Return to Content
Read Our Devotional
Opportunities to be Published
The Home for Christian Writers! Matthew 6:33
ENCOURAGE AUTHOR BY COMMENTING
LEAVE COMMENT ON ARTICLE
As A Member
Add to Favorites
Author requests article critique
By DW Grant
The number 967213 will speak to Dan today.
Trapped between the clanging safety gate and a growing line of growling cars behind him, Dan can only wait and watch rail cars snake by in front of his old pickup truck. Dan will be late for work this morning, again. Sigh.
Also trapped between the clanging gate of “responsibility” and his growing desire to run away, Dan can only wait for an opening, and then hope he has the courage to make the escape happen. He isn’t sure he is brave enough, though. Again. Sigh.
Dan reaches down as the smell of steaming Colombian brew wafts fumes up around his head and into his nostrils from the old ceramic cup wedged between his legs. Bringing up the cup carefully, he sips cautiously, but the burning liquid still assaults his lips and then his tongue, and makes him wince. It is hot and needs more sugar and creamer, but it will keep him awake and warm until the eternal performance eventually passes by and frees him to move forward again, or opens an opportunity for an escape attempt.
A metallic clang introduces each boring approaching performance in the line of cars, and there seems to be hundreds of acts. The peep show crawls by first; dented and abused square rail cars, with open doors, and then closed doors, then half open doors, and so on. The comedians pop up between them now and then; dirty brown cars littered with unreadable spray painted gang graffiti. Then comes the flat cars carrying the dare devil acts; flammable liquids in dull black cigar shaped containers covered with warning stickers, and the teasers; cars with weird shaped covered objects on them. Dan actually looks forward to the show girls; red and blue cages stacked with three levels of shiny new Chevys. Then more boring rail cars mosey in front of Dan like they have all the time in the world.
Finally the last car, not a caboose, but a filthy corrugated grey steel box, bangs out the last notes of the train’s Iron Maiden medley. Dan is a country western fan. He doesn’t care for the noisy rhythmic heavy metal tune the train is currently playing for him. He turns up the truck radio, and is relieved to see the end of the concert heading toward the intersection.
Dan’s right foot steps on the break, while his right hand reaches for the gear shift lever. Conformity forced him to buy this used truck with an automatic transmission, not a man’s stick shift. He wanted a shifter rod like in his dad’s truck. One that grows up long and thin from the floor, topped with a round shiny black ball with an “H” carved into it. This short shift lever is mounted on the neck of the steering wheel, with a little window displaying”PDR123”. His wife and oldest daughter share driving privileges, so a clutch was too inconvenient for the entire family.
He is ready to go, but the train isn’t. Suddenly it squeals to a stop. Dan throws up his hands and lets out a cloud of disgust. Then it starts, rolled a few inches, backs up, and then stops again.
“You’ve got to be kidding!”
He wants to swear, but bites his lip. He sees his 8 year old daughter’s face in his thoughts and clenches his teeth before the “F” word can leave his mouth. She is shaking her head and her little index finger. The uninspiring traveling show stopping in front of him doesn’t earn the profanity that will ruin that picture, he thinks. .
“Damn Sunday School,” he swears instead.
Horns honk behind him, and after wiping the rear view mirror clean with his bare hand, Dan sees some cars u-turning out of the line. He wants to do that too, but is as trapped as the profanity behind his teeth.
Without thinking he reads aloud the number on the rail car that stopped in front of him .“967213.” It is just a small number stenciled on the back right corner of the side of the car, but it is stirring something in his head and heart. “967213.” The number is staring at him, not 15 feet away, and it fixates him, and grows like a yeast, quickly expanding inside his mind, and heart.
Why? What does it mean? Why does it matter all of a sudden?
Dan closes his eyes and sees the numbers etched in dusty white chalk on a school black board. He adds them up. Nine plus six plus seven plus two plus three equals, ahh, 28.
“Really? Can’t be, but it is.”
Then he adds the two and the eight to get ten, and then the one and the zero to get one, and then hears the lyrics “One is the Loneliest Number that you’ll ever do.” come from the radio.
