There’snow place like home, there’snow place like gnome

Literati–a reminder! In addition to our contests, we offer you a platform to share your other writing, and get feedback.  Send us anything of a reasonable length, and we’ll be happy to post it for you.  Kyle Katz sent us something for your consideration. And here it be: ESCAPE by Kyle Katz   In the …

Literati–a reminder!

In addition to our contests, we offer you a platform to share your other writing, and get feedback.  Send us anything of a reasonable length, and we’ll be happy to post it for you.  Kyle Katz sent us something for your consideration.

And here it be:

ESCAPE

by Kyle Katz

 

In the dead cold of nature’s blizzard, the trains’ screeching sound grabbed the steel tracks, bearing down, determined to make it around the treacherous mountain, where others had perished.

The old bones of the engine staggered then leaned in, as the locomotive penetrated winters curtain… carrying me far away from my home.

The final scenario of failed attempts to run away, took me back to my mother, pleading with me not to leave her. She saw it in my eyes that afternoon. This time I would not be returning. I felt sorry for her when she dropped to the floor in a death grip around my leg, like the humping neighborhood dog as I tried to pull away.

“You got to let me go this time mom, I’m dying here! I can’t protect you anymore. If I stay, I’ll kill him myself. What kind of life would I have then?”

I fled to Canada. I hoped I’d made the right choice. He was capable of killing her, and us too.

He would blame her for me leaving again. She would pay the price.

“Please don’t go; things will be different.”

“I heard it all before mom- you need to get help.”

I wanted her to come with me.  I knew she’d never have the strength to leave him. Her failed attempts usually led to bruises and beatings– either for her or one of us. The whole repetitive drama was soul-destroying.

I watched her apply make-up covering up the black and blue.

“Why didn’t you fight back mom?”

“Oh, it’ll be alright.”

“No mom, it won’t be!’’

The conductor sliced through the pain of my thoughts.

“Are you alright mam? Can I get you anything? A pillow maybe?”

“NO! I’m alright.”

He tipped his hat. “Sorry mam, I didn’t mean to disturb you.”

 

Sadness stuck its claws in my gut, tightening her hold around my guilt as I thought about mother’s eyes. Seductive and capturing. I knew if I was disarmed, and held her gaze too long, the crumbling sand of my good intentions, would wash away, only to return as the tide did. Over and over again.

Mother’s hurricane of words… swearing it would never happen again… left me empty.

“He’ll change. I’ll get help for all of us.”

That one last time I wouldn’t look at her smile. I couldn’t. It would only hold my soul in suspension. I’d remained silent until the storm was over.

My heart still missed her, but her weakness appalled me.

~~~

The inside of the warm train, was a womb of protection.

The blizzard composed itself.  A painter’s stroke of light snow settled on the windowpane.

My hand touched the window.  I followed the perspiration with the tip of my finger.  Water rolled down the inside as if it were a teardrop, suspended by years of vulnerability.

Rolling clouds zoomed by as if they had somewhere to go. The skies belly was full. The patches of darkness gave full warning… another snow storm was approaching.

I remembered my last words to mother.

“I’ll come and get you, mom, when I’m settled.”

I held her beautiful face gently in the palms of my hands.

“I love you mom.”

~~~

 

The conductor handed me a sandwich. “Daydreaming eh?”

“I got you a turkey sandwich.”

“Thanks.”

“And some milk.”

“I hate milk. I’m lactose intolerant. You drink it.”

I looked in my satchel for my vitamins, grabbed my bottle of water and some money.

How much do I owe you?”

He smiled. I smiled back, out of courtesy.

“Nothing.”

“No. Really. How much?”

He turned and walked away.

My chest sunk into a sigh of relief. I was famished.

I caressed my belly and smiled, knowing my victory.

 

No more flying fists. No more pulling and twisting of the ears. No more cop chokeholds that made me black out! No more demeaning words. No more smell of alcohol. No more seeing my mother’s bruised face, streaming tears and tattered spirit. No more torture in the name of discipline… not for me, anyway.”

If I didn’t leave when I did; I would have never left… or I’d leave in a box! The path opened… and the opportunity was there.  I mustered up the courage, planted my feet firmly and with unyielding faith, moved quickly before I changed my mind. Before the tide would return.

The trained slowed. The blizzards fury slept…silencing its need for attention.

The virgin beauty of Canada’s wilderness saturated my eyes. Freedom’s wings carrying delicacies, blanketing the earth with softness, melted my fears. I dreamed about feeling that softness of another human being landing on my cheek, telling me I was okay, that I’d done the right thing.

