William Quincy Belle is just a guy. Nobody famous; nobody rich; just some guy who likes to periodically add his two cents worth with the hope, accounting for inflation, that $0.02 is not over-evaluating his contribution. He claims that at the heart of the writing process is some sort of (psychotic) urge to put it down on paper and likes to recite the following which so far he hasn't been able to attribute to anyone: "A writer is an egomaniac with low self-esteem." You will find Mr. Belle's unbridled stream of consciousness here (http://wqebelle.blogspot.ca) or @here (https://twitter.com/wqbelle).
Marsha Meets the Train
Marsha Walters sat in the window seat of the morning commuter train. She stared at the suburban outskirts of the city sweeping by. The saga was coming to a close today, but she realized this was only the beginning. Her life as she had known it had come unceremoniously to a dead halt and now, at the age of forty-one, she would have to start all over again. She had heard of turmoil. She had read about it in the newspapers. But nothing, absolutely nothing had ever prepared her for the life-altering upset of getting a divorce. It was like somebody had ripped out her heart and stomped on it. Could anything be worse than this?
"How are you doing?"
The voice sounded far off. It sounded as if the person was talking to somebody else not to her. She was so wrapped up in her thoughts — she was so distracted — it was a miracle she paid attention to anything at all. She had almost missed the train. She couldn't remember where she had put her ticket and had to look through not only her purse but every pocket in her coat and clothes. After getting on the wrong car, she had to walk through several coaches to find her seat. It was all so surreal. It was a nightmare. She had no idea how she was going to survive this.
"Marsha? Are you okay?"
The voice sounded a little more earnest. She turned from the window and looked at the man sitting beside her. Edward Jones was a name she had found in the Yellow Pages. It was a wild stab at finding a lawyer, any lawyer, who would take up her cause and defend her interests. She had no idea who this man was, what his credentials were, or whether he was a good lawyer or a bad one or even an honest man. Fortunately, choosing Edward had turned out to be the one thing she had done right since this nightmare started. He had been knowledgeable about divorce, pro-active in pursuing her best interests, and kind toward her. She very much remembered him being kind. She had been stunned, flustered, angry, depressed, and a host of other emotions which many times overwhelmed her. Her judgement was clouded by this churning mix of confused feelings and many times she was frozen into inaction. Edward had helped her get unstuck, get focused on the matter at hand, and work to resolve the negotiations in her best interests. When it came to negotiating for her, Edward was a Rottweiler. He was thorough; he was prepared; and he backed up everything he said with case law so her husband and his lawyer didn't stand a chance of refuting anything. Edward threatened over and over again to go to court citing other cases which would prove his side of the argument beyond a shadow of a doubt. The fighting went on for months but finally, the other side caved. Obviously he had made a compelling case and the other lawyer must have convinced her husband to settle and pay the price instead of going to court and risk paying more.
"I'm fine." She was tired. She felt drained. The months of negotiation and the fighting had taken their toll and she didn't seem to have an ounce of energy left. "I'm a little distracted."
"You won, Marsha," he said. "You got yourself a good and fair settlement."
"I've come to realize that. But it doesn't completely wipe out the divorce; the end of the life I once knew and expected to have for the rest of my life."
He nodded. "Divorce is one of the hardest of life's lessons. Your world is turned upside down. You try to make sense of it but fail. In the end, you can't make sense of it any more than you can make sense of love itself. Why do we fall in love? Why do we fall out of love? Who knows? At least the process you've gone through with me attempts to objectively deal with the end of the marriage and the division of your collective life. It doesn't mend the heart, but hopefully it will make your situation more comfortable."
She sighed. "Thank you. You've said that before and I hope one day to better grasp the sense of your words. I understand them intellectually but I'm not sure I get it emotionally. Bill was a good man. Bill’s still a good man. But it's like one day the man I loved turned into some sort of crazy person, a stranger to me. Where did all of this come from?"
Shifting in his seat, he leaned toward her and spoke softly. "For every door that closes, another opens. Yes, it's hackneyed. Yes, it's a platitude. But I hope you will come in time to see it's true. The world’s a big place, Marsha, and there are many opportunities out there waiting for you." He turned his head to look at her. "Are you still seeing the counselor?"
"Yes. Although I sometimes wonder if he might not be ready to slit his wrists having to listen to me drone on and on and on about the same issues over and over again."
"You need to give it time."
"I suppose. It's just that sometimes I feel in such a hurry for something good to happen. How long can anybody feel sad?"
The train had noticeably changed speed: it was slowing down. “I think we’ve got another five minutes to the station,” Edward said. “We’ll catch a cab to the other lawyer’s offices.” He glanced at his wristwatch. “I’d say we’ll have the paperwork signed and be back out within the hour.”
The intercom buzzed and a distorted voice announced the station. Some people got out of their seats and began rummaging through overhead compartments. A few walked down the aisle to line up at the exit.
The two of them remained seated as the train slowed to a crawl. Edward patted Marsha’s hand. "It will all be over soon."
She nodded but said nothing. Her nineteen-year marriage had come to an end. She felt alone. She felt scared. She had no idea what tomorrow was going to be like and how she would sort everything out. What was her new single life going to be like? She’d have to manage a household by herself: fix things; arrange to get things fixed; pay the bills; and of course go to work. Will I date someday? Will any man be interested in a forty-one-year-old woman? She felt old. She felt used and worn out. God, what a nightmare.
The train came to a full stop. More people headed toward the exit. Edward looked out the window at the station platform and looked down the length of the car at the line of people. He glanced out the window again and stood up. He opened the overhead compartment and retrieved his briefcase. Looking to the exit, he could see people were now getting off.
