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:
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.”
“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.
“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?”
“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.