Sunday, May 8, 2011


A locomotive engine with a couple of train cars behind it sits on tracks in a park.  An old man sits on a bench looking at the old train, the tracks, and its machinery.  Machinery.  Gears and wheels.  So huge.  So heavy.  So heavy.  Can't see inside the cars.  Metal plates and darkened windows with black bars.  So dark in there.  The past sunk so deep beneath the surface. 

His thoughts are interrupted by a younger man walking up to the train on display. 

Younger Man: I suppose you could tell me what it's like to ride one of these.  What it was like.  The wood.  The smoke.  Outlaws holding things up.  Holding people up.  Arms weary and rickety from keeping them in the air.  In the air.  I'd rather fly.  The higher the altitude the better.  My ex-wife said I should have been an astronaut because I belonged in space.  I prefer to be up in the clouds.  Things are clearer up there. You can look down at cities just as if it's on your pc.  Except there's thousands of feet underneath.  Over it.  Being over stuff is the way to prefer it.  The coming down part is the bummer.
Old Man: Bummer.  Bum.  Bum.  Bum.  Bum.
Younger Man:  You had it right the first time. 
Old Man:  And the next time and the next time and the next time after that.  Stationary.
Younger Man:  Progress.  Change.  Not easy for people to deal with.  That's why being so over stuff is a theme for the frequent fliers.
Old Man:  Change.  Loose change.  Lost change.  Gave up things to agree with and disagree with a long time ago.
Younger Man:  Now you're bummin' me out.  Bummin'.  You.  You from around here?
Old Man:  Are you?
Younger Man:  Yes.  I am.  I mean, I travel so much, but I live here.
Old Man:  From here?
Young Man:  Yeah.  Well, not right here.  I drove down here from up in the mountains.
Old Man:  What mountains?
Young Man:  You can't see it from here because of the train being in the way, but it's straight up over there.  I have a place up there.
Old Man:  Up there.
Young Man: Right up there.
Old Man:  What're you some angelic race or something?
Young Man:  Caucasian, actually. 
Old Man:  Are you paying me a visit from on high?
Young Man:  Are you messing with me or have you missed your afternoon medication?
Old Man:  No.  I think you think you're part of some special race.  From up higher.  Paying me a call.  To tell me how it is.  When you're not punching buttons on your phone and your computer and flipping switches and making it happen, you're telling people how it is.  What's up.  What's down.  What was and what's progress.  Don't go in much for angels.  Someone like yourself.  Presenting himself as someone from on high.  Over stuff.  Heard that for years growing old in wooden and dusty classrooms while she.  She.  The one who hacked up a different internal organ everyday from coughing because she was allergic to chalk dust.  Can you imagine that?  Allergic to chalk dust?  Trying to tell us how it is when she had a reprieve from all her relentless coughing.  Surprised she had anything left inside her to share.  Never heard two words of appreciation put together.  Never.  Nothing lit up her face or her eyes.  The only thing that fueled the flame in her sockets was all the remarks.  The remarks.  Over stuff.  That's all she focused on was getting us over stuff.  Knocked the stuffing out of us.  Did that.  A great deal.  Stuff and nonsense.  She was allergic to more than just chalk.  She was allergic to children.  Allergic to mess.  Allergic to accidents and mistakes.  Allergic to what was underneath her.  Caucasian.  You can't fool me.  You've met the wrong person who has had enough of it all.  Caucasian.  You're barking up the wrong bench.  Nope.  You are definitely nothing but an angel.  A cold caller of the supernatural and unnatural.  Trying so hard to prove that there is something such as a man.  Face it.  You're a fictional figure.  You don't exist.
Young Man:  For someone who doesn't exist, you sure waste a lot of words on imaginary people.
Old Man:  Waste is right.  Words waste us away towards nothing.  I'm tired of existence.  It's the only thing that rejuvenates one.
Young Man:  You never answered me when I asked you if you were from around here.
Old Man:  No.  No, I didn't.
Young Man:  Are you?  Are you OK?  Have any family that looks out for you?
Old Man:  Looking out for you.  Looking out remains.  That's all.  Looking out all day long.  Letting the annoying and haunting thoughts run out and leave me in peace for a time.  Time.  Looking out all the time.  All the time at this relic.  This big heavy relic that obliterates your Valhalla.  Sometimes the present gets pleasantly fucked by the past.  Looking out throughout the day brings me a smile to counter the remarks.  The remarks.  Do they ever go away?  The only ones that go away is family.  So eager to leave.
Young Man:  Children.  See them when its possible.  No time.  So much waiting.  Can't stand waiting.  Delays.  Postponements.  Changes in the wording.  Changing of minds.  She.  The ex-wife has seen to it that she changes their minds.  About me.  So that when all the waiting is done and you're finally with them, they don't want to have anything to do with you.
Old Man:  Rough landing.  Lost your wings have you?
Young Man:  Got them clipped.  Suppose you'll tell me more stories about all the rough landings and crashes in your life.  By the way, how old are you, if you don't mind my asking?
Old Man: Stopped counting a long time ago.
Young Man:  And how long ago was that?
Old Man:  Stopped keeping track.  Numbers are so important to you angels.  Keep score of who is on who's side.  Or they just might be a sign of something.  Something better.  Something worse.  Something starting.  Something ending.  Ending. 
Young Man:  Where is your family?  Your kids?
Old Man:  Lost them through there.
Young Man:  Through where?
Old Man:  The gaps in the train here.  Let them have their wiggle room to crawl and climb and get stuck and find their way out.  Their way out.  Let them play on the other side.  Sat on this bench.  Haven't seen them since.
Young Man:  They just left?  That doesn't make any sense.
Old Man:  Really?  Someone had to let them get stuck and find their way out.  Someone.  Looking out and waiting.  Gives a chance for those same haunting thoughts to leak out and mix with that grease on those big wheels.  Imagine that they could still turn and grind those remarks.  Those remarks.  And yet those huge powerful wheels can't move.  They just sit there.  Looking out for those who left.  Nobody left.

- Max Stoltenberg

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