The strangeness– the parallel universe that I came to exist in, slapped me across the face with blaring physical evidence. I was born and raised in the windy city called Chicago. I may never see my home again. But I am here… NOW…and I’d be just fine.

~~~

My contractions were bearable. I let out a restrained cry.

Not knowing anything about giving birth, I instinctively took up the doggy position on all fours with my butt in the air, which relieved the intense pressure on my bladder… even if it was only for a short time.

I sprawled across the ripped burgundy vinyl seats, seeking comfort, dodging the harsh stares of disapproving passengers.  Defenseless. I melted, pleading silently for their compassion.

It was two hours since my water broke. Strange sensations of warm flowing wetness running down my legs, instinctively made me aware I was close to giving birth.

Another contraction. I swallowed the world, releasing just a small whimper.

The conductor flashes an empathetic look.

“Oh it’s nothing,” I said with clinched teeth.

“Next Stop, Moose Lake,” the conductor shouted.

An ambulance was waiting. The two men in uniform lay me on a stretcher.

One strikingly handsome man held my hand.

“No place to have a baby out in the middle of this territory, eh?”

“Yeah, my travel agent is American!”

The sound of laughter echoed through the forest, as he put the final strap, around my thighs securing my baby and me.

 

The blizzard was speaking. I ignored its harsh voice.

My eyes wide open, as the nighttime snow dropped in clusters, cooling down the heat on my forehead; Mother did that when I had a fever.

The ambulance raced to the one hospital on the outskirts of Moose Lake, as the sirens wailed in the background.

My son was born in Moose Lake Ontario, a small mining town in Canada.

Nothing compared to my son’s face, his small body nestled in my arms like a baby sparrow. My chest swelled with milk and my eyes filled with God, as I realized the world was not entirely cruel– and that I could provide for him.

I was overwhelmed with love and decided to give my father a second chance. I named my child after my father.

Feeling a warm breath of new life permeating through my cells, lightness in my heart– a surreal aura of unspoken peace, I cuddled my boy. My heart beats strong again.

After a couple of days, we boarded the train to deliver us to our final destination.

That same conductor escorted us to first class as we continued our journey.

“Hello, I see you made it. Let me see what you got there. Beautiful baby eh, just like her mother.”

“He’s a boy and thank you. I mean… thank you for everything.”

He reached out and touched my cheek with his tender hand. Our eyes locked. “You’re going to be just fine. You will get use to the light, I promise.” He said.

“Follow me. This is the first class area and it’s the best section of the train, for complete privacy. Push that green button if you need anything.”

He turns to walk away.

“ Wait. What’s your name?”

“John…John Barnett.”

“Well Mr. John Barnett. You helped me more than you’ll ever know.”

He winked, smiled; tips his dangling hat, before he becomes just a shadow down the train’s corridor.

The large window framed the landscape of tranquility, sky-scraping trees, lined up in nature’s pattern… welcomed us.

The conductor announced, “ Next stop, Kapiscasing Ontario, end of the line. “

My grandfather, whom I had never met, would be awaiting our arrival. His letters secured tightly in my binder, had been my stepping-stones.

My soft lips upon my son’s forehead tasted sweet. ”I will always be here for you.”

The branding kiss of a mother’s love arose like fire in my belly. The same kiss my mother left in myheart.

It takes a train to cry

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10 comments

  1. The scenario of this revealing story  seperates itself from the plot in different soap box ways.  Wife abuse, daughter abuse; in fear of dissappearing  before she has a chance to live-all written out in desperation, are compartmented to the reader, but I was still able to pick up a flow.  The train metaphor is romantic and soothing and the conductor is a grandfather wise savior that blends us towards to the real grandfather waiting at the ending.   Then again, we enter into the risky business of an ill timed birth, but, again, all come to good.  I am with the protagonist every step of the way, and in my naive understanding, she is blameless.  This is the work of a good writer.  We do not know of the how and why of the pregnancy.  Nothing to worry about inside the womb of the train.  Yes indeed, we will get used to your light.

  2. Mac Eagan says:

       Great story, Kyle.  There are some very strong, poetic moments.  The beauty of the words you choose echoes the beauty you are trying to describe outside the train.
       There are several technical errors (remember, you asked for this) – the story is “salted” with commas, sprinkled about uniformly although often not needed.  There is also verb-tense disagreement.  Most of the story is written in past tense but there are phrases that are written in present tense.  The thing about technicality is, it doesn’t have to be and should not be a writer’s first concern.  If a story is headed to formal publication, an editor or proofreader will usually take care of all of that.
