A Ticket to Ride

by Fred Prout

You find yourself riding on a train. No ticket in hand. But that’s okay, because no one asks where you are going. Which is a good thing. Because you are not sure yourself. Periodically the train pulls into a station. People get off. Other people get on.

With some of the new people, you feel a connection. You have met them before. But you don’t recognize them. The connection is strong. You find it is mutual. They know you too. But they don’t know how. You talk and compare stories. You have been to some of the same places. And done similar things. At different times. Vastly different times.

The train slows down and stops. Another station. People exit. People board. Not a ticket in sight. You look out the window and see other trains. Different tracks. Similar destinations? Some of the new passengers see you and join your group. They replace those who exited at the station.

The train starts and is suddenly at full speed ahead. Out the window you see people in another train going the opposite direction. You briefly connect with some through two sets of windows. Who are they? How do you know them?

The new passengers join the group conversation as if were not interrupted. As if they were in mid sentence when the train stopped. You realize the train is a single car and you can see all the passengers. Most are in similar groups and don’t see you. Some sense the invisible waves of connection you emit. They join your group. Sort of.

You realize that they, like you, are in several groups at the same time. You don’t understand it. You don’t need to. They join in the conversation and you share your mutual histories. Some recent. Some long past. You know each other, but don’t really know how. Or why.

The train seems to speed up and go faster the longer you ride it. You wonder when the next station will appear. Who will exit? Who will board? When is your stop? What will be there? Another train? Going a different direction? You don’t remember buying a ticket. But somehow you have one. You MUST have one. Somehow you paid for it.

Suddenly the train slows. Another station coming up? You wonder if this is your stop.

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6 Responses to A Ticket to Ride

  1. Thom Hoch says:

    The Thing About Trains… It Doesn’t Matter Where They’re Going. What Matters Is Deciding To Get On.

  2. Eric says:

    The allusion of life, or for some the illusion of life.

    Speaking to the literal, I’ve had numerous memorable actual train rides – up along the Afghan border in 1963, from Iran to Pakistan – around 24 hours to go 200 miles or so.

    Later, sleeping on the luggage racks on trains across India.

    Or, more recently, Deb & me aiming for a Monastery in Romania – who knew the station was abandoned? She managed to disembark……me..into the wide blue not so yonder.

    As to the metaphorical aspect – John Prine: “Don’t you know her when you see her? She grew up in your back yard” – you might not know your destination, or even your starting point, but you often recognize, (even from a distance), those with whom you feel an affinity…and sometimes you’re lucky enough to meet them.

    Cheers, Fred!

  3. Roxie Fitch says:

    Fred, I really enjoyed reading this. As my Mom has already gone to heaven and Daddy is getting a lot older and more frail, I see it as the train of life. Someone is traveling toward the end of life. The two windows are their eyes and the people are waiting at the bedside as they board the train for heaven.

  4. Val Carano says:

    This was an interesting one Fred … All about “Life”. I enjoyed it very much.
    I also enjoyed your phone call the other day. What a surprise! So nice to hear your voice.
    Keep up the good work & words.
    Love, Val

  5. Edith Vondall says:

    I have kept most of your stories and this one is at the top to be reread often.

  6. Ruby Bonham says:

    Fred you asked me to comment on your article. You are growing as a writer and have great insight. We are all on a ride and each stop and each encounter impacts us and makes us who we are today. You and I have each experienced a great loss. Writing helps us process and ever so slowly move forward. Maybe we will understand how we got here and that the ride was well worth it. Keep writing my friend.

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