Girl On A Busy Rail Road

Girl On A Busy Rail Road

Not so long ago, on a scorching day, a woman was sleeping in her stall where she sold lisle and gloves and stockings. No customer had called yet, and it was midday already. “Bad market”, it was called. Now, this was no news. It happened everyday.

 

 

What did not happen everyday was that her little girl, who was about a year and some months old, got off from her loosened grip and got lost in the market place. Well, our little baby got onto a rail road and toddled along at the center of it.  No one noticed. Not anymore does anyone notice such a thing these days anyway. She toddled past a signpost that read, come in and get lost and also past some men roasting kebab, which they called suya. Then… she toddled past me. I did not see her in the normal sense of the word, see. I was busy writing a short story for an online competition. And I was there because I got inspired by the market. The sounds, the smells and colours all got into my head and helped me to write. Strange, isn’t it? Well, my eyes were stuck onto my writing pad when she wobbled by. But somehow I did not know I had seen her until three minutes later. My mind suddenly got me onto an alarm mood. At first, I was amused, because I did not know what the mango was wrong with my mind. Not until I had looked at the last sentence I wrote that I realized what was happening. The last sentence read: A little cherub tottered down the windy rail, alone, like Alice in wonderland. I suddenly dropped the pad and ran like I never did before. I could hear the blast of a train horn in the distance. It sounded like a Jewish shofar, sounding out a warning of things to come.

 

Oh lord. Oh my God! My mind was beating fast. As I ran towards the direction she went, the rails were already nodding to the dim-dim-da moves of an approaching train. I was almost out of breath when I sighted her. Just about that instance, I saw the coming train ahead of me. She was standing, facing it and looking at it. Only ten seconds held her from zero.

 

Now, while racing towards her in those few seconds of life and death, I remembered the day I almost fell into a big pot of boiling soup. It was at a party. I had slipped on a banana peel and was just caught halfway by the hands of a teenage girl who was cooking the soup. I imagined the pain I would have gone through if I had fallen in, that was if I did not die. Well, that experience was nowhere near what I thought was about to happen. Worse, my asthma attack began. Oh lord. Oh my God!

 

I had no time to get the inhaler. There was no applauding audience. I thought that the only other person who saw that girl was the train driver. But he was much too near to apply any breaks. All he did was blast the awesome horn. I flew to my little girl. With all the breath in me, I dived across the rails, snatching her by her braided hair. We landed onto the opposite bank just in time as the train thundered past. My hair singed for the burning heat. But I did not care. The girl huddled under my arms. In a moment, the never ending coaches all flew past….

 

There was calm. A gust of fresh air got to me. There was silence everywhere except for the sound of my shivering body, my gasps and the rustling leaves by the banks of the railroad. I fished out my inhaler and inhaled unsteadily. Then she began to cry. Its okay, its okay, my baby, the danger is gone. Spread them beautiful lips and smile. You are safe now….

 

What just happened?  A sudden burst of joy rose from within me and I kissed her braided hair and made her laugh amidst her tears. I carried her and brought her back to the market place. Problem was how to locate her people. We passed many stalls. I was pointing into each stall with a shaky finger to see if she would give any sign that she was home. She only chuckled and clung to me. Then she pointed at a sleeping woman and mumbled loudly. And as if touched by a magic wand, the lady awoke with a start and looked straight at us. Nothing in this world would make her understand that I was not there to kidnap her baby. A mob gathered, threatening to tear me apart….

 

Somehow, thank goodness, the police arrived and took me away. The police station was by a train station. Another crowd of people formed and they were pointing at me, ululating and clapping and shouting.  A train driver in his lemon overalls was standing there with them, paring his fingers smugly. In many different ways, they were all saying that I saved a little girl from being crushed by the train they had all just got off from. This unexpected lifeline was what saved me from only God knows what. Ouch, what a world!

 

Aha, back to my short story, where was I? Oh, never mind. Who cares, anyway…?



24 thoughts on “Girl On A Busy Rail Road” by jeff unaegbu (@jeffunaegbu)

  1. wonderful story jeff i was so moved by this story i left like i was right at the scene.thumbs up

    1. Oh thanks so much, Empress. The story is actually an experiment in restoring universal conscience, like many stories do. Others like it that I have written exist in many other websites, including my blog at http://www.jeffunaegbu.blogspot.com. I quite appreciate. And thanks for taking out time to read.

      1. Ah @jeff unaegbu. I recognize that name from my time at unn. You used to put up poems on Franco boards. I have Always thought Highly of you.

  2. Gripping and full of suspense.
    If I may point out a few corrections and this is by no means exhaustive:
    onto an alarm mood-try into alarm mode
    too near to apply any breaks- brakes
    singed for the burning heat- singed from
    I enjoyed reading this…excellent work, well done!

    1. Doubleexpresso, That is a well-researched comment. I am used to ooohs and aahs as part of comments trailing my write-ups these days that I yearn for a good lashing once in a while. THANK YOU VERY MUCH!