       The plot and premise are solid, but I would suggest spending a little more time describing the grandfather.  The conductor gets a lot of attention and his kindness is noteworthy.  But all we know about the grandfather is he will meet the protagonist and her baby for the first time at the train station, and his letters somehow motivated her to finally leave for a better life.  How did he motivate her?  Her mother was being abused and she tolerated it.  Was the grandfather paternal or maternal?  If paternal, did the protagonist’s father learn abuse from the grandfather?  If maternal, why did he not do more to rescue his daughter?  Will the protagonist and her son be safe in their new home?  I don’t think you have to trim out anything about the conductor, but you could probably expand the grandfather’s role with just a paragraph.  Maybe two.
       The character of the protagonist is developed well.  She is understandably defensive and protective, but you show us she still has compassion and has not been destroyed by her prior environment.  We, the readers, are able to identify with her and want to see her succeed.
       You done well, kid.

    • KYLE says:

      Of course I asked for it! I had thought, that the reader knew, the protagonist was sensible and was strong enough to evaluate and leave as she did-keeping the letters from her grandfather– being referenced to her stepping stones I wanted the reader to know that on the other end WAS a man who she was in contact with, that she trusted.
      I’ll look at that part and see how I can integrate. It may indeed add more texture.Technical errors..Guilty. Thank goodness for editors! Especially the ones with the Eagle eye!Thank you very much Mac. Really. Thanks for telling me the good stuff too.

    • Sir Mac, with all due respect, I find I must take issue with the importance of the grandfather waiting at the end of the line.  Kyle’s emotionally filled story, as long as it is, is still a short story with a beginning middle and end.  In the middle we meet the conductor who is kind, wise, and harbors only good intentions; a grandfatherly character if I ever saw one.  If this was a novella, or something longer, I could understand the neccessity of fleshing out a back history that would explain not only her future with her real grandfather, but relationships within the family, and perhaps a better understanding of the abuse.  But for the depth the author has decided the story would express, I believe the grandfather should be left to the imagination of the reader.

      • KYLE says:

        Interesting. That was my first response. In the longer version which was close to 4000 words, as I intended this to be more of a novel. During the process. I just wanted to tell the story, and be done with it. I had a couple other readers tell me, I strayed away from the story, trying to tell too much. I wanted to tell her story without being self-indulgent. I wanted to write from a place of beauty, which after the escape, this young woman came to choosing, what she could see and what was possible. Once again, Thanks for all the feedback! It’s all good!

      • Mac Eagan says:

        Your thoughts and comments are greatly appreciated, Mike.  And overall I agree with what you are saying.  I don’t want to sound argumentative or defensive, but would like to clarify my intentions.
        I would not want Kyle to go back and add any more details about the abuse or how it came to be.  My honest first response when I read the girl was meeting her grandfather was, “Will she be safe?”  Going back for a second read I saw the reference to the “stepping stones” and the role the grandfather played in her making her decision to leave.  But I entirely missed the “stepping stones” reference on my first read and the questions I raised in my previous post were the ones that popped into my head at that time.
        That’s why I said to explain in a paragraph or maybe two.  Not to add more length or dimension to the story, but to add a few additional positive thoughts in addition to the one sentence the story already contains and reinforce the rightness of her decision.  To add to the beauty of her new world.  That’s all.
        And I am only one opinion.  Kyle’s response to your post indicates she has had a few other readers give their opinion.  They agree with you.  I agree with you completely, at least as far as not making the story significantly longer.  I am of a slightly different opinion on the matter of revealing a bit more about the grandfather, but I also see that for the majority of readers who have expressed an opinion, the grandfather needs no further explanation.  I can accept that.

        • KYLE says:

          You are both incredible writers and experienced editors. There is really no wrong way or right way. The feedback only gives information to the author, that sometimes (like I do) stay too close to the story, what other options I could have. This is very exciting for me. I honestly have learned more on this site, than conferences or submitting any where else. I am going to try some other things to see how It sounds. Moose Lake was actually from a professor that told me I should change the original name, which he thought was weak. Now I can see how it added to the description of the terrain. I appreciate what you both have brought to the table on this personal piece, which is close to my heart. Thank you guys, for YOUR time!

        • What I love about all this is that Kyle gets an experience she can take and use.  I also devour editorial exchanges and I do understand where you stand, Mac, and your opinons are worth consideration on any level. 
          I can see us now comfortable in leather over chairs under matted green desk lamps.  Snifters, cigars, open pages…whoa!

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