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Emily Waldorf

@noah-cochran yeah. Instead of switching from first person present to third person past maybe you could switch from first person present to third person present.


Here it is. I didn’t edit before posting:


Really A Big Word


I am waiting. Waiting for the train to come; for life to start; for the memories to stop.




The double tracks gleam dully in the thin sheet of rain that hangs over the platform. Passengers huddle together, away from the man with the convict’s clothing, but why should I change? 7 years for manslaughter can’t be taken off with a shirt.

A car pulls up to the station to let off more people. A 1952 Cadillac Deville. I shudder. Why would anyone drive a Cadillac? Not everybody does what I did, I guess.

A train whistle cuts the air, stabbing into my brain the memory of a car horn, begging a little girl to get out of the way; echoing her mother’s screams. My foot flattens against the wooden platform, frantically pumping the breaks in my memory. I’m breathing hard. Where is that mother now? Is the pain I created in her eyes still visible?

The newcomers mount the platform and crouch beneath the skinny awning, trying to avoid the leak and the dripping eaves. A woman with a baby in one arm, the other hand clutching a little girl’s hand. The five-year-old looks around her with wide eyes, trying to look everywhere at once.

I smile sadly. She looks like a girl I saw—for an instant—7 years ago, in front of my car. They are so similar. The same curly gold hair; the same innocence and wide-eyed wonder. Could it be…my eyes lift involuntarily to her mother’s face. If only it was her—!

Her mouse-white hair is nothing like the shining blonde waves of the woman I’m looking for. Even if it was, forgiveness is a big word. Too big, for a person like me to hope for.

With another howl the engine shoots into view and cannons toward us on the far tracks. At the same instant the little girl wriggles her fingers free from her mother’s grasp and dances across the tracks after a flower on the other side, brave and pink in the gray rain.

The train keeps rushing forward. The second tracks are reserved for freight; it won’t stop at the station. With a shriek her mother starts forward, but the other passengers hold her back and begin shouting to the child on the tracks: the train is too close to risk another life.

The engineer can’t see her golden head, shining brightly in the rain, and he urges his engine forward.

The mother is sobbing now. She is trying to catch her daughter’s attention. Trying to sign to her, but she cannot hear the train, or the people shouting. She is too absorbed in her aster to feel the shaking of the tracks or notice her mother’s gestures.

I squeeze my eyes closed, but I cannot squelch the memories. A vehicle that couldn’t stop in time; a curly head, with all the future crushed out of it; a mother’s agonized screams. Agonized screams. They jerk me back to Now, and I’m leaping off the platform, as the train breaks begin to screech.

As I jump the first tracks, the girl suddenly feels the murderous vibrations, and turns to see the death engine plunging, unstoppable, toward her. I am screaming. Her eyes meet the engineer’s as a nightmare shoots through my mind. Then…




I hardly feel it. Even the dislocating summersault through the air and the sick thud on the turf are meaningless. Only the limp little life in my arms is real. The locomotive thunders past, reverberating in what’s left of my heart.

Dizziness. Noise. Running feet. Cold rain on my face. They’re all a blur. Someone is yelling for a doctor, but it only makes my headache worse. Then the mother is there, still clutching her baby and sobbing. As she bends to pick up her uninjured daughter, I look back over 7 long years, into the eyes that had overflowed with the pain I caused. Recognition and disbelief flash through those eyes, and something like love. Forgiveness really is a big word.

My eyes flicker closed, and I am waiting.





I also have one where the tenses switch from past to present, but I don’t know how helpful it would be for you to read my work ad nauseam. Hope this was helpful!

  • This reply was modified 1 year, 11 months ago by Emily Waldorf.

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