      However, like I use to say in Naijastories from earlier times, when a critical comment is made, it will be very PRACTICAL to say WHY a correction has been made, so that the writer will have a concrete reason taking from the comment to rework his story, and, also it will help the commenter strengthen his view.

      Now lets deal with the corrections you’ve made:
      Onto an alarm mood: into alarm mode.(i guess you mean “into AN alarm mode”)
      “Mood” and “mode” happen to be options to choose from for different writers in this type of context. Think….
      “Onto” is used here as when you say “be onto something” which means, and I am quoting from the Oxford Advanced Learners (my favourite tool *wink*): “to know about something /or/ be in a situation that could lead to a good result for you”. The second sense of being “in a situation…” can be utilized by any good writer and transformed away from regular cliches (e.g. into a mood). Now take “mood” to be a “situation” or condition (its synonym) and you can turn the words around with your pen. A break with tradition is a breaking of the rules, yet not a break with grammar. Only experience matter here, I am afraid.

      Breaks: Brakes. WAOW! You are very correct here. These things slip past us at times, especially when a writer is having an oversight. “Apply” is also the right collocation for “brakes”. But just like “mystery” and “misery”, “break” and “brake” are very sneaky words. They get by you easily on sleepy days.

      singed “for” and singed “from”.
      Prepositionally, the word “singe” takes “for” or “by” or “from” actually. “For” has a sense which means “use to show a reason or cause: e.g I couldn’t speak for laughing”. Same goes for “by” and same goes for “from”. You can take any of these options (for, by, from), OK? In the final analysis, what you use is coming from WHICH LEVEL YOU ARE AS A WRITER.

      Meanwhile, I would have loved you showed me other phrasings you percieve as errors so that we analyse them too. It is a learning environment for BOTH OF US, you know.

      Thanks.

      1. @jeff, you have made such a very great effort which cannot go unnoticed at all. this story got me reading over and over. i liked it big time. well done for that.

        i must disagree with you however on every single one of the justifications you made on the observations made by @doubleespresso. he is very correct {at least in my little brain, i think so}. believe me, there are still other little foxes in the writing that i dont want to bother you with now but that does not take anything from this very good piece

        1. @Xikay, very clever comment. Thanks for the big ups.

          Now, Xikay, you also fell into the flaw of STIGMA in critical analysis:
          it will do well as a good and courageous writer for you to SHOW HOW you disagree with me. That way you will also learn or I learn. Now, watch my way of commenting at other people’s write-ups: If I don’t agree with something, I state where I think there is an error and then, more importantly, I state WHY I think that there is that error.
          I think we have to have this rule in Naijastories: WHEN SOMEONE DISAGREES OR SEES AN ERROR IN A STORY, THE PERSON SHOULD MAKE EFFORT TO SHOW WHY HE THINKS THE ERROR IS THERE. SO THAT IF HIS JUDGEMENT IS BASED ON FALSE PREMISE, WE CORRECT HIM IMMEDIATELY. AND MORE IMPORTANTLY, THE WRITER GETS THE MESSAGE WITH CONCRETE BACKING AND ADJUST OR ELSE HE KEEPS MAKING MISTAKES..

          Any person can just walk into someone’s story and simply say: I disagree with every sentence here and I see error everywhere. Even a baby-writer can do that. But what a baby-writer cannot do very well is say WHY he/she thinks an error exists. This is where Mature and Practical critique comes in. Think….

          So please, Xikay, come back and show me WHY you disagree with my justifications, with concrete ENGLISH examples and rules of grammar. Then show me other foxes you saw and WHY you call them foxes. That way I get to learn and you get to learn. Now, you saw my justifications and I have not seen yours. Someone may be learning, the other person is not.
          Thank you.

  3. Nice one brother! u captured ur story well.

    However we all know that singe is a synonym of burn and scorch. do u say “burn for” or “scorch for”?

    Also the reassuring words of the persona when the little girl started crying sounded like those were the girl’s crying words. This however may well be ur style.

    Good work.

    1. Oh Golden fish, that is a good sobriquet you have there!
      Thank you so much for your comment.

      Actually, I am just realizing something now. The extent to which a word is accustomed to a writer or reader shapes the reader’s or writer’s level of acceptance of its use in a sentence. And many years later, one may come to be embarrassed by what reaction one might have had to a sentence made by someone else sometime in the past. Read my sentence again and understand.
      Now, as I made in a comment above, among these three, “for”, “from” and “by”, the more commonly used are “from” and “by” in the sense of a cause or reason. For example, “Burned by the heat” etc.
      “For” is more FORMAL. It is not widely used. And only many years in the use of the English language would make one realize that you can actually say, “My hair burns for the heat” to mean “My hair is burning from the heat” (Notice the “is” that came in).

      So my use of “for” is actually right. Go research again.

  4. This is a wonderful piece. Chikena!!!

    1. The Ray, thank you O jare! Abum ya bani wuya fa!

  5. mr. jeff since you have found it convenient never to let a comment on your post pass without you trying to justify some of the obvious errors you made, i will make it a point of duty to avoid making any such comments on your posts.

    no one is perfect and that is why even great authors have editors.

    i retract my comment and if only NS had a way of deleting comments, i would with all sense of urgency.

