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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Purposefulness (Purpose in Life) (05/25/06)

TITLE: Catching the Train?
By Dorothy Purge


Catching The Train?

Grandma never rode on the train and she never wanted any of us living with her to do so. She said that she was scared of train robbers and never wished to be burdened with the problems of passengers who would be complaining about one thing or the other, especially the poor people.

“What will happen to me if the train stops unexpectedly?” she often asked.

Though I did not express my wishes aloud, I longed for the day when I would ride the train and have an adventure. I was never tired of sitting and watching the train go by . I liked to hear the ‘ding-ding, ding-ding’ - like church bells peeling as the train approached the nearby railway crossing. This alerted me of the time of day and the ‘toot’- toot’ woke me up every morning at six o’clock.. The service provided by Metropolitan was excellent: It was never late.

My opportunity came earlier than I thought - on the night of Gabriel’s High School Music Festival when the function had finished later than was anticipated and, as usual, there were no buses on a Saturday night.

“I’ll take the late night train home Miss Darby,” I said to my Music teacher. “I will be fine.”
Carefully, holding my guitar, I hurried to the station and joined the waiting passengers. We were all standing on one foundation.

As the train official glanced at his watch there came the rambling, noisy Metropolitan, its bright lights shining on the rails made the narrow track appear scary.

Apart from giggling children, I was among the first passengers to board and to take a window seat towards the rear of the coach..

“May I have my seat please,” said an elderly woman to a boy .
“For years I have had this seat,” she grumbled.
The fellow shrugged his shoulders and went to the rear of the coach.
“The Lord bless you son, and this seat beside me is for Sister Vera. As soon as she gets on I’ll give her a warm embrace. Oh, I feel so tired,” she continued, wiping her face with her handkerchief then placing it on the seat she had reserved for Vera.

That scene really caused me to raise my eyebrows. I thought that there should be a sign on the inner walls, “ If you offend other passengers you may be put off the train.”

Then came on board two happy soul brothers wearing their hair real high and conversing in an unknown tongue.

“All aboard!” remarked the railway attendant as the doors closed and the journey started.
The officer spoke loudly and clearly:
“Hold on, this train is moving!”
“As the train journeyed along there was a continuous ‘ban-bang, bang-bang” accompanied by a simultaneous ‘shaking.’

At the first halt there came on board a lady whose head and neck were wrapped tightly and she wore a dark cloak which was much too large for her tiny figure.
“She must be hiding something.” I thought: “This place is a living fire!”

I felt uncomfortable when a man about thirty years old slumped himself in the seat beside me. I noticed the crookedness of two of his fingers and was compelled to stare at them.
“What are you looking at my sister?” he asked in a friendly voice. “I am no longer a pick-pocket : Like you, I only pick guitar strings.”

At the next halt an elderly man holding a bottle of beer approached the door but seeing the crowded coach, remarked as he staggered backwards:
“This train stinks!”

“Here comes a fine couple,” I thought as a well-dressed man and woman came on board. Immediately, the man addressed the people:

“Good night brethren. Tonight I have a message for you. A time is coming when there will be weeping and wailing. As you know there is a time for everything – a time for joy and a time for sorrow. A time to give and a time to receive. Therefore I am appealing to everyone to give something towards the building of the community health centre.
AMEN brethren!”

He began collecting monies while his wife started to sing:
“Give it with love”…………
I struck the chords on my guitar and we all began to sing on one accord.

My thoughts reflected on grandma who was waiting up for me watching the clock ticking away.
Would she one day catch the train?

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This article has been read 706 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Sandra Petersen 06/02/06
This is a very interesting article. I wasn't expecting so many people to use the train at night, but then you didn't specify what time of night.

The people she sees aboard the train are certainly diverse. I liked the description of the "two happy soul brothers".

In places this needed some smoothing out. There were sentences I didn't understand. For instance the thought, "This place is a living fire." The part involving the elderly woman could be tightened up a little. Is she grumpy or two-faced? She seemed to switch moods in her dialogue. There were a few commas missing that would clarify some of your sentences. For example, your ex-pickpocket would say, "'What are you looking at, my sister?'"

I wonder if your story would hang together even tighter if the grandmother was mentioned at least one or two more times toward the middle. Maybe you could have the MC think, "Grandma would be terrified" or "I wish Grandma were here. She'd set that woman straight." or "Maybe Grandma was right." That would make the last two sentences seem less abrupt.

Over all, I liked this story and could see it developed even further with more description of the sights outside the window as well as the characters inside the coach. Good job!
Rita Garcia06/02/06
Enjoyed the train ride!
Great job!
Gregory Kane06/03/06
Your descriptions really captured my imagination. I could almost be there.

But in terms of style I would remove one or two of the passengers and flesh out the others. Also the very paragraph lacks punch. I would be inclined to end with the impromptu music recital
Shari Armstrong 06/03/06
Facinating character sketches, A little editing to polish it (minor puncuation type things) would improve the flow. I loved the comparison to the -church family -the "one foundation", "for years I've had this seat" (or pew lol). Very nice!
dub W06/03/06
This is a pretty good story overall, but as said above, in need of editing. Here's a thought - have another set of eyes (family member) read it - Not for edits, but give you a sense of what isn't working. Often times we can find this ourselves by simply reading out loud. Keep working, this is a good beginning.
Marilyn Schnepp 06/04/06
I kept looking for the purpose, which is the topic, and upon finding no real purpose I decided that perhaps I should just sit back and enjoy the train ride. I did! Thank you, it's been a long, long, time since I had a train ride and it brought back good memories.
Alfreda Byars06/05/06
I loved reading your story, it kept my interest to the end. I could picture seeing every person that you discribed. It brought back memories of myself as a child when my family and I would ride the train every summer when school was out to go and visit my Grandmother. We would ride the 9:45 p.m. Union Pacific, I remember that it would always be dark and hard to see out of the windows at night with the lights on inside the train. We would always eat ritz crackers as a snack.