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1853 May6 New York, 06: 00

It’s more than a machine, Carl.

Another sleepy morning in the overcrowded city of New York. Stepping out from the hotel, I breathed in the heavy morning air to my lungs and wrinkled my nose. It seems that all hateful things were somehow put in this one huge town, and most surprisingly, everyone tends to love this place. Except of me, of course. Why on earth do I end up hating the most loveable things in life?
I had a short thought about my fireman Steven and the second supporting crew of the train, who were definitely still in their hotel room, sleeping. The train will leave at 8 o’clock, and I don’t care whether they’ll have to take a carriage or fly to the station on time – a train is not a bus, and it must never be late.
I walked through the messy streets of New York absent-mindedly, letting all thoughts in my head. Unconsciously I ended up remembering the first time I actually saw a train....
  ‘Pa, look! ’ I shouted, while pointing to the black locomotive, dragging five cars behind him and leaving a huge clowd of smoke behind him.
  ‘Yes, Carl, I can see that’ my father responded unenthusiastically, and I, being an eight-year-old boy, was hurt by such indifference.
‘Pa, how come you don’t look at the train? Isn’t it beautiful? ’ I asked, still hearing the roar of the trains and it’s rhytmic puffing. My dad finally raised his head from the newspaper that he was reading and looked to the distance, where the train was already disappearing, just the smoke hanging in the air. He sat like that for a moment.
‘Maybe I am old and wrong, son’ he said, in a voice fullfilled with such wisdom that I felt as if receiving another moral ‘but I think this is more than just a machine, Carl. And I say this in a bad way. I see why you love it – it is exciting. But I just don’t like this metal machine. ’
I was sad and disappointed – my own father thought that  the most amazing thing in the world was just a bad metal machine. But somehow this never made my enjoyment of watching the trains fade. Every Sunday, when my family would go from our farm to a small city nearby, I would run to the nearest hill, and sit there, watching the trains go by. I dreamt about being inside of it, looking through the windows, and watching the landscpe run through my eyes. Who knew that after forty years I would end up being the engineer of one of these trains...
It felt funny remembering these episodes of my early years... I never before reminiscened those words that my father said. And even now, forty years later, I did not see the meaning of them. Well, my father was a crazy old man afterall – who knows what was going on in that man’s head. For heaven’s sake – he once tried to swallow a fork just because our neighbour challenged him to do that. Thank goodness, my mother saw that and stopped him. How is that for a wise father?
‘Good morning, Carl’ said someone behind me, and I twitched unwillingly, as I was so deep in my thoughts. Turning around, I saw the nice woman that worked on our train as a waitress. She was the perfect woman – beautiful lines, long blond hair, bright eyes, full lips, a calm voice. But she had a fake smile all over her doll-like face.
‘Good morning, Joanne’ I answered, trying to sound polite enough not to insult her, but cold enough to show her that I have NO intention to continue this conversation. But could this little creature understand my body language?

‘Isn’t the weather nice today? I just loved taking the walk down the morning streets of the city! ’ No, she definitely does not understand any body language at all… I sighed.
‘If you say so… But I think, Joanne that you have lots of work to do and I hope you will not interrupt my work, as I do not interrupt yours. ’ Joanne’s face lost its’ shine for a moment, and I could say that I started feeling a little sorry for bursting out like that, but then…
‘Of course, Carl, you are right, we all have lots of work to do, it’s only an hour left before the train leaves! Have a nice day! ’ she said, while her face lit up again. Dear God, why do you send these young morons to my life? Could you at least keep them out of my train?
I went to the station, hoping not the meet any other people from the crew, as practically every single one of them was of this Joanne’ish nature – happy about their lives, happy about the weather, happy about New York. I am starting to wonder whether they are happy about every single thing on Earth... I found the head of the station  - William – just where I thought I would – in the cafeteria. This man lost his wife two or three months ago and now he is drowning in depression and coffee. I don’t mind his obsession to coffee – as long as he is not all Oh-hello-Carl-what-a-NICE-day-this-is, I like him.
