were left dead. Five boys and three girls were left crippled. Two, were never found again. As it happened, the brother of Betty was one of the missing. A horn player in the first row. He was eighteen. His last year at school. Betty’s oldest brother. He was going to get out of Okalahoma for good after graduation. He was going to Texas, Lubbock, Texas Tech University. He wanted to play in a Rockabilly band there while he was going to school to be an agriculture farmer business consultant. He had dreams. The stormed ruined that. Betty didn’t tell her future husband on the bus ride that night, about her brother. Because the story was just too much to bring out, especially to a complete stranger. She was scared enough going to a town full of more rednecks, Texas rednecks, at that! They had found her brothers body by a freak accident. A year and a half after the storm, the Okalahoma City Water Department was surveying land for a new water shed. Twenty-five miles away from the stadium the working crew were clearing land in a roadside dump between RR 44 and Highway 45. One of the workers saw something reflecting off the afternoon sunlight. When he went to check it out, what he found was a Trumpet. Stuck, mouthpiece down, in the mud and garbage. When he reached down to pull it out, what he thought was a tree root would not let go. When the worker began to chop at the root that had grown around the horn, he discovered the hand of Betty’s brother held fast to the finger keys.
“Lets go back now”
The cops from the other side planned it.
“The planes will crash in to your garage. The jets will explode into your best buildings. “
This time she knew.
“I want to kill him, I want to beat his head in. I want to kill him now”
She was so scared that the fleas jumped off her ankles.
“I will never expect you to do better than that”
She was gone again. Never left. Never wanted to leave.
Look at the mail
Look at the friends.
“Fuck all you guys. “
“I will never let this happen again”
She was a bitch, and she explained it very well. The Father was on the boat. The storm was keeping abreast. The water was lapping on the sides. A gunshot was in the recorder.
“We got to get out now!” She felt like a fitting thing to say.
By that time it was to late. The first gunshot hit the back of the head. The second one went thru the shoulder blade, up and back across the spine. The smell of the gunpowder was drifting to the back door. When the late night delivery person smelled the smoke and flesh, he turned and ran. Fifteen shots later the blood was everywhere.
The cell phone was ringing, the icemaker was breaking. Blood, ice, guts. The smoke gave up for the cloud of death, this time.
But this was a dream. She had no way of knowing this was real this time.
“I want to kill. I want to take you down.”
The noise was deafening.
“Kiss my Fucking Ass”
Blinded now. She wanted to kill him and her memories. She could kill him,. And he could kill her. She did not want to leave her man. She wanted to keep the plans in place. She had to figure out how to kill the threat of her relationship with him. That was several years ago. “Kill him, Kill him, Kill him, Kill him, Kill him, Kill him, Kill him, Kill him, Kill him”, and let the cops figure it out.
“I will be God Damn if I put up with that crap!”
She spoke into the phone.
She put the blade to his head.
“I will kill every one of you”
Now she woke up again. She looked down the street. She was ballistic now. The gun was hot. How could she do it?
“I want to kill him.”
When the back screen door opened it was quite.
“God forgive me for what I will do”
“I want to kill him”
She put the gun down and started to chant.
“I want to blow his balls off!”
From the beginning of this horror she wanted to kill him. She wanted to put his head down. Everyone would never want to make cake of it. But everyone would want to break his legs.
“Kill the bastard dead”
“Kill the bastard dead”
“Kill the bastard dead”
“Kill the bastard dead”
To repeat it, that was good.
“I want to kill this mother fucker, I want him dead. I want his sperm to die now, below the deepest dead of them all, I never want him to be able to make it back alive, not now, not ever, kill him.”
That was her last statement.
“Can you help?”
“I left your car in front of the Post Office to run in and get stamps.”
She lied, and he knew it.
“I was only inside a moment, but when I came back out the car was gone. I did not know what to do, I was scared, and I ran home to tell you.”
Her head was still pounding. She moved in front of the gun so he could not see it. Waiting for his reply, but nothing was said from his mouth.
He turned away and went back to his favorite place on the couch. Picked up his glass and took a gulp of his drink, a large one, even for him. The King of Slash. He focused his blank stare at the TV. It was not even on. She wanted to blow this fucker away. He was trapped. And he knew it. He started to remember the problems with the car, not the faulty clutch or the nearly dead battery, but the problems he began to remember he put in the car. Now he was beginning to see his bigger problem. He started to shake, a small tremble in his left hand. It moved to his drinking hand. The shaking was out of control now. His drink fell to the floor. It shattered into a million pieces. He looked at the glass on the floor and this triggered another memory. The broken windshield of the car and how it got there. His head dropped between his knees and his stomach forced out onto the floor two days of undigested booze and slime. Over and over again until there was nothing left but gas. But his body wanted to go on and on with its purging.
She watched The Train belch its steam and smoke. Its wheels locked to the tracks. The sound of the boilers blowing out from every vent. The Train was going to crash and she loved it. She picked up the gun and put it in her purse. She wanted to enjoy this gross display of human failure. When the Man and The Train fight each other for control. She had seen it many times before. It used to scare her and she would run to its side to help with the fire. Put it out and to help ease the pain. But not this time. She learned to love it in her own wicked way. The Train crash was her way of getting even.
