Insights (a short story), p.1
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       Insights (A Short Story), p.1

Insights (A Short Story)
(A Short Story)


  Jamie J Buchanan

  Copyright 2014 by Jamie J Buchanan




  The train pulled out of the station as Michael was reading the graffiti on the wall:

  “If you don’t buck the system when you’re 20, you have no balls. If you’re not part of the system when you’re 30, you have no brains.”

  At 26 years old, Michael was beginning to think there was some truth to this. His career was taking off and he was starting to understand the shades of grey in which adults live and work. He had now fully entered adulthood – a university graduate, and now an employee in a large, but prestigious, city firm.

  “The future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades.” Lyrics from an old song his Dad played – echoes of the past.

  On this bright, sunny, cold winter’s morning, that phrase never seemed more apt.

  Michael sat and opened up his book, immersing himself into a fantasy world. He was only into this one by a couple of chapters, but already it had him captivated. He had picked it up from the markets on the Rockingham foreshore on Sunday morning. He usually read books on his Kindle, downloading them for a fraction of the price of buying the paperback version. But this one caught his eye.

  Title: “Insights: An Anthology of Short Stories”

  Subheading: “Designed to give the reader an insight into the mind of the author”.

  The first short story (“A New York State of Mind”) was about a 6-foot tall cross-dressing serial killer in New York City killing immigrants. The second one (“Mommy Dearest”) dealt with a grown man’s inability to deal with his mother’s infidelities. Both interesting premises, well written and Michael felt they were very realistic – almost like he was reading a biography.

  But the third one – the story he was reading now – this spoke directly to him. It was entitled “Holy Cow” and he knew every location and description in the story.

  It started:


  The train pulled out of Rockingham station in the southern suburbs of Perth – morning commuters on their way to the city. One of these automatons was Kyle French – a twenty-five year old graduate engineer who travelled each day to sit within a concrete and steel structure surrounded by glass with the other worker bees to design and produce more towers and offices.


  Michael was a junior architect working in Perth on designing office buildings. Every morning he caught on the train at Rockingham station. “Holy Cow” continued:


  Kyle was still basking in the glory of optimism and youth – beginning his journey through career-hood and maturity. He had yet to experience politics, ego or backstabbing. The future was bright, his positivity boundless.

  The train furrowed its way between rows of houses, the back yards flashed past in a montage of clotheslines, patios and garden sheds. Occasionally there was a fleeting vision of a child bouncing on a trampoline in the morning sun – hanging ever so briefly in mid-air at the top of the bounce, a split second hovering pause of weightlessness. Then, quick as a flash, the carriage passed by and the child was gone – in Kyle’s eye, she could be floating there all day as he never saw her fall.


  Michael looked outside and saw a girl on a trampoline, rising high above the fence and waving at the train as it sped past.

  She seemed to be hovering.


  The train hurtled forward and Kyle read his book, his eyes scanning the pages as he devoured every word. This was a rare time where he had chosen an actual book over his preferred method of reading on the iPad. He picked up this book at a Vintage market only the week before and was fully entrenched within the story.

  Next to him a brief case fell over and tapped his foot, banging the little toe through his leather Windsor Smiths. With no apology the man picked up the case and returned to the upright position. The other commuter’s beard was reddish brown, with flecks of grey throughout. This contrasted with his (obviously) dyed hair – jet back with a slight bluish tinge.

  Kyle reminded himself never to do that.

  What he didn’t know was that he would never have to.


  Next to him, Michael noticed a man’s briefcase teetering on its edge, precariously balanced between being upright and a gravity-induced collapse. He moved his foot slightly just as it crashed onto the worn carpet.

  Michael looked at the guy – the man’s dyed hair and bland face revealed nothing. The commuter barely even noted Michael’s existence, merely picking up his case and bringing it closer to him as if he were afraid someone might steal it.

  That’s gotta be a coincidence, Michael thought as he retuned to the story. Cases fall all the time, don’t they?


  The train wasn’t quite full yet but a few people had chosen not to sit – one of which was a man standing on a few feet away. His navy blue sport jacket had three gold coloured buttons on each cuff, matching the loose fitting gold watch that was casually slung around his left wrist. The tan coloured trousers and deep brown leather shoes perfected the Country Road “casual business” look. Kyle noted the man’s blow waved hair too.

  Another reminder for Kyle – another note of what NOT to wear.


  Michael wasn’t sure if he should look up or not – what if the man in story was standing right there? He stopped reading, pausing, frozen.

  And just a little bit scared.

  Michael looked up.

  There he was – navy blazer, gold buttons, tan pants and brown shoes – elegant casual business attire perfected as if he were straight out of a Country Road catalogue. Michael envisaged salt-n-pepper hair, a chiselled chin, and steely blue eyes.

  The man had formed from print into flesh and blood.

  This couldn’t be possible, could it? Michael thought.

  He had to read on now.


  Kyle knew it was simply a generational thing – the guy was at least twenty years older. He was also aware that his own modern edginess (which he espoused on the weekends) was certainly diluted throughout the week as he toned down for the sake of conservatism and professionalism.

  Kyle did not reveal his tattoos under his work attire. His skull-n-crossbones cufflinks were the only glimpses of rebelliousness that he could muster.

  “If you don’t buck the system when you’re 20, you have no balls. If you’re not part of the system when you’re 30, you have no brains.”

  He read this once, or heard it somewhere. And now, at 25, he was starting to think it was true.


  Michael dropped the book, the pages fluttering on their way to the floor and the cover slammed shut as it landed on the tatty worn carpet.

  No fucking way! He wanted to scream out but knew that, if he did, people would slowly distance themselves from him.