‘Morning, Will’ I greeted him, giving my hand to him. He shook it weakly and then let out a silent ‘Good morning, Carl’. THAT’S a person that I like to meet in the mornings – normal, a little sad, but not weepy.
‘Is everything in order with the train? The coil ready, the railroad fine? ’ I asked. This was a duty that I have to carry out every time before leaving the station. Not my favorite one, of course, as it requires talking and squeezing some emotion to the surface from time to time. 
‘Yes, Carl, you are good to go’ answered William shortly and took another sip of his coffe. This was a sign that he had no more things to say. I nodded him instead of saying an actual ‘goodbye’, but this was always enough for William. I already said that I like him, right?
I felt better when I got into the locomotive. The sweet breeze of fresh coil, the loneliness inside my cabin was priceless. I spent a whole hour there, not even noticing the flow of time, once again lost in my thoughts. It was when I heard the other part of the crew coming, and I understood that my peaceful rest came to an end...
‘Still feeling wet, Stevie? ’
‘Shut up, Solomon! ’
‘Oh, don’t be so rude, I am an engineer after all! ’
‘If I had a rich father like you do, I would also be a…’
‘Well you don’t, so just keep on dreaming. ’

The three young men got into the locomotive. One of them was Steven – my fireman. A young, tall, slim twenty-year-old lad. Annoyed me as hell, but at least he was not as horrible as the other two. Solomon was the engineer of the supporting  crew and Timothy was his fireman. Both were tall, well-built, and always enjoyed the attention, received from the waitresses or the woman passengers. All of whom, unsurprisingly, demonstrated a serious lack of intellect. Being so adored by women and having rich parents, both of these dumb youngsters demonstrated their arrogance at every chance.
‘How you feeling today, Carlo? ’ asked Solomon mockingly, while adjusting his uniform that he got to wear only for the third time – he had been a fireman for three years until he became an engineer only a few weeks ago. I hated the tone of his voice while he spoke to me and his attitude towards me, so I just said a simple ‘Good morning’ for all of them and turned to the front window of the cabin.
Understanding that I have no intention at all to speak with them, the men turned their attention back to their argument.
‘Steven, I heard your dad had some…problems with alcohol, huh? You ain’t hiding anything from us in that bag of your, eh? ’ said Timothy, while touching the little backpack of Steven, who pulled it closer and took a few steps from Timothy.
‘It is none of your business what problems my dad had, and may I ask you not to touch my stuff? ’ answered Steven in a serious tone. The kid was slim and weak, but when it came to fighting for himself, he had some power, I may say.
‘Ah, don’t be so touchy, Stevie’ teased Solomon, and pushed Steven across the cabin, which took the latter by surprise and he flew straight towards me, hitting my legs with his head. Great. I spent ten minutes with these idiots, and they have already used up all of my patience resources. I turned around.
‘Get up, Steven. And why on earth are you wet? ’ Timothy and Solomon giggled after my last comment, and I understood that it is unworthy to bother about this matter, as its’ reasons stood in front of me. ‘Never mind… For the last time I am telling you that this is NOT a playground, and you come here to WORK, so would you PLEASE have some respect for your work and your co-workers as well? ’ the dumb faces of Timothy and Solomon and no sign of reaction to my words made me let out a slight sigh. Who was I trying to fool, I had no control of these people. The only thing that I could control in my life right now was this old train.
‘You two, do you know that you are officially in charge of the course today again? ’ I pointed out, deciding not to tell any morals to these morons ever. Solomon smiled. He loved the idea of being “in charge”, which meant that he is of a higher importance than I am. I personally did not mind this. Even wearing an engineer uniform this boy was fairly stupid.
‘Would you like me to watch over the start of the course and help you? ’ I asked, as it was only the third time for Solomon to start a train and leave its’ first station, which was rather difficult, as one had to watch the heat of the engine very carefully.

‘Actually, my father is on the train today, he has just finished his conference with the best medics in the States yesterday, and he sent a telegram today in the morning that he is willing to see me at breakfast in the train. I am sure that I would manage to start the train and be in time for breakfast, but…’ the voice of this boy was ear-killing. I understood that to argue with him could end up in a loss of my workplace, as his father was highly influential, extremely rich, and, I allowed myself to assume, just as arrogant as this fresh engineer. This meant only one thing – “do not EVER annoy his little spoilt brat, or else you will lose your job”.