She had the gun.
She had the train crash.
Now it was her turn, Bang, Bang, shoot, shoot.
The Art of The Poisonous Toad
She used to read a lot in her younger years.
Long before The Train became so violent. Again she would use her skills as a part time court reporter for the local paper to have access to the database files in the super computers mainframe. She thought about the different ways to put him down. She liked fire because it would leave no trace. She liked guns because they were instant. But then she started reading about the poison toad.
“The toad is a small, tailless animal that closely resembles the frog. Toads and frogs both belong to a class of animals called amphibians and live part of their life in water and part on land. But toads have broader bodies, drier skin, and shorter, less powerful back legs than do most frogs. “
She loves this.
“Many toads are dull brown or gray. Some have vivid coloring, such as green stripes or red spots. The skin of most toads is dry, rough, and covered with warts. Despite superstition, a person cannot get warts by touching a toad. But a pair of parotoid glands on top of a toad's head produce a poison that can make people ill or cause eye irritation. The poison also has an unpleasant taste that helps protect the toad from enemies.”
That toads head in the soup, late at night, would be perfect.
“A toad uses its long, sticky tongue to prey on insects and other small animals. It can flip out its tongue, seize an animal, and swallow it--all in an instant. “
The more she would read the more she began to like. “Toads and frogs make up a scientific order known as Anura or Salientia. Members of several families in this order are commonly called toads.”
He thought that her husband was also a toad!
Now this was more to her liking. “The life of a toad. Toads grow up in water but spend most of their adult life on land. They return to water to breed. Temporary pools resulting from spring or summer rain are typical breeding sites. In most toads, the male attracts the female with a mating call. A few kinds of toads do not have a mating call.”
But after reading the last chapter in a toads life, she stopped cold in her tracks.
“Almost all female toads lay eggs. Some females lay more than 30,000 eggs at a time. As the female deposits eggs in the water, the male clings to her body and fertilizes them. Toad eggs look like tiny, black spots enclosed in long strings of clear jelly. The jellylike substance helps protect the eggs. Within a few days, small tadpoles hatch from the eggs. The tadpoles remain in the water as they go through a process called metamorphosis. In this process, the tadpoles gradually develop the characteristics of the adult toad. In most toads, metamorphosis takes from three to eight weeks. The young toads then leave the water and begin their life on land. Young toads grow rapidly. Some reach adult size in a year or less. Toads avoid direct sunlight and heat. They are most active at night or on rainy days. During hot, dry spells, toads dig deep into the ground and remain there. This behavior is called estivation. Toads that live in areas with harsh winters hibernate during the cold weather.”
Under her breath she exhaled the last bit of smoke from her cigarette.
She had to kill him now.
What she read next sent chills down her spine.
“Many animals prey on tadpoles and young toads. In North America, a chief enemy of adult toads is the hognose snake. A toad's poison does not affect this snake. Scientists do not know how long toads live in the wild. Toads in captivity have lived more than 10 years. “
She dropped to her knees on the floor. “Am I the snake or the Toad?”
“In places such as the United States and Ireland the values of some parts of the culture who believe in abstinence conflict with others who see moderate drinking as a way of being hospitable and sociable. Therefore, many laws restricting the use of alcohol in certain locals have been created.
In the US, blue laws exist as a carry over from the days of alcohol prohibition which when over, simply became a localized political issue instead of a national one.
In the US, blue laws exist as a carry over from the days of alcohol prohibition which when over, simply became a localized political issue instead of a national one.
Some psychologists and other social scientists see this ambivalence in the culture as something that makes it harder for individuals to form healthy attitudes towards drinking.”
Boy, was she fucked now.
“Alas, but 'tis only a dream, I fear
For the angels do tread upon yon pillow of pines.
Whose lofty branches do to speak in fables to the Gods above.
Their green subdued hues singing of nature's harmony.
Peace in the heavens and on earth as well
One can but only wonder as the summer doth rage onward.
What dreamlike nymphs wander through the dying leaves of autumn.
As the catacombs tell their tales of woe.
And the bats do rise from within their caves
and from under rusty bridges.
Forthwith to rejoice in the approach of the snowy winter.
And as the bells peale their mournful lullaby.
The world is at peace at last.
And for a while the ghosts are at peace with the world.”
Her mind is past due and these thoughts do not help now.
Because her mother died at an early age. Because she wanted to leave this man. Because she wanted to live in Montana.
What happened? God is what happened. It struck her like a bolt of fire from the sky. The word was spoken, and for once in her life she listened.
“I did a bad thing” He said
“I helped some people set the fire, but I never thought a man would die”.
But the note that was left on the door, pointed to his involvement.
“I was there, it was hailing from the sky, I was scared, and so was the security officer”.
What another perfect escape for the man. He left one dead, a business and a future, gone. This was the perfect escape. Back to Belton.