It Won't Be Like This Always

Submitted into Contest #168 in response to: Make a train station an important part of your story.... view prompt

14 comments

Sad Drama Contemporary

This story contains sensitive content

The train to Oliver Junction is never late. Not once has it ever been late. Something to be proud of if you’re a train. Or a conductor. Whoever is in charge of all that. You can set your watch by it. We put your grandfather on that train. When we did, he was in much worse shape than you are now. They say some things skip a generation. I suppose that could be so. I thought I got lucky. Anytime you think you’re lucky, you’re blind. That’s how life goes for people like us. We live by the water and the shine from the sun gets in our eyes. Hurts us when the time comes to see what we got to contend with in this world.

You wear the hat your mother made you? She was worried you’d be cold. I told her it doesn’t get cold where you’re going. Nice and warm there. She still wanted you to have it. I want you to know that we forgive you for all the things you said when you were angry. Until I was ten-years-old, I thought they poured hatred right into those brown bottles, because every time my father would drink from them, out would come the vitriol. Nastiness and pettiness and all things he’d beg to be forgiven for later. Most of the time I could forgive him, but on a certain occasion, he slapped my little sister across the face. Even when he was on his deathbed begging, I had a hard time absolving him of that. Or the memory of that. By then, your aunt was long gone. She inherited all the family demons. They wanted nothing to do with me. Just lucky I guess. Lucky and blind. That’s how it goes.

I see you wanting to shake. You just go ahead and do it. Do what you need to do. No hiding anything now. The first time I found that bottle in your room, I thought about locking you in the basement until you were so scared, you’d never touch another drop again. Your mother told me “Boys will be boys.” She wasn’t wrong. It’s just that nobody in her family was a drinker. On that side, they gamble. Your mother’s mother would bet on whether or not the toast would come out burnt, but gambling is an acceptable addiction provided it doesn’t land you in the poorhouse. Luckily for your mother’s side, all that linseed oil money made sure they could burn up cash to their heart’s content. On my side, we were too poor for the finer addictions. It was alcohol for my father and shooting up for your aunt. Your grandmother and I spent all our lives praying and waiting. Waiting for a midnight knock. Waiting to be told somebody wasn’t coming home. And when they did, it was its own kind of Hell.

In another year, you’ll be eighteen. Then you’ll have every right to kill yourself if that’s what you want to do. That’s why we had to send you away before it gets to that. I know you hate me right now and that’s fine. I’d rather a live son hating me than a dead one who loved me. You’re the blue pearl of my life. The gem and the jewel. Without you, I’m nothing but an oyster shell, my boy. Your mother feels the same. We have each other, but the loss of you would turn us into strangers. I don’t doubt that one bit.

Something in your posture tells me you might consider running. You should know that I’ve called up every friend I’ve ever made to form a circle around this station. Should you choose to take off, they have been instructed to do anything and everything short of a felony to keep you from escaping. I know the wisdom states that you have to want to help yourself and nobody can force you into it, but the wisdom can suck a peach as far as I’m concerned, because you’re going to Oliver Junction if I have to ship you there in a packing crate.

Once you’re on the train, the staff knows what to do. They’ll turn you over to the staff at the facility. You’ll be there for as long as you need to be there. Your mother and I have worked it out financially so that you can take all the time you need. When they feel you’re in a better spot, they’ll put you back on a train and you’ll come home. If you need to postpone college, you’ll postpone it. I’m not worried about that at the moment. I’m just worried that this is deeper in your blood than any of us realize even though saying that makes me sound like some kind of kook. I know there are things that reside so deeply in us there’s no getting them out. I simply have to have faith that you’re not beyond saving.

It won’t be like this always. In the midst of turmoil, we sometimes believe everything from alpha to omega has been corrupted. We see no path to light. I’m not speaking religiously as you know I’m not exactly a man of the church. I’m speaking as a father. I’m speaking to my son. I hope you hear me as a son and as someone who has wrestled with loss and grief his entire life. When you tire of the fight, you give it over to me. Doesn’t matter if I’m a thousand miles away. You close your eyes and ask your father to take it from you, and somewhere, somehow--I will. I’ll feel it fall upon me and I will fight until my last breath so you can rest. That’s what you must tell yourself whenever it begins to be too much for you.

I hear the train arriving. Always on time--just as I said. It’s nice to know there are still things you can count on in life, isn’t it?

Nice to know certain trains will always be on time.

October 15, 2022 00:06

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14 comments

Amanda Lieser
15:14 Nov 25, 2022

Oh my word, Kevin. THIS STORY! THIS STORY! Broke my heart and stomped all over it and put it back together to do it all again. It was filled with incredible lines and beautiful moments of tragedy. I think my favorite one was: On my side, we were too poor for the finer addictions. I was shocked at how beautifully you were able write about such an immensely painful topic. It felt like a piece worthy of a movie or TV show. I loved it. Thank you for creating this world and giving us something to consider a bit more carefully.

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Story Time
17:29 Nov 25, 2022

Thank you, Amanda. I'm glad you could appreciate it. I always think the best stories happen between two characters having a quiet moment between each other.

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Mary Lehnert
18:43 Oct 27, 2022

What an amazing talent. From laughter to tears . Never know what your fertile mind produces. Have to admit I love your humorous stories best

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Story Time
16:42 Oct 28, 2022

Thank you so much, Mary.

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Marty B
02:13 Oct 25, 2022

A good description of the ultimate fear of all parents and family. 'Your grandmother and I spent all our lives praying and waiting. Waiting for a midnight knock. Waiting to be told somebody wasn’t coming home. And when they did, it was its own kind of Hell.'

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Story Time
16:25 Oct 25, 2022

Thank you, Marty.

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Aeris Walker
12:33 Oct 18, 2022

Great character—he’s seen a lot of life and knows struggle in a way his son doesn’t yet understand, but he’s willing to show tough love to protect him and to get him well. I liked the inner monologue—we *feel* the story without dialogue tags, other characters, or too much description getting in the way. Favorite sentence: “I know the wisdom states that you have to want to help yourself and nobody can force you into it, but the wisdom can suck a peach as far as I’m concerned, because you’re going to Oliver Junction if I have to ship you ...

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Story Time
16:34 Oct 18, 2022

Thank you so much, Aeris.

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Lily Finch
18:06 Oct 16, 2022

HI Kevin, this piece is sobering and real. What love and concern the parents have for their son. Well done. strongest line: "Until I was ten-years-old, I thought they poured hatred right into those brown bottles, because every time my father would drink from them, out would come the vitriol." Captured the true essence of parenting: "When you tire of the fight, you give it over to me. Doesn’t matter if I’m a thousand miles away. You close your eyes and ask your father to take it from you, and somewhere, somehow--I will. I’ll feel it fall u...

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Story Time
16:43 Oct 17, 2022

Thank you so much, Lily.

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Rama Shaar
05:06 Oct 16, 2022

You captured every parent's worst nightmare, but I like how you also captured the hope that lies in tough love so well.

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Story Time
16:45 Oct 17, 2022

Thank you, Rama.

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AnneMarie Miles
02:43 Oct 15, 2022

This felt like a goodbye letter from the father to the son, an explanation. It was written with that casual tone, but still, there were so many sweet crafted lines in this. I enjoyed these: "We live by the water and the shine from the sun gets in our eyes. Hurts us when the time comes to see what we got to contend with in this world." "I thought they poured hatred right into those brown bottles, because every time my father would drink from them, out would come the vitriol" Even though it was the tough kind, I could feel the love in this....

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Story Time
04:59 Oct 15, 2022

Thank you, Anne. It was a tough one to write.

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