Microcosms Flash Fiction. Treasured

It was only appropriate his guestroom held trains. Hundreds of them. In specially built shelves they lined the walls floor to ceiling, a miniature world spread out over the whole breadth of the room. Sitting on the ancient couch put us at eye level with the train table. Craning our heads 90 degrees allowed a view of the TV. It never occurred to me to question the expediency of such a set-up.

Grandpop’s trains were center stage, the best guests.

To my sister and me, the train world was not fragile, not expensive, not the offspring of faithful labor, love, and vision. Despots see their kingdoms the way we kids viewed Grandpop’s guestroom: How can we best exploit this for our pleasure? The three tracks of varying sizes begged to be raced upon. Everyone knows, if you run a train too fast around a bend, it jumps the track. But racing grandchildren don’t care a wit.

“Never, ever push the lever hard over,” Grandpop would wag a stern finger. Hard over was the first thing we’d do when he left our sides.

Grandpop, whose ears were trained to hear the sound of a model train wreck, the clack and crunch of precious engine hitting the miniature buildings, the table, the metal tracks… he’d come trundling in before the train had even finished crashing.

“Gald dern it,” he’d grumble in phlegmy despair. And wedging into the tight space between table and bay window, he’d gingerly, lovingly right the engine, holding it like a woman, fitting it back onto the tracks. I’d gaze in horror at the deep cracks in his thick fingertips, filled in with the blackness of years and labor. I didn’t understand how skin could get carved out like that: like a lake basin in drought.

Now I know.




*A new flash fiction contest: Microcosms. Every Friday they provide character, setting, and genre, and you have 300 words with which to play. Today’s were: grandson/guest house/memoir. I accidentally used guestroom instead of guest house, so perhaps I’m disqualified. Still, it was fun. If the chosen words don’t inspire, writers are free to spin until the muse strikes. Feels kinda like Vegas. 🙂 This is a mutt of truth and fiction. Mostly truth.

Personal Journey

C is for Conniver

CConniver, third generation. That was me, per my grandpop. He used to tell me I was just like my mother and her mother. Even at ten years old I knew that wasn’t a compliment.

To be fair, Grandpop was right. My genetic predisposition for conniving would rear its ugly head whenever my little brother and I would visit. Want to see raw Darwinism play out between siblings? Give them a toy train set. And not just any old train set. Grandpop’s family room walls were bedecked in brightly colored train cars and peppered with black engines. The custom shelves held one car or engine per space, so not an inch was wasted, floor to ceiling. The room was host to one colossal train table, a child’s glory, a grandparent’s nightmare.

The table had a whole city laid out upon it, complete with an ice mill that moved the blocks along a conveyor belt, a sawmill that cut the trees into lumber, a pharmacy, a church, multiple glittering storefronts, neighborhoods, a fire station, even a little dog that peed on the hydrant as he circled round it (my personal favorite). Three tracks of varying sizes went around the periphery. Perfect for racing, but Grandpop did not allow his trains to be raced.

Connivers don’t much care for what’s allowed.

When Grandpop wasn’t looking we’d set objects on the tracks and try to pick them up again before the train ran them down. Sometimes we were successful. There was a certain number on the speed control, the number at which the train had to run, said Grandpop. That is the place it will never stay, said the conniver.

I didn’t understand centrifugal force back then. I only knew that taking the turns above that number derailed the train, every time. The jagged sound of metal on metal and the absence of running train would bring Grandpop running. His automatic response to train calamities was a sort of minced oath: Galddarnert, spoken with lots of phlegm, just that one word. Then he would set the trains back to running again, a job too complex for our clumsy child fingers.

Stephen J. Seyer met three of his great grandchildren before he died. The last, Luke Stephen Griffiths, I named in his honor. At Grandpop’s funeral I mentioned his beloved trains. I saw them as a metaphor for life. Only now that my own fingers are old enough to right the calamities caused by conniving little fingers, do I see the man.