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The Train That Runs On Time MAG
HORACE, an older gentleman, is sitting on a train. He pulls out a pocket watch, puts it away upon seeing PETULA, a young, childlike woman. She gets on, takes a seat immediately next to him, though there are others available.
HORACE: Welcome aboard.
P: Thank you.
H: First time on the train?
H: Of course not.
P: The train isn’t even going anywhere.
H: Yes it is. We’re going to the Hoover Dam.
P: I mean it isn’t moving yet.
H: Really? It’s hard for me to tell these days.
P: My name is Petula.
H: My name is Horace.
P: Your name is funny.
H: So is yours. Are you alone, Petula?
H: You’re not afraid to travel without your mother?
P: No, I’m with you!
H: You trust me?
H: That’s a dangerous mistake.
(They lurch forward)
P: Oh! We’re moving now!
P: Still very slow though.
H: That’s how it goes.
(Enter NEWSBOY into their compartment.)
NEWSBOY: Breaking news! Andrew is having a birthday party and Mary lost a tooth!
(PETULA is deeply interested, HORACE unaffected. NEWSBOY exits.)
P: Isn’t it incredible that humans lose their teeth?
P: We’re picking up speed.
P: How long will it take us to get there?
H: That depends.
P: On what?
H: On how often you look out the window.
P: What do you mean?
H: The more you look out the window, the longer the ride will seem.
P: Mother says we’ll pass Las Vegas on the way.
H: Your mother is right.
P: When will we see it?
H: In time.
P: I can’t wait. I’m not going to take my eyes off the window for a second.
NEWSBOY: Breaking news! Ally’s too sick to go to Matt’s Halloween party!
(Same reactions and quick exit as before.)
P: How sad!
P: What do you think of the newsboy?
H: I think his headlines are boring.
P: But what do you think of him?
H: He’s punctual, I guess.
P: I think he’s wonderful. (Suddenly turning to face HORACE) I think he’s very cute, and I’m going to tell him.
H: No, you won’t.
P: I will! I like him!
H: You like him now.
P: I always will.
H: All right.
P: When will I see Las Vegas?
H: You missed it.
H: It already went by the window while you were blabbering about the stupid newsboy.
P: Well how could I not have missed it? We’re going so fast.
H: Already? That’s strange.
(HORACE takes out his watch and puts it back. PETULA stands up to stretch.)
P: There’s not much to look at. When we first started there were so many interesting things to see out the window, and now there’s nothing.
H: I don’t remember you thinking it interesting.
P: It was. I’m sure of it.
H: Are you though?
P: It was so colorful.
H: What is it like now?
P: Drab. Blank. The interesting shops and towns are gone. Now it’s just trees, whizzing by.
H: I don’t think it was ever that interesting to begin with. I think you’re wrong.
(They lurch forward again, gaining speed. PETULA tries to regain her balance, then sits again but leaves one seat between them.)
P: Does this train make any other stops?
P: The conductor must get very tired.
H: You believe in a conductor?
P: Yes, I think so. You don’t?
H: Trains are all run by electricity these days.
P: But someone’s in charge of making sure they all operate, right?
H: Maybe there used to be someone to do that. But now the trains run fine on their own.
P: Well, I still think there’s somebody making sure we’ll get to the dam.
H: Oh we’ll get there all right. Everybody does.
P: What do you mean?
H: Not single person I’ve ridden with hasn’t eventually gotten where they’re going.
P: Well, that’s a relief.
NEWSBOY: Breaking news!
H: Oh, for Pete’s sake.
NEWSBOY: Argentina has declared war on Mexico!
P: How can you not be interested in his headlines? They’ve all been so intriguing.
H: Perhaps to you.
P: I think they’re important.
H: I think they’re silly.
P: I think you’re wrong. You’re really starting to get on my nerves, you know.
H: I’m sorry to hear it.
P: Why do we keep going faster and faster?
H: Don’t you want to get to the dam on time?
P: Of course.
H: Then embrace it.
P: Something’s not right.
H: What’s wrong?
P: The train. It’s shaking.
P: We’re going too fast.
H: You’ve been saying that the whole time.
P: No, it’s serious. I think something is wrong.
H: Look out the window.
P: I can’t, it’s black. I think we entered a tunnel.
H: When did that happen?
P: I have no idea.
H: What do you hear?
P: The screeching of the wheels – you can’t hear it? I think the conductor’s trying to stop the train.
H: Why would he do that?
P: I don’t know! I’m not ready for the train to stop! We haven’t gotten to the Hoover Dam yet!
H: That is odd.
P: Wait, it’s getting brighter now.
H: Is it?
P: Yes. Oh, good. We must be leaving the tunnel. I really hate being in tunnels. I wonder when we’ll go by –
(An awful sound. The train comes to a violent, crashing halt. PETULA is thrown from her seat. Blackout. After a long pause, the lights come back up. PETULA is face-down on the floor, unmoving. HORACE is unaffected. Looking at her, he once again pulls out his stopwatch and clicks it audibly.)