“Written by Harry Nilsson, recorded by “Three Dog Night.” Reached number 5 on the International Billboard charts in 1969. Legend has it that Harry wrote the song while listening to a busy signal on his telephone.”
Does this make sense?
“I am so bored, and so late for work. God help me!”
Then, in his mind, he sees his wife’s face, Sally. Her smile and bright brown eyes flush his cheeks. She is his only “One” and the cure for his loneliness. Gosh, has it been 28 years, three kids, four houses, at least 8 cars, and countless numbers of cats since they impulsively eloped and became one in that motel room in Dunsmuir, California? The first year was hard, and the babies came too quickly, and life moved too fast, unlike this train sitting in front of him. They were so busy living they hardly noticed the years rush by.
Maybe life was like this train, he thought. First there’s birth, and the growth is quick and steady, but then childhood comes, slow and noisy. Those 12 years of mandatory school creep along, and there are days that life seems to stop suddenly, and make you pay for every moment. First Love makes the stops wonderful and miserable at the same time on some days. On other days fist fights and fits of immaturity make the gears of growth clang and grind like a metal wheel skipping over a lose connecting joint on a steel track. Then there is maturity and responsibility, and work and living from paycheck to paycheck, and bedtime to bedtime. Sex isn’t frequent enough, until one is old enough to enjoy warm love more than orgasm. Food is a peppered sunny side up eggs and coffee in the morning, a bologna and Swiss cheese sandwich sticking to the roof of your mouth at noon, and who remembers what they had for dinner two nights ago?
Life has a rhythm too, Dan says to himself, staring at the wheels of the train, and has a schedule, but the conductor of this living train of time never announces the station, and never offers to map out the stops. We leave the station birthed in a box car going who knows where, and the track takes us where it is fixed to go. If we’re blessed the conductor welcomes us to the last stop. If we are not so blessed, we arrive at our end laying on our backs on an empty flat car, on a side track, waiting to be scrapped.
“Yeah, that’s life,” nods Dan, still staring the number on the box car.
Ha! A philosopher Dan is not, but occasionally he has time to think, and create his own illustrated answers. Dan closes his eyes and walks off into a world of deep thought that helps him release his anxiety, but not his need to run . It felt good, for a long moment, and may have been the crack in the prison wall he was waiting for. Then a honk and a profanity from behind brings him back to the real world.
“I know. I know. You gotta get to work too. You ram the train. I don’t have the courage.”
Life has been roaring along, at least until this moment. Now time has stopped, as the number beckons him. Dan doesn’t hear the honks behind him, or the clanging of the warning bells, or the Garth Brooks song hitting its zenith on the radio. The number on the box car has muted everything.
And a voice says “Ride it.”
A little coffee spills on his leg, and some dandruff drops onto his shoulder as Dan tries to shake the number and the voice from his head.
He swears, rolls down the window, and then spits out onto the road.
“967213. Ride it? What the hell?”
This happened before, at this same crossing, months ago, on a hot summer day. Of course Dan ignored it, because it was a stupid thought. That numbered car eventually moved on, and Dan went on to work. That was a horrible day. Nothing got done, the boss got mad, and Dan felt very much out of place. His work days hadn’t gotten any better since. What would happen if he obeyed the voice this time? And it was winter, and too cold to go on a joy ride, wasn’t it?
That horrible day stretched to horrible months since the first number spoke to him. The boss was still mad and cut back his hours, the wife was cold, and bills weren’t getting paid. The boss got even colder, and the wife got even angrier, and now they were getting collection calls. He also got kicked off the company bowling team. It didn’t even help to go to church with his wife and kids. God seemed as cold as the preacher’s sermon on “Financial Responsibility.”
“A man who does not take care of his family is worse than an infidel. 1 Timothy 5:38, the Good Book says,” or so the preacher shouted right at Dan, and his wife emphasized the point with an elbow jab to his ribs.
