The Bottle


Most move with purpose and haste. Others halt briefly to steal glances at their phones, creating congested confusion. The focused however move ahead and instinctively serpentine through the crowded station like ants of a vast army – significant in numbers yet quite invisible at the same time.  The flow and ebb of a winding river, always there and forever repetitious, yet seldom noticed.

He steps from the shadows and into the current flowing out onto the platform. Outside, as the line of waiting passengers builds up before him, he nonchalantly strolls off to the left and stands alone facing the tracks with his back to a large fence.  Behind the fence is an old wooden elevated trailer/office that serves as the station master’s control room.  Within that room, the coordination of all automated track switches and communication with incoming and outgoing trains is solely centralized.  Given this singular choke point of importance, security surveillance and presence is obviously, yet discreetly, escalated in this corner of the yard.

His presence, while unnoticed by the masses sweeping before him is immediately however, picked up by a security technician in a dark room illuminated only by dim screens situated across the station and two floors below.

By the fence, in a fluid movement, he reverses his backpack and calmly pulls a quart sized glass bottle of clear liquid out with his right hand, lowering the pack to the ground with his left. The technician zooms in, toggles his headset and speaks softly…

On the platform, a canine officer turns his head left towards the fence and holds it there in the suspended seconds. Another officer appears to the right and walks slowly by and out onto the platform before speaking into his chest radio.

All of this the man by the fence observes and has half expected.

Inside the dark room, the cameras triangulated on the figure coupled with the officer’s report have determined nothing. He wears no earpiece, suggesting he is alone and facial recognition return is ‘negative’…he is an unknown.

The supervisor behind the technician twitches in uncertain pause….‘the bottle’, he whispers, ‘what is in the bottle?’   The technician sitting rod straight opines nervously:  ‘could be anything sir: an arsenic, hydrofluoric acid, gasoline or water …hard to know, but he took it out and is just holding it …’

The supervisor then speaks into his headset: ‘Riley, swing in for a closer look, have Nine sniff it out. No engagement unless instructed’.

To the technician he instructs: ‘have Team Two hold in the van but be ready.’

The canine officer slowly weaves through the crossing mass of pedestrians and approaches the fence.   The man stares to his left but in his peripheral he sees this and calmly removes his left hand from his pocket, leaving the lighter there and checks his watch.

The service dog, while still twenty feet away has taken the slack from his leash and seems to know exactly where he is going.  

It is decision time. 

‘The bottle … what are you up to..?’ the supervisor whispers to no one, straining to see what the monitor cannot reveal.   The man’s eyes now lock with the dogs at ten feet and he unscrews the cap to the bottle.  

His decision has been made.

Sixty feet away, on the street a van door slowly opens and five heavily armed men step routinely out into the sunshine…

The man raises the bottle to his lips and drinks a long swallow.

At four feet, the officer gently tugs the leash to the left and passes off to the right.

The man returns the bottle to his nap sack and moves towards a boarding train. His eyes blurred in a dizzying sting and his throat burning from the kerosene just ingested. He fights the bile down and refuses to vomit as he quickly boards an outbound as the doors close.

The supervisor removes his headset, rests his hand on the technician’s shoulder and sighs:   ‘water, just water.’



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Flash and Run

Another long day has just delivered me upon the same Westward bound train.   I sit to the window in mindless thought, contemplating how many times I might re-read the mundane newspaper?

Those around me have drifted off in fitful dose punctuated by lonely reluctant snores.

To my right, out the window, in the sun splashed splendor of this passing lush green land, there consumes my absent reflection. . . 

. . . It was just past dawn and while the sun had not hit my neck as yet, I knew it’s warmth was coming.

I am an optimist, so upon my third cast, I recited the morning’s offering which habitually, has always served me well.

Then, in the half light, a flash just beneath the surface illuminated a tranquil sea and the run was on!

So many years have passed since, yet I’ll never forget the sensation and fear of slipping along the jetty, that early June morning.

