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Authors: Neil Douglas Newton

The Railroad (42 page)

BOOK: The Railroad
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Chapter Twenty-Two

A man drives along a deserted road at the edge of a dump. There’s a bottle of scotch beneath the front seat. Despite the fact that both car and man reek of alcohol, the man has consumed very little. A talk show plays on the car’s radio.

The man is tired. He’s spent several hours in two strip malls, ranting about child abuse and any topic that comes to his mind. In the second mall he’s asked to leave by security. The man is well satisfied with the evening.

He crosses some train tracks; on the far side is some wooded land that surrounds the road. A few seconds after he crosses the track, an SUV barrels out of the woods to his right barring his way. As his car screeches to a halt, he surveys the road in front of him, his heart beating quickly. He hears another vehicle come to a noisy halt behind him, cutting off his escape.

A man detaches himself from the shadow of the car ahead of him. The driver tenses. The man comes abreast of his car and stares in. “Turn away and cover your head,” the man tells him. He has just enough time to start turning away when the man outside produces a bat and smashes the driver’s side window. The door is jerked open.

The man is pulled out of the car with a gentle firmness. For a moment his attacker brushes glass off the man’s back, saying nothing. Then he grabs his hand and, with the skill of a surgeon, he slices into the man’s forefinger. He guides the man along the front of the car and leans forward. Using the man’s blood, he writes 4-5-1 across the windshield.

“You’ll need a bandage for that,” the attacker says, pointing at the man’s finger and wincing. “We have some in the car. We’ll get you stitched up soon. I want them to see you in one piece.”



A man leaves the Nine Train after an exhausting day’s work. Though he’s usually tired at the end of the day, this particular afternoon finds him uncharacteristically low on energy and slightly depressed.

He stands on the corner of Seventh and 23
, thinking about the possibility of dinner out. Lately he has become somewhat of a recluse, not going out as much as he used to. Like most of his recent nights, he opts to simply go home.

His lobby is filled with a grim, grayish yellow glow, reflecting the somberness of the winter sky. Shuffling up to his mailbox, he unlocks it and absently sorts through the mail. One letter catches his eye, most notably due to the lack of a stamp and an address. All that’s written on the envelope is the man’s name: Dennis.

He stares at the envelope for a few moments. Then he takes the elevator up to his apartment, where he fixes himself a drink. The strange letter sits in his hand while he drinks, sipping thoughtfully. Then he finally opens the letter and reads.

“Sorry for the pain,
the letter reads.
Just give it ten. Until then

Take care,



The man holds the letter and stares out the window. Then he smiles.

He finds an old lighter in the breakfront by the dinner table. In the kitchen he finds a cracked saucer that he hasn’t used in years and brings it back to the living room where his drink waits.

He takes a sip of the drink and makes a ritual of burning the letter in the old saucer, watching intently as the paper is consumed. A few minutes later finds him in the bathroom, dumping ashes into the toilet. In the end the dish goes into his garbage can.

Still sipping his drink, he stares thoughtfully out into the traffic going south on Seventh Avenue, bathed in the stark winter light. He smiles once again.




Neil Newton was born and raised in New York City and grew up in Bayside.

He did the liberal arts shuffle in college and graduate school and eventually became a computer programmer to his great surprise. Neil is also a musician who can often be seen indulging his interest in the arcane art of fingerpicking guitar.

After trying to live the professional life in New York he moved to Knoxville, a small but civilized city. There he was surprised even further to find a wonderful adopted family and a very wonderful wife. He lives there with an endless supply of cats and dogs.

The Railroad
is Neil's first novel.


To learn more about Neil and his work visit






BOOK: The Railroad
9.7Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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