But the number’s command was taking over, and transforming the lost and empty spaces of his mind first, then overwhelming and subduing his “responsible” brain cells. It became an imperative, and then moved to his heart, and resurrected all kinds of buried dreams there.
It uncapped and unleashed a gushing fountain of deeply repressed oil from his inner confidence and told him “I could have been a country western singer, a sailor, or at least owned the business that employees me. I certainly could have run it better. “
Was that his dad’s voice coming from the radio.
Dan’s father worked on the railroad, for a time, and he always came home smiling, when he came home. He liked to sing railroad songs like “Life is Like a Mountain Railway.”
Yes, that had to be his father’s voice in the radio broadcast.
Life is like a Mountain Railway
With an engineer that’s brave
We must make this run successful
From the cradle to the grave.
Twang, twang, twang.
Heed the curves and watch the tunnels
Never falter, never fail
Keep your hands upon the throttle
And your eye upon the rail
Suddenly the arms of the railroad safety gate lift, and Dan finds himself slamming the truck door, and running away from his old F-150. He just leaves it in the middle of the road, with the radio blasting, at the head of the line of honking cars. They beep, and drivers swing out of line and roar their cars past him; swearing, shaking their fists, and giving him one finger salutes, but Dan doesn’t care.
His feet are listening to his loins, which have taken control of his reasoning, each step pumping the chant. “I think I can. I think I can,” like the Little Engine that Could.
It was an impulsive move. Sure Dan had everything, but he felt he didn’t have freedom. A rise in testosterone told him to run and get it. And he did.
On his way to the rail car, steadily picking up speed, Dan turns to the drivers whizzing past, and waves and smiles.
“Have a nice day, suckers!” he yells, then laughs. “Fools!” Or was Dan the fool?
He is running to the open door of the box car at full gallop and is half way in the door when the car jerks and bounces over a rough brake in the ground rail. The jolt is a giant’s hand that tosses him inside, just before the train wheels bite his toes. Dan doesn’t feel the danger. A joyful laugh cushioned the pain he feels in his shoulders, then his head, as he thumps down on the wooden floor of the box car.
He did it! He made it! He is out of breath, but still laughing, rolling from side to side in his joy. He had the courage. He is a winner. He is a man.
Dan coughs, and then his phone rings.
“Stupid phone,” Dan mumbles. Pulling it from his pocket, and lying it on the
floor of the car, he rolls onto his side and looks at the screen. It is Sally.
He draws a long breath, and coughs again before answering. His words stay flat and breathy until the end of the conversation.
“Where are you?
“On the way.”
“Please bring home some milk and a loaf of sour dough bread. The baby likes sour dough. And drop by the feminine hygiene aisle for me, please. You know what I need.”
“Yes dear, I do.”
“On the way where? I thought you’d be at work by now.”
“Yes, I’m on the way.”
“On the way where?”
Dan wants to hang up. Of course he can’t tell her his situation and how much he is enjoying his new freedom, but he thinks he knows how to get away with only telling part of the truth, even though he is a terrible liar. Sometimes he can throw her off by making her laugh and she doesn’t get angry with him. Sometimes. He tries that tactic here.
“On the way to crazy, I guess.”
“To Albuquerque? “
“Dan, that’s a thousand miles away.”
Dan sings the next words, taking the tune out of an old country song.
“And a thousand miles from you, dear Sally, is a thousand miles from love. How could I live in that Desert of Despair? Twang, twang.”
The diversion works.
A little impatient giggle comes back out of the phone.
“Ok, silly, just be home by morning. And say hello to my cousin Burt while you are in Albuquerque.”
“You have a cousin named Burt in Albuquerque?”
“No, Burt’s an old lover. Give him a kiss from me, and hurry home.”
“Now who’s silly?”
More laughter comes out of Dan’s phone, then a click, and he is free again.
Rolling on his back again Dan looks around the box car. It is absolutely empty. There are no crates or packages, no animals, no straw or litter, and no old hobo to tell him stories from his hard life.
He asks himself again. “Why am I here?
He answers himself right back. “You’re here because you want to be free.”