  Intrigue and curiosity defeated fear – he picked up the book and read on.


  The houses gave way to bush as the train made it’s way through these outer southern suburbs and on towards the centre of Perth. The capital of Western Australia (the most isolated capital city in the world) was spread out – with pockets of suburbia interspersed amongst bush, parkland and, occasionally, farms.

  As abruptly as the bushy scrubland appeared in the windows, it disappeared as the next suburb began – a new outcrop of civilisation where the blocks of land had been reduced, but the houses were bigger. The end result was a sea of roofs, reaching towards one another and almost touching – like the hands of God and Adam on the Sistine Chapel. The train pulled into Wellard station.


  By now Michael wasn’t the least bit surprised
to see the sign “Wellard” flash by the windows with decreasing speed as they pulled in to the station – the timing was perfect.


  Kyle looked up from the book and watched the commuters enter the carriage – his was the very first carriage on the train and wasn’t quite yet full, even with the new passengers.

  He noticed a girl sit further down the aisle, her auburn hair reaching mid-way down the back of her black coat. She looked very much like Laura, long legs clad in smoky-dark stockings, her high heels shiny and reflecting the early morning glare of an impotent sun on a winter’s morning. Her pale skin and dark red lipstick complimented her deep red/brown hair.

  She looked so much like Laura but he knew it wasn’t her – Laura lived north of the river. One day, Kyle thought, one day I’ll say something to her.

  The odd thing was that Kyle was never shy or tongue tied around men, nor around women he wasn’t attracted to. Yet, as soon as he was in Laura’s presence, he clammed up. At least he knew not to say anything rather than blurt out gibberish and be a total laughing stock. But he still didn’t understand it.

  It was a state of mind.

  It was psychosomatic.

  It was, he thought to himself with conviction, about time he talked to her.


  Michael saw the woman in the same spot as the story described – he didn’t even bother to look anywhere else, as he now trusted the story. She was as he expected – except the girl on his train wore her hair back in a ponytail; just like Madeline did.

  Michael just needed to substitute his name for Kyle and Madeline’s name for Laura. Michael had known Madeline for almost six months – and now she had been made full-time in the office. Every day he saw her and they shared those flirtatious glimpses of each other that were always a turn-on. But he’d never been able to speak to her alone, one-on-one. There was always someone else around – a group in the lunchroom, or at the café downstairs getting lunch.

  It was about time he took the bull by the horns and asked her out. The fear of not trying had finally outweighed his fear of rejection.

  Resolve was created – inspiration garnered from this true-to-life tale.

  With new life borne, confidence filled, he read on.


  The train jolted forward, those standing swayed backwards as the carriages glided along the steel rails towards the meagre skyscrapers in the city. By world standards, Perth was a small town – barely 1.5 Million. There were only about 20 or so buildings that would classify as a skyscraper and Kyle worked in one of them – the firm he worked for as a graduate engineer designed this building and was in the process of the next one.

  The future was bright and Kyle was making all the right moves. His designs and ideas were gaining traction and he was being noticed. He had resolved himself to finally talk to Laura and his future was assured.


  Michael’s spirits soared and, for a brief second, he wondered if he should read on. Should he know more about his future?

  But this story wasn’t dealing with the future – it was all in the “now”. He read the following with increasing speed and anxiety:


  Or, rather, his future would have been assured had the train not ploughed into five cows that had strayed onto the tracks from one of the small farms that still dotted this outer suburb.

  In a split second, the train sounded its horn with a panicked urgency that Kyle recognised. All the passengers did.

  This was quickly followed by several massive thumps as over 250 tonnes of train cars ploughed through the docile beasts. Standing passengers fell forward as the driver applied the brakes and one window was smeared with blood and excrement as the bodies of the cattle flew everywhere.

  Being in the first car, Kyle saw the window in front of him turn crimson immediately before it exploded in his face.


  Michael heard the train horn blast behind his head and braced for the impact – throwing himself onto the floor a second before the impact. Those around him wondered what he was doing, figuring he was simply another random nut-job on the train – until they heard the screeching of brakes and felt the impact with the herd of cows.

  Michael dropped the book – missing the last two paragraphs:


  The last thing Kyle knew was that a massive severed leg of a cow – hairy, bloodied, fleshy – smashed through the blood-smeared window and careened into his head. The hoof whacked him hard on the temple, crushing the skull underneath.

  He was dead before he hit the floor.


  From his vantage point on the floor, Michael saw the windows turn crimson and the glass doors smashed – a huge black hairy object ricocheted towards him.




  It was just after 11PM when Rajiv entered the steel carriage of the 1 train at Canal Street in Downtown New York City. His stint at his cousin’s shop was over for the day and he had a fifteen-minute ride to Columbus Circle and a short walk to his apartment on Amsterdam.

  Rajiv had only been in New York for three months but already felt like it was home for him. He loved the excitement, the mix of people, and opportunities – chances in life that he would never have been able to get back home in Jodhpur.

  He sat and opened the book – a cheap second hand collection of stories he picked up from the flea market in Hell’s Kitchen the week before. 

  Title: “Insights: An Anthology of Short Stories”

  Subheading: “Designed to give the reader an insight into the mind of the author”.

  He had read the third story “Holy Cow” because the title intrigued him. Rajiv was a Hindu and cows were indeed holy to him. But he could not relate to the far away land, the suburban banality or the death of several of his holy cows.

  So Rajiv decided to start at the beginning and give the book one more try. The carriage was empty as he began to read “A New York State of Mind”.

  At Christopher Street in Greenwich Village, the doors opened and a tall muscly man wearing women’s clothing entered the carriage.

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