Imagine for a second, a silver BMW, just below the water’s surface screaming so fast and equally bothered by all the inconvenience!!  Pure muscle and Will.  

It went out first and deep.

Seemed to consider all available options while I looked, in a somewhat conceited way, for any onlookers . .. . . .  then it came back fast.

The slack to my line might have fooled me were it not for the massive torpedo, I watched before me.

He swam to the shallows of the beach and dove his nose into the bank and with a fury that was, to this day, most admirable thrashing the popper from his jaws.

                                               Time on the water.


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Going Home


A sound so loud, it can only be best described as hushed silence.

All along the platform, a collective breath has inhaled in cascading unison and like falling dominos, it is quickly quiet.

The soft cool breeze that has gently tapped each shoulder has delivered an entrance.

At the doors of the station, stand six tall Marines and in their six strong hands, holds one of ours.

They walk at a glacial pace with purpose and no one speaks; shifts or shuffles.   The entire station is silent and staring at track eight, the 177 to Washington, DC. 

A father, a few back from me, finds the hand of his young son and squeezes gently as his eyes fill with moist. 

The door to the baggage car is ceremoniously opened, officers stand erect, canines sit and there is not a hat on in the entire yard.   The coffin is raised to eye level and three carrying with their left, salute smartly before entering.


So Blessed we are.



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The Unspoken Word


On perhaps one of the most travelled weekends of the year, I am fortunate to board early.   In the front seats of each rail car there exists extra leg room for the overflow of baggage or a wheelchair and on the right side of each, it is clearly notated:   “Seats Reserved For Passengers With Disabilities.”

I sit to the left, thinking learning and earning doesn’t apply.

Buffed out college kid quickly hefts his duffel topside to the right and plunks down in his newly found 2-acre seating arrangement, marveling at his sweet scoring maneuver!

I am slightly amused and while intrigued, tired and situated to shut my eyes.

Without so much as a doze, I am stirred by the weight of luggage on my lap, the smell of McDonalds and the view of ‘super-sized’ woman’s behind.   She is leaning in and really giving it to the pompous white kid wearing his earphones sprawled across the aisle to my right:   ‘You best get your butt out’a them seats and I ain’t gonna ask you twice ’cause I got my mama out there on that platform and she don’t walk no good and I got all these here bags…don’t you read that there sign…?   For the Disabled!!’ 

The kid has shrunk to the window at half his size and from his contorted purple expression he is mad, aghast and petrified all in the same instant.   I am suppressing my urge to laugh (should he attempt to somehow lunge at me) and he is long gone before the luggage is removed from my lap.

Pondering the unfolded excitement however, does little to quell the draw towards a little shut eye as we depart. . .

‘Hey you – fella, you – (authoritative, confident) we’re going to need that seat!’.    (once, twice and a third time)

As if from a blurred gray distant fog, I imagine not too dissimilar than that of hearing the banter of nurses and surgeons going about their business while you lay prone on the table … I slowly awaken….and my eyes rise to an inconvenienced and agitated burly Red Cap – but almost immediately, I am distracted to that closest to me.   Before me and inches from my face was the most beautiful black Labrador Retriever with understanding soft yellow eyes, a moist black nose and a patient pant.  There upon the harness on his back, held the frail hand of an elderly blind woman, who smiled in lasting frame … and in that brief moment, I think that we saw each other. 

The Red Cap, however, was having none of this and growled:  ‘let’s go buddy, what are you DEAF?!?’   (the irony of his comment lost in the moment)

I apologize, wish the woman a nice weekend, and pet the lab as I move on.   As I reach the door, she has half turned to the Red Cap and says: ‘hush, the boy couldn’t hear you’.

Then she smiles up towards my direction … before sitting down.



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I took an afternoon train, it is a short trip and sold out – so I stand.   

