Train Ride by Douglas Macdonald

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One day Leonard discovered a strange meandering line on the music sheet in front of him. A twelve-year-old piano prodigy, he had been struggling with some passages in Liszt’s Transcendental Etudes. The line went from the top downwards, never crossing through a chord, always going through the gaps between notes. At the bottom of the sheet the line continued over the keyboard, down to the pedals and beneath the piano bench. He decided to see where it led.

The path left his home and went for miles, getting larger and more trodden until he arrived at a train station. It was clearly a very old station, built with huge limestone blocks and a battered tin roof that extended over wooden benches, where people could sit while waiting for a train. A single track ran in front and a dozen people, all carrying laptops, were staring down it at the oscillating light of an approaching engine.

He joined the crowd on the edge of the platform. No one seemed to take much notice of him. The engine puffed in as the train slowed and stopped to let people on. Leonard realized that he would be left entirely alone at the station when the train went out. He found himself climbing aboard. Tired after the long walk, he took a seat, felt his eyes closing and fell asleep, grateful for a warm resting place.

When he awoke the sun was setting and he realized that no one had approached him for a ticket. It would be best to find a conductor, he decided, and ask some questions.

Leonard walked ahead through car after car until he found a conductor slouched in one of the seats with his feet up on the opposite cushion. The man was gigantic. He had on an official dark blue uniform and was wearing a round conductor’s hat with a one-inch shiny black visor. The man was staring out of a dust-edged window.

“Excuse me,” Leonard began, “I want to know our destination–how far we’re going and where we’re ending up.” Receiving no response, he went on, “Secondly, I would like to get a return ticket or find out where to get one.”

The conductor pulled his feet from the cushion and crossed his legs, looking up at Leonard for a moment. “There are no tickets back.”


Douglas Macdonald is a member of the Evanston Writers Workshop. He has published flash fiction this year in “Imperfect Fiction” and “Passages North.”
His poetry has been published in several U.S. magazines this year as well as in HCE, a British journal.