Welcome to Flash Fiction Friday and the ninety-fourth piece in this series. This week’s is a 580-worder (with an American theme – happy Independence Day yesterday everyone) by Christopher Farley.
This story will be podcasted in episode 31 (with three other stories) on Sunday 8th September.
The Freedom Train
He closed his eyes for a second. He finally began to believe it really was over. The mountain of lies and the rivers, even oceans, of deceit no longer mattered. The affair was finally finished and could now be considered a thing of his past, where it should stay. It had become like a tedious end-of-season football match; neither side wanting to lose but both would be content if the referee blew time. Each had said their piece and each had gone their separate way. The thought of returning to his old life before his spree as a shoplifter in the department store of infidelity however did little to console him at this moment. Neither did the radio as the car cruised at a steady sixty, and he snapped it off.
No-man’s land didn’t exist in this situation; there were two fronts, opposed to each other, with no room for mud, poppies or even barbed wire in the middle.
Happiness was only momentary, perhaps that’s why it was so enjoyable although this was an excuse and he knew it. It was an excuse for the times he could have tried harder at home, before the affair, before things got so bad he threw himself into the arms of another. Did he really want to say goodbye to the stability of his old life, his real life? Well, finishing the affair would be a start, he thought.
He tried imagining what his life was like before the interruption of the other woman. He found it hard, too hard in fact. He was having difficulty remembering what he did only the week before, so wrapped up was he in these last months. He remembered only the smell of her perfume, the colour of her nail-varnish, the words that she spoke. His throat started to close, the Adam’s apple bobbing once or twice and then he sobbed, a heaving great sob which started from way down deep and wracked his whole body. Could he really give this up? He had done so because he had to, he told himself. Tears coursed down his cheeks, his eyes blurred and his nose ran. He pulled a used, slightly stiff tissue from his pocket and blew his nose.
The rear-view mirror showed an empty freeway behind him. He accelerated to a heady seventy-five. He thought about turning the radio back on but decided he didn’t want distractions. He tried to convince himself that he was back under control. This was a lie. The thought of returning to his former cardboard cut-out, passionless life filled him with dread. Did he really want that?
Ahead he noticed the huge, slow moving freight train on the bridge crossing the freeway, half a mile distant. He watched the train, his mind whirring, and for him the train suddenly signified freedom, freedom from everything. Images of Steinbeck novels and depression-era hobos going to California filled his head. He drove. His right foot went to the floor, the accelerator pedal now digging into the ball of his foot, and the car urged forward, continuing to speed up. The half-mile had now become 200 yards and the car was fairly flying along. He grinned. He started to crane his neck up to watch the train, smiling like a religious revival convert. 50 yards. Freedom, he thought, I can have freedom.
At ninety-five miles per hour, grinning, he yanked the wheel to the right and watched the huge concrete bridge support fill his windscreen.
I asked Chris what prompted this piece and he said…
Inspiration? Hmmm…. I guess the main idea was to put someone in a position where he had everything on a plate except possibly the early-years passionate side of things and to compensate had an extra-marital affair which gave him that balance. When the affair finished where would he be left? That was the question I asked both him and me. He chose shagging and the bridge, I would have got drunk instead.
Another great story. Thank you, Chris.
Upon moving to London, a bit like Dick Whittington, searching for streets of gold, he happened upon a beautiful Italian lady who later decided to take him to the sunny realm of southern Switzerland, where he can still be found, smiling inanely, continuously in search of Weissbier.
When he is not working or drinking he sits in front of the computer, searching for fictional inspiration. You can find Chris via his blog http://talkingtosh.wordpress.com.
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