Conductor makes the usual public announcement over the speakers about a very busy train and asks that extra bags not utilize seats folks didn’t pay for, so others can sit down too.  He asks that the Quiet Car be just that and respected.  He asks that reserved signs not be removed and respected as well.   Additionally, seats designated only for the disabled be just that: only for the disabled.   The announcement is all very even-toned, polite and encouraging of cooperation.    

Another conductor several cars removed and near me, turns to nobody in particular and asks knowing the answer: “Did anyone hear that announcement? Hear it even remotely, one word of it?”   

His voice carries an edge of a silent answer already delivered.

A college age kid, sitting a few rows back, head down checking his phone in one hand and raising a beer to his mouth with the other, says: ‘nope, not a word of it.’    To which his buddy concurs, chuckles and looks out the window.   

The conductor adds again to no one in particular: ‘Fifteen years I’ve been doing this and every year, every year . . . it gets worse and worse.’   

The kids sense the rising tension and alter course with nods of agreement.  With this new found bond of alliance, the conductor continues with frustrated inflection: “people will sit in reserved seats and say: ‘I’ll move when someone comes and needs it.’   “No, that is NOT what reserved means!  Every year it gets worse and worse.    Every single day, I have to ask someone to move from the notated Quiet Car … unbelievable!    I just don’t understand it.”

More silent thoughtful agreeing nods from the seated two . . . perhaps guilty themselves on more than a few occasions.   

It is then that I hear my voice, most a matter of fact, punctuate the drifting silence from the corner of the car:    “Entitlement.  They feel entitled”.  

The conductor looks sharply my way and exclaims:  ‘Yes, that’s it!’ as if this word has been on the tip of his tongue all day and just now, he has found it.    

I nod and turn towards the doors as the train slow into my station stop.    


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I got off the train halfway home and stepped into the sunshine of Spring’s warmth and a scent of a dissipated ocean fog, just lifted.

I was in no hurry, I had some time yet until my next appointment. On the platform towards the front, an elderly man of medium height stands in Native North American garb staring in closely at the locomotive engine, wheels and wires above. His clothing appears cotton, perhaps also made from agave or deerskin, I cannot tell other than it is authentic. I walk towards him in mindless curiosity and just then to my right, another is passing with a longer gait and widening arms of embrace. He is taller, far younger wearing a dark suit, rattlesnake boots and a raven black ponytail that rests on his broad youthful shoulders.

They embrace for a long moment.


‘Is good to see you Dakota, you look fit and your mom will be proud. How was trip from filthy city?’

‘It was just fine Father. The railroads are far more reliable now’

His father now looks right towards the slowly passing rail cars of the departing locomotive and just shrugs.

I am pretending to check my phone just to the side and behind and love the blood bond of the reconnected and am also instantly intrigued by the observed gap of generational acceptance towards the change of times gone by and all things within.

The tall younger(Dakota) asks: ‘How is Songaa? Does he have a game today? Can we still make it or his practice?’

To this, his father turns back swiftly with new found spirit and pronounces: ‘Songaa scored four goals yesterday against rich prep school … and plays another today from different religion.’

Dakota has smiled down to his father with some hesitation and reminds:
‘Father, that is great but we must not let ourselves speak in ways which paint men differently by wealth,race or religion’.

I am now not even checking my phone, just still and listening as if in wait for the next train to arrive in two hours.

‘You speak with reason my Dakota and truth has always come easily with you. Which is why I refrained from saying: Songaa beat the white man yesterday in our very own tribal game.’

To which they both, after a pause, laugh lightly and Dakota says:

‘Ok father, lets go.’


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Arrival From Departure


in the footless halls of air

all became clear

though mist and fog

muddled the slog

a streaking star at once illuminated

the half light and albeit brief

gave towards sight

of everlasting relief

with cupped hands and strained neck

each stroke furthered distance from the wreck

darkness given way to grey

such must be the way

onward upward onward

tumbling over thin crisp air

departure from all despair

vertigo lost in the sanctity of time

punching through into

the brilliance of the Divine


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