‘Okay, okay, very well, me and Steven will start the train today’ I said, turning to the front window again. ‘You may go to your breakfast conference with your father, and we will switch as soon as you will be done’ I added. Fortunately, Timothy and Solomon decided to leave without any attempts to tease Steven again, and I regained some peacefulness that I so much enjoyed in the morning. Steven has already learned during the last year that I hated babbling about useful topics, and therefore, he stayed quiet. It was time to start the train, and he went to the engine and started putting in the coil and heating it. Solomon hated the responsibility of this moment, but I loved it. Starting a train was like giving life for something that appears to be dead and cold. I would never change the feeling of a train that is gaining speed into a breakfast with my fat father and his clever friends. Even if he would try to swallow a fork.
Just as the train started puffing towards the borders of New York, I noticed the sound behind me. Well, what else could it be – Steven was once again humming a melody. Even though I managed to teach him to shut up, I never succeeded in making him hum these melodies only in his head – the boy truly loved music. This melody strangely did not irritate me. Somehow it made me remember the episodes of my childhood that I had in the morning again. I stood there, looking through the front window, listening to the sad tune, enjoying the landscape that had no huge buildings in it anymore.
‘Carl, I just want you to know that I am really not hiding any drinks in my backpack, the guys were just teasing me again…’ said Steven in a weak voice, fearing that his talking will anger me. Not turning my eyes from the trees and forests that the train was rhythmically going through at the moment, I sighed.
‘I have no interest in what you’re hiding in your backpack, Steven. As long as you put the coil to the engine when needed, and stay quiet, I am satisfied with your presence’
‘Okay, sir…’ said Steven, and stayed quiet for the rest of our work. I must agree that Steven was not arrogant as Timothy and Solomon, and I couldn’t deny that he had some signs of brains. At least enough brains not to bother me every five minutes. Maybe someday he would even learn to become a  better companion for me than William and his coffee.
‘Oh, Carl, I see you did a great job, my dear fellow engineer’ said an annoying voice behind me. No need to say whose this voice was.
‘Are you done with your breakfast, Solomon? ’ I asked, trying to suppress my temper.
‘Yes, I indeed am, and I spent the best hour with the greatest gentlemen of nowadays... ’ began Solomon, but I had no wish to hear this story, and therefore, I just turned around, pointed Solomon to his spot, and told Steven to take a breakfast break. Timothy shot a sad look at the pile of coil that he was supposed to put into the engine. I knew how much he hated his job, thinking that it is too low for him. You would never receive such a look from Steven – the kid valued every dollar that he earned.
‘And mind the drawbridge signal, Solomon, there might be a ship going down the Norwalk River today’
I heard Solomon shout an ‘Aye aye, captain! ’ to me, as we were leaving the cabin with Solomon.
The train had five cars connected today – two cars of baggage and three cars of passengers. The café was in the second car of passengers, so we passed three cars with Stevens. The boy stayed quiet. I guessed that he was such because of the remarks that Timothy made about his father.
It was around two hundred of passengers on train today, and most of them were doctors. Just as Solomon said, they were headed from the important conference. Having this in mind, I shouldn’t have been so surprised to see Marcus on the train. But oh, I was.
Marcus was one of my best childhood friends. He was a rather goofy kid, who had so many crazy ideas in his head that my own father sometimes enjoyed his presence more than mine. I never understood how Marcus ended up being a great doctor. Maybe he simply lost his goofiness in the process of growing up…
‘And who do I see over here? Is it the president of U. S.? Or no – maybe it is the ghost of my dad, as it seems to have such a sad face? Oh, but no – it is my old friend Carl! ’ exclaimed Marcus, popping out of nowhere in front of me with that creepy smile from ear to ear. Okay, I take my words about losing goofiness back.
