Home > A Library of Quiet VOICES > The Train Dream by Melissa McEwen

The Train Dream by Melissa McEwen

The Train Dream

The train does not stop in Plumfield. It stops in Wyndsor and Heartford, but not in Plumfield. From Heartford it goes right into Wyndsor without stopping in Plumfield and Jonetta doesn’t understand why it just can’t stop in Plumfield.

When she is done with washing the dishes she sits by the window in the kitchen and listens out for the sound of the train as it makes its way into Wyndsor from Heartford. Jonetta often imagines that the train runs right behind her house. She has elaborate dreams at night about the conductor and in the dream she arranges with him to stop his train in the back of her house. She would be on the back porch, luggage and little Sarah at her feet, waiting — waiting to get on that train, after the cooking, cleaning and washing was done. She wouldn’t come back either. Even though she would miss Sofia and Jon and James Jr., and Sylvester; she’d even miss the big old dog Buster that could die any day now.

She used to dream of going on the train alone and leaving little Sarah behind, too, with the rest of them, but she always feels sad on the train, in her dream, without little Sarah. So now little Sarah is part of the dream. Little Sarah — the youngest — would not be able to fend for herself. Sofia is young, but grown, and she knows how to fight. Besides little Sarah is the one she loves the best. Little Sarah looks more like her. The others look like James Sr. — big heads, big mouths, and heavy feet.

Whenever Jonetta is in the kitchen, sitting on the cold radiator and dreaming, and the kids are off playing in the backyard, and it’s a little after five, James Sr. pulls up in the driveway and slams the car door when he gets out. He isn’t angry; that is just his way. The loud bang of the door shakes Jonetta out of her dream and she goes to the oven to fix James Sr.’s plate.

Jonetta eats standing up. The stove is her table. It isn’t because there is no room at the table to sit; it is because she hates watching James Sr. eat. She is glad that he eats with his wide back to her; she doesn’t have to see his face when he chugs down his Coke. She wonders if other men drink like that. She is sure that they don’t. She is certain that other men had more class than James Sr.

She sees men in the grocery store — they look clean and washed and wear fresh clothes. James Sr. wears stretched out tee shirts with holes under the arm. He owns more than ten sea green tee shirts and Jonetta cannot stand it. Why didn’t she get a man that liked to look good and smell good?

James Sr. never appears on the train with her in her dream. He would ruin it with his loud voice and his musty, shapeless green tee shirt, his dusty jeans and his worn-out shoes. He is so sloppy. And Jon, James Jr., Sylvester and Sofia are taking after him.

Every time Jonetta tells them to take a bath, they protest and James Sr. always says, “They are boys; they don’t need to bathe every day.”

And Jonetta complains, “They haven’t bathed in weeks!”

“They’re boys,” James Sr. shouts.

“Not Sofia … she’s no boy, but she might as well be one.”

“They’re kids,” James Sr. says.

And Jonetta would go upstairs to run the water for little Sarah. Little Sarah is too young to protest. She looks washed and shiny like an apple after her bath; Jonetta would hug her and smell her and wouldn’t ever put her down, but there is cooking to be done and cleaning, too.

If Jonetta could walk to Heartford or Wyndsor, she would, but it’s too far. She would drive, but she doesn’t have her license or her own car. She would take the cab, but she never has any money. She would take the bus, but how would she hold the luggage and little Sarah, too?

If only the train stopped in Plumfield— right behind her house.

  1. wbjorkman
    June 26, 2010 at 2:30 pm

    The sense of longing here is palpable. Jonetta will never leave, with the backstory you give we can sense that she has had the Train Dream for a while, and will have forever. Even if they ever built a station in her backyard. I absolutely love this – you take an urging, a daydream that could be like any other in any person and make it into that longing for fulfillment that is universal, and also give us the sad truth.

  2. mcewen75
    June 26, 2010 at 3:34 pm

    Walt, thanks for reading “The Train Dream.” You are right, even if a train station was built in her backyard, Jonetta will never leave. I wish she could, even if just for a day.

  3. June 27, 2010 at 11:58 pm

    I like it

  4. deepee10
    June 28, 2010 at 9:23 am

    Nice and wistful. Everybody’s waitin’ for that train at sometime in their lives. Good for us nothing ever remains the same–it’s all constantly changing and if we’re lucky we’re wide awake when we hear that whistle blow. Ready or not.

  5. June 28, 2010 at 8:16 pm

    I see this short story as a short film. You have snap-shotted the scene so well! I see camera’s, scenes at the train station, kitchen… lighting, head-shots of expressions…silence and the poignant one liners that culminate at the train station… Jx

  6. mcewen75
    June 29, 2010 at 10:50 am

    Thanks Plumpcomfort, Deepee10, and Jodine! Thanks for reading my story. Yep, deepee10 everybody’s waiting for that train, that is why my favorite Jimi Hendrix song will always be “Hear my train a-coming” 🙂

    And Jodine, I love reading stories that make me think of short films. I love the way you broke it down to “head-shots of expressions” and “one liners.”

  7. Walter
    November 26, 2010 at 11:56 am

    Congrats on getting this up in the new MiPoesias!! Truly worthy.

  8. Melissa
    November 26, 2010 at 7:01 pm

    Thanks Walt!!!!

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