The ride
By

    Photo by Yogendra174 on Flikr, licensed under Creative Commons.

    Kimberly licked her sticky, red fingers and then she wiped her hands on her blue jeans. The little girl plopped down into the short blades of grass. She lied down on her back and looked up at the clouds.

    Her mother stood in the kitchen with a spiked glass of lemonade. She raised it up towards her lover and said, “This is a summer day.”

    “Any day when your husband is away on business is a summer day,” he replied.

    But she sternly caught his eye and said, “Don’t be romantic.”

    He shrugged and looked out the window. “I’ll tell you, it is a nice day.”

    Kimberly saw the clouds in the sky turn into animals and things: an elephant (Dumbo), a sunflower, an ice cream cone, a dragon, and a choo choo train. She giggled at the train with her almost toothless smile. Raising her short, still chubby arm into the air, she pulled an imaginary bell like a conductor and yelled “Chug-a-chug-a Choo choo!”

    The small girl closed her eyes and could feel herself moving with the train. How wonderful to be light like a cloud! She smiled and opened her eyes. But to her surprise she found herself actually on the train, and it was going fast. She panicked. How did she get on the train? Where was she going? Where was her mom? Her mouth was so dry.

    Her mother still stood in the kitchen with her drink. “What is there to do on a day like this?” she exclaimed. “There’s never anything to do!”

    “I thought that’s why you see me,” her lover replied as he placed his hands on her hips and pulled her close. “To get a rush,” he whispered into her right ear.

    “That is why.” She raised her glass to him, and her eyebrow along with it. “However, the rush just isn’t happening.”

    He shrugged and looked out the window. “I’ll tell you, it’s a nice day, though.”

    Kimberly peered at the other passengers on the train. They were blurry and strange, with purple eyes. She walked tepidly up to the front of the train to see what the conductor was like, but there was no conductor at all. She looked back out at the other passengers and shivered; their eyes seemed to target her. She hid at the front of the train, pulling her legs tightly to her body. The other passengers on the train must be ghosts, she decided. With a turn of the head, she leaned back against the train wall and shook. She was cold. She sweated. Her mouth was so dry.

    “What is there to do?” her mother asked. “I’m so bored.”

    “Why don’t you cook something?” her lover suggested. “A couple lamb chops, rosemary mashed potatoes. I love that dish.” He wrapped his arms around her waist. “How ‘bout it, huh?”

    She turned her neck to look at him. “Men—they think with two things: their stomach and their balls. Next thing I know, you’ll be asking me for sex.”

    “And God knows I don’t get any of that!”

    “God knows,” she said with a half-smile, raising her glass to him.

    He bit his lip and walked away from her towards the window. “Boy, it is a nice day.”

    The purple-eyed ghost’s wriggling fingernails began to reach out towards Kimberly. She gasped, but hardly got in any air. Though the ghosts never got up from their seats, they seemed to be moving closer to the girl. Was the train getting smaller, the girl wondered. Her mouth was dry, and her vision was fuzzy. The train itself was fuzzy.

    Kimberly’s mother peered down into her glass and sighed.

    “Well hun, you could put a lamb chop on,” her lover suggested. “Something to do.”

    She turned her neck to look at him. “Men—they think with two things: their stomach and their balls.”

    “You said that before.”

    “Did I?” She took a swig of her drink. “Who knows what I say?”

    “Well, it’s a cliché if ever I’ve heard one.”

    “Nothing is ever new.”

    He moved away from her and pointed out the window, “We should be enjoying the outdoors,” he said and waved his finger at her. “Look what a nice day it is.”

    The ghosts had still never left their seats, but they had gotten so close to Kimberly that they might as well have been inside of her. Their fingernails began to twist through her hair, as their eyes burrowed into her. How had the train gotten so small, she cried to herself. It was closing in on her. Her mouth was so dry. Her chest hurt. She sweated. Where was this train going?

    “What is the point?” the girl’s mother asked. “Why do I see you?”

    “I thought it was to get a rush,” her lover replied.

    Kimberly’s mother attempted to down the rest of lemonade but couldn’t quite manage it. “But I’m not getting any rush.”

    “You must see something in me,” he said as he pulled her head against his shoulder.

    “Beats me what it is, though,” she replied, moving away from him.

    He shrugged and pointed out the window. “Look at that sky. I’ll tell you, it’s a nice day.”

    The train had gotten so small that Kimberly was not on it anymore. She was in the dark air, and the train was coming towards her. It was going to hit her. She screamed, “Mom!”

    The girl’s mother dropped her glass at the noise, and it shattered on the kitchen floor. She ran outside and stopped by her little girl on the grass. “Kimberly!” The mother knelt down and picked up her girl’s hands. “No,” she said with glazed eyes. “I told her to never eat the wild berries.” She hit her hand against the ground. “I told her never to!”

    Her lover looked at the tiny girl on the ground. “I should go,” he said, already walking away.

    “Yes, that would be right,” she said in a trance. “I have to call my husband.”

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