‘Marcus! Haven’t seen you for years! ’ I shook his hand excitedly. Even though I hated communicating with the crew of the train, I didn’t mind meeting my old friends from my homewtown. This unexpected meeting brought my mood up, and I decided to introduce Steven to Marcus. But it seems that Marcus noticed him sooner than the idea came to my head.
‘Dear God, Marcus, how did your son grow up so fast? I saw little Ben five years before and he was still ten, and now look at him, all grown up! ’ said he, leaving me utterly confused. At the moment when I understood, what Marcus had in mind, I was so taken aback that Steven, feeling my confusion, spoke up:
‘I am very sorry sir, but you must have mistaken me with someone else… I am actually Steven, the fireman of sir Carl. ’
Marcus blinked twice. One could truly see that he now was as confused as I was.
‘Marcus, Ben died four years ago due to a disease. ’ I said in a cold tone, trying to block the view of a sick boys’ face from coming back to my head. ‘Well, why don’t we grab some tea or coffee? ’ I asked, quickly going to a free table in the rear of the car. I sat down, took the menu, and stared at the pictures of coffee cups. Marcus and Steven sat down in front of me after a few seconds, both still confused and feeling uncomfortable.
‘Good Lord, Carl, I never knew…’ said Marcus and his voice sounded more serious than ever now. ‘I am so sorry, Carl. Steven here really looks like a matured little Ben, I was sure that it is him…’

‘It is okay, Marcus, no need to apologize. Joanne! We’ll take three cups of coffee, thank you’ I said, raising my eyes from the menu and looking through the window, while still seeing Joanne pass our table and nod slightly. I needed a couple of minutes to suppress the emotions. The memories. 
‘Well, boy, what might you be carrying in this funny backpack? I don’t suppose you could have a piece of coal in there, could you? ’ joked Marcus, sensibly turning the conversation’s route another way.
‘Oh, no, sir’ said Steven, being still embarrassed after the misunderstanding and feeling unconfident around an educated medic. ‘it’s actually a few sheets of paper and a pencil. I write my music down on those sheets. ’ he pulled out a bundle of yellowish sheet, all full of lines, dots and signs that I had no idea of how to read. So the boy is not only constantly humming – he is actually musical!
‘Well well, let’s take a look’ said Marcus, taking the sheets and looking through a couple of them. Steven sat in silence, his face all serious and red from embarrassment. This was the moment when I understood that he really does resemble my dead son. The same brow line, the same bright eyes, and even the same form of the nose. Why didn’t I ever notice this before?
‘Of course, I am not an expert in music, but I do play piano and violin, and I would say that these notes seem to be rather good, my boy! You should show them to someone who is educated in this subject area, indeed. I once knew a person, who could have helped you a lot, she was amazing for music…’ said Marcus, but he caught my look and his voice trailed off. I knew whom he had in mind, and he already stabbed a knife to my heart once today, therefore, he didn’t finish his thought.
‘May I ask who this woman was? ’ said Steven curiously. I stared at the boys’ eyes again. Dear God, a copy of Ben was practically living with me for a year and I never took the time to notice that! I sat  there, somehow ashamed of my blindness, but the sun rays hit my right cheek so strongly that it seemed as if the heat got through my skin, my bones, and touched every single part of my body. I had missed this feeling so much…
‘She was Angelica, my wife. She died many years ago, while giving birth to our only son Ben. ’ I said, looking at Steven, whose face suddenly lit up with red again. He thought that he hurt me.
‘Don’t worry Steven, this was a lot of years ago, I needn’t be depressed because of that now…’ I ensured him. Steven nodded slightly, and I could see the surprise in his eyes, as I have never spoken to him with such a warm voice. But seeing a copy of my son, whom I have missed so much, in front of me, I could not help it.
‘Your coffee, gentlemen” said a sweet voice above. Joanne was smiling with her usual smile, putting our coffee on our table. I could swear that for the first time during these years I thought that her smile has some charm.
‘Thank you, Joanne’ I said, as I was suddenly in such an exciting mood. Joanne’s eyebrow slightly tilted. But she was confused only for that short second, and gave us all a ‘You’re welcome’ afterwards.
Taking the first sip of coffee, I took a look outside the window, exploring the amazing view.