Throwing the cell phone to the opposite corner of the box car, Dan laughs again.
“I don’t need you anymore.”
Dan sits up, crawls on his knees to the half open door, and swings his legs out of the box car, so they dangle in the wind. The joy of freedom overcomes him and he begins to sing.
Life is like a Mountain Railway
With an engineer that’s brave
We must make this run successful
From the cradle to the grave.
Twang, twang, twang.
Blessed Savior there to guide us
Till we reach that blissful shore
And the angels there to join us
In God’s grace forever more.
With tears rolling down his face Dan apologizes for not appreciating the grace he has been given.
“Please forgive me God, for cursing Sunday school.”
Dan stays at the door the entire trip, up and back. Albuquerque passes slowly, stop after stop and intersection after intersection, people wave at Dan. He doesn’t wave back. As Albuquerque’s dusty flat plane gives way to New Mexico’s hot desert and snowy mountains, the sun blisters Dan’s face, and the snow makes his skin shine in the moonlight. Dan is silent on the return leg.
A week or so later Sally walks to the altar to gaze at Dan’s smiling face in his open coffin. Shaking her head, and wiping a tear, Sally tries to give understanding and forgiveness. She still does not understand.
“My husband, why didn’t I understand how much you really wanted to be free?”
Dan’s children are gather around her in an instant, and they all weep together. The minister, the same preacher who challenged Dan’s fidelity to his family, tries reassuring words.
“He was a faithful man. He showed it by going to work for you every day, and coming home to love you. Others less dedicated didn’t understand his faithfulness to his family, and sometimes it cost him. He loved you all. I saw him blush when he looked at you Sally, when you weren’t looking. He was a grateful man too. His family was always on his mind. ”
Weeping in his arms, Sally looks up into the man of God’s eyes.
“But was he free, pastor?”
“Better than free, daughter. Better than free.”
“But he left us,” stomps his 8 year old daughter.
The old preacher kneels down and looks in the eyes of Dan’s littlest girl.
“No, he didn’t leave you, little sister. He just went on before you, went to another work site, like he did every morning. You don’t know yet the blessings he is preparing for you, his family, even now, even as you miss him.”
The family’s insurance agent, Herman Bestings, interrupts, then hugs Sally, and then each kid, and tries to choke down his emotions enough to speak.
“We loved him too. Remember, I went to school with him, from third grade to college. I don’t know if I knew Dan better than you, but I knew him well. I’m honored he entrusted me with this, and I’m glad I got to build this for you for a few years. This is his legacy to you. It’s just part of what he worked for.” He hands Sally an envelope.
Opening the envelope, Sally falls to the floor. Her family picks her up and sets her on a pew. The pastor picks up the envelope, a check is only half in the sleeve. He could see an amount, though he tries not to.
PLEASE ENCOURAGE AUTHOR BELOW
LEAVE COMMENT ON ARTICLE
AS A MEMBER
Reader Count & Comments
16 Jun 2015
Woe what a ride!
This article has been read
Read more articles by
or search for other articles by topic below.
Search for articles on: (e.g. creation; holiness etc.)
Read more by clicking on a link:
Main Site Articles
Most Read Articles
Highly Acclaimed Challenge Articles
New Release Christian Books for Free for a Simple Review
NEW - Surprise Me With an Article - Click here for a random URL
God is Not Against You - He Came on an All Out Rescue Mission to Save You
...in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them... 2 Cor 5:19
Therefore, my friends, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. Acts 13:38
LEARN & TRUST JESUS HERE
The opinions expressed by authors do not necessarily reflect the opinion of FaithWriters.com.
FaithWriters offers Christian reading material for Christian readers. We offer Christian articles, Christian fiction, Christian non-fiction, Christian Bible studies, Christian poems, Christian articles for sale, free use Christian articles, Christian living articles, New Covenant Christian Bible Studies, Christian magazine articles and new Christian articles. We write for Jesus about God, the Bible, salvation, prayer and the word of God.
Link To Us
Become A Member