"Shall we?" he said.
Marsha sighed, "Okay." She half stood up then stepped out from underneath the overhead compartment. Once in the aisle, she stood upright and walked toward the exit. The line had disappeared.
She walked out the door that was propped open, stepped across the connecting platform and took a step into the next car.
"Marsha?" Edward said.
She stopped and turned around. She looked at the open door. "Oh." She walked back and stepped down to the station platform.
Edward followed. "Let's go through the station and see if we can catch a taxi." He moved ahead and held the door. Marsha crossed the waiting area and walked out to the street. She stood silently staring off into space.
"Hmmm, I don't see any cabs,” he said. “Let's walk over to the other side and see if we can catch a cab there. I now realize the other side is closer to where we're going anyway."
Edward took her elbow and Marsha let him guide her up the street. They walked the length of the station then turned to the railway crossing. The flashing red lights were on and the bell was sounding. He looked and saw nothing other than their train. "I thought they would have deactivated the crossing. Let's cross through and head over there." He pointed to the station on the other side of the tracks.
Edward walked around the pedestrian gate and started over the crossing. Marsha blindly followed. Just then the horn of a train was heard somewhere down the tracks. "Let's hurry," Edward said. Marsha half walked half ran to keep up with him. She kept her head down studying the crossing to avoid stumbling on the tracks. It will all be over soon.
The horn now sounded continuously. The two of them crossed the first set of tracks where their train still remained when Edward glanced to his left and stopped. Marsha continued while staring down in front of her. One step at a time.
Carl surveyed the tracks and gleefully rubbed his hands together. Today would be a memorable highlight of his hobby career as railroad enthusiast. He and his son would be witnessing the end of an era: the final run of the EMD E9 locomotive. Due to a shrinking passenger service, the railroad had decided to retire this engine and Carl wanted to video tape this last express run from the suburbs to the center of the city.
It was the perfect vantage point. The camera was mounted on a tripod pointing at an angle down the railroad lines toward the main station. The microphone was sensitive enough to capture all the sounds from the horn to the rumbling of the cars as they roared down the rails. This was going to be a great day and a great clip.
“Double check the focus, son.”
“Okay, Dad.” Freddy leaned over a peered through the view finder. “Focus, okay. The shot is covering the station perfectly.”
“It shows fully charged. Memory is at one hundred percent. We’re good to go.”
Carl smiled at his son. “Excellent, Freddy. This is going to be a perfect record of a last moment in history.” As he glanced at his watch, a horn sounded in the distance and the crossing activated. “Right on time.” The red lights flashed and the bells clanged as the gates came down on either side of the station. “Start the camera, Freddy.”
“I’m on it.” Freddy pressed the shutter and bent over to look again through the view finder.
The two of them had watched the local passenger service pull into the station five minutes ago and followed the people debarking and swarming over the platform as they made their way to the south side terminal or walked around the front of the train to cross the tracks to the north side. At the sound of the crossing bells, those people still on the crossing looked up and down the tracks trying to see what was coming as they scurried out of the way. A diesel horn blasted again but much closer.
Carl stood with hand raised over his eyes, gazing down the tracks. He felt a little excited. This would be a great shot, a once in a lifetime shot. The diesel horn let out a blast and the sound continued uninterrupted. He knew the train was roaring into the station.
A movement to one side caught his eye. A man and a woman hurried from the gate onto the main part of the crossing, moving from the south side to the north. The diesel horn was now screaming. The couple arrived at the track where the express was coming through. Three hundred thousand pounds of locomotive roared into the station at sixty miles per hour. The man turned, saw the train and stopped. The woman walked right to the edge of the tracks and the hurtling mass of metal slammed into her.
Carl heard a distinct thump and had little time to comprehend that several objects flew directly at him. He instinctively ducked, but something hit his leg and knocked him to the ground. As he heard several screams, he raised himself on his elbows and shook his head. His eyes focused on the ground beside him. He looked but he didn't comprehend what he was looking at. It was a detached human arm.
Carl looked up to see his son standing with his mouth agape. Freddy was looking behind him. Carl turned and looked the other way. There was a body. Judging by the dress, he guessed it was the woman who had crossed in front of the train. The right arm was gone. He blinked then stared. He realized that the right half of the head was missing as if something had torn a big chunk out of the skull.
Carl tilted his head down and threw up. He could hear people running up to where he was. Somewhere, somebody yelled, "Phone the police!"
He coughed and spit. His mouth burned from the stomach acids. He tried to sit up and a wave of pain went through his right leg. It was at an odd angle. There was more pain. He wondered if it was broken.
"Are you okay?"
Carl looked up at a policeman. "I think my leg is broken."
The officer crouched down and examined the leg. "Don't move. I've requested an ambulance." He looked at the tripod and the camera. "Were you filming?"
"Yeah, I believe I caught the whole thing."
"Good Lord. We're going to want to take a look at that." The policeman stood. "Just hang in there. Don't move. Help is on the way."
Carl watched the policeman approach a man standing over the body and ask, "Do you know this woman?"
The man continued to look at Marsha. "Yes."
"Are you related?"
"I’m her divorce lawyer, Edward Jones."
Carl saw the officer scrunch up his face.
"We were on our way to sign the final papers,” Edward said. “Marsha was going to be a free woman."
"You mean they weren't yet divorced?" The policeman looked at the body. "Well there's one lucky guy who got out of paying alimony." He paused then turned back to Edward. "We'll need to get a statement. We'll need you to identify the body. Don't go anywhere."
The policeman looked again at Carl. “Hang in there.”
Carl heard a siren in the distance. It was getting louder.