Suddenly, something caught my attention. We were approaching the drawbridge, and even being fifty years old, I could see the red ball, mounted on the high pole – the sign that the bridge is up. And the train was still on its’ full speed. I didn’t even got to stand up, as the train flinched, and the breaks started to squeak. The coffee cups fell from tables on the ground, the hot drinks were spilled on the knees of doctors and their wives, and panic spread in the car. I wanted to calm everyone down, but I caught a glimpse of two men, rolling just by the railroad, getting up, and running away. Timothy and Solomon… Everything around was happening so fast that when the thought of running to the locomotive came to my head (and I suppose that this should be one of the first thoughts that came to my mind), we were already on the bridge…
The horror that followed this can hardly be explainable. We heard the sound of the locomotive breaking through the lifted bridge, we could hear the metal squeak, as the locomotive bent down. I begged for the train to stop, but the breaks were obviously used too late – we never stopped. With a huge noise the locomotive hit the water, dragging the two baggage, and one passenger cars afterwards. As we fell our own car bending, I saw the terrified looks on Steven’s and Marcus’ faces. Steven was petrified, and the only words he said were ‘Oh my God, I can not swim, I do not know how to swim’. Marcus was already holding to the window that he opened, so I also grabbed its side, and as the car started to tilt down, I grabbed Steven’s arm, which was still on the table at that moment. As we were falling, I closed my eyes, so that I wouldn’t see the horrible view of tables falling and hitting the people, who were sitting in the front of the car. Unfortunately, I could not close my ears, and I still heard the horrified screams, ‘Oh Lord’s and ‘Oh God’s, the sounds of tables and other furniture crushing the people… Seconds passed, and the water started filling the car through the open windows. Me, Marcus and Steven were practically hanging up in the air, as the rear of the car now became the ceiling. I could see the water below our legs. My arm hurt, as I was holding Steven by his arms, but I knew that this is a question of seconds and the car will soon become a coffin of around fifty bodies. And I was planning Steven not to be one of them. Marcus was also staring at the petrified boy, who was still repeating the ‘I don’t swim’ line over and over again. The water finally reached our bodies, and as soon as it reached our necks, I pushed Steven towards the window. Marcus understood, what I am doing, and he helped me. I gasped for the last gulp of air, and dived. Me and Marcus pushed out Steven through the window, then took his arms one each, ant started swimming towards the surface. It struck me as a lightning, what Steven’s scared face reminded me of – my own son, laying in the bed, all feverish and having hallucinations, asking me, whether I am going to heaven with him. This remembrance made me try save this boys’ live even harder, but at the moment when I could already feel the surface coming closer, another sound hit our ears. Suddenly, I felt how something insanely large and heavy hit me, and tore Steven’s arm from hand, pushing me with enormous weight down once again. This was the fourth car falling on me. To my horror, this was only a half of a car – the rest must have stayed on the bridge. Just before passing out, I caught a glimpse of Marcus’ and Steven’s legs somewhere near the surface of water, as the sunrays caught their swimming movements. My body slowly floated closer to the bottom of the river. I could swear that I heard my dad’s worried voice in my head saying ‘This is more than just a machine’. This time I understood, what he had in mind. And then everything went black.

May 6, 1853 – Norwalk rail accident, Connecticut, United States. Forty six people are crushed to death and some thirty others are severely injured or drowned after the engineer of the train neglects to check for open drawbridge signal, and the locomotive and four and one half cars run through the open drawbridge and plunge into the Norwalk River
2010-12-09 21:14
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Blogas komentaras Rodyti?
2011-08-25 18:46
puikus tekstas, įtraukė, užkabino, palietė. gerai valdoma kalba.
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2011-03-04 12:31
pradėjau skaityt, išties įdomu, tik man asmeniškai sunkoka, nes anglų kalba, tai tenka daug žodžių verstis, tai ačiū dėl dviejų dalykų: gero teksto ir motyvo mokytis anglų (šis tekstas tikrai padėjo :)
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2011-01-16 18:03
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2010-12-13 09:18
Secret dragon
Very good, I think.
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