    1. @Xikay, I see we have a mutually exclusive debate going on between us. But let me see if we will agree on this one: How can I justify an error? If an error is seen in my story, why would I not accept it? Read carefully here: WHAT I DO NOT ACCEPT IS WHEN SOMEONE POINTS OUT A PERCEIVED ERROR THEN NEVER SAID WHY WHAT HE/SHE POINTED OUT IS AN ERROR. Now, Xikay, how can you learn when someone comes and say, “This is an error” without saying PRACTICALLY, “This is why I think this is an error”? How? Or are we just here ONLY to point out errors and pseudo-errors or make an encouraging statement in NS? I know someone here in NS who makes very good comments. He has two paragraphs. The first he titles, WHAT I LIKE ABOUT THIS STORY. The second, he titles, WHAT I DON’T LIKE ABOUT THIS STORY or several variations. He gives very good reasons. That is how a comment should be made. So I am not quarreling with comments. I am quarreling with how some comments are made. The man dies in him who keeps silent in the face of an abnormally. I hope you understand now. And this does not call for emotion which I detect when you said you want to make it a point of duty not to make any such comments in my posts. No, my fellow comrade and friend, you are too mature for that. I ain’t angry yet, you know. And I don’t wanna be in a young site such as NS where upcoming writers are growing happily. It will be a mess. So I will never make that kind of statement. When I have the time, I will go to your posts and make comments. I think it is my RIGHT. Why would you deny yourself your right to make comments on my posts? Magana Jari che fa. Ka fahinta abunde ina fada fa. Allah ya baka alheri.

      1. oops! I mean “anomaly” not “abnormally” above.

  6. @xikay, everyone doesn’t have to always agree with u. Jeffs use of ‘burn for’, is correct. Its a matter of style and choice. Everyone in NS feels they must correct something, sometimes it is very annoying. A writer has every right to write whatever he likes. If a publisher dsnt like it, another would. Certain errors lke typos and punctuations might not be overlooked, but grammer and words could go for style.

    1. Personally i feel it is for the better that we make all possible corrections here on NS and if certain people are con comfortable with it, its no big deal. I have no malicious intentions with any correction i make. i do it out of a feeling of responsibility and comradeship.

      Jeff has a way of arguing every contribution on his posts and i can provide links to that effect. sometimes, he even tries to correct the grammar with which he was corrected

      look at this:
      Now, Xikay, you also fell into the flaw of STIGMA in critical analysis:…Any person can just walk into someone’s story and simply say: I disagree with every sentence here and I see error everywhere. Even a baby-writer can do that. But what a baby-writer cannot do very well is say WHY he/she thinks an error exists. This is where Mature and Practical critique comes in. Think….

      you cannot go for style when they contravene the rules of basic grammar. unlike poetry where you have poetic license, you have little to do with STYLE of out place in Prose writing.

      by the way, we are not talking about BURN FOR but SINGE FOR. That is not even the main thing i worried about. truth is BURN FOR could work as a CONJUNCTION which it is in this case.

      Take the BREAK/BRAKE he still excused it.

      IN THE INTRO, THE STORY STARTED IN THE 3RD PERSON AND WANDERED STRAIGHT INTO THE 1ST PERSON. WHY? HOW DID THE WRITER, ALSO THE MC, KNOW THAT THE WOMAN WAS SLEEPING WHEN THE BABY TOTTERED OFF? AND ALSO THAT NO ONE HAD VISITED THE WOMAN’S STALL?

      paring his fingers smugly. [FIRST OF ALL TO PARE MEANS TO PEEL OFF THE OUTER SKIN OFF SOMETHING SO IF THE DRIVER WAS PARING HIS FINGERS, THEN HE MUST HAVE BEEN PEELING OFF THE SKIN? IF HE HAD SAID HE PARED OFF ‘GLOVES’ OR SOMETHING ELSE, IT WOULD WORK. SECONDLY, THE WORD SMUG (from which he got smugly) IS AN ADJECTIVE MEANING:
      1.contentedly confident of one’s ability, superiority, or correctness; complacent.
      2.trim; spruce; smooth; sleek.
      NOW, WHY WOULD THE DRIVER BE BE SELF CONFIDENT, FEEL SUPERIOR OR WHATEVER OR WHY SHOULD HE BE TRIM OR SLEEK AFTER THE JOURNEY? ]

      sound of my shivering body [PRAY TELL, WHAT SOUND DOES A SHIVERING BODY MAKE THAT WOULD SHADOW OTHER SOUNDS?]

      on the issue of : onto an alarm mood.
      A MOOD: is a relatively long lasting emotional state NOT A PLACE/POSITION
      UNTO means: –preposition: 1.to a place or position on; upon; on: to get onto a horse.
      2.Informal . in or into a state of AWARENESS about: I’m onto your scheme.

      HOW THEN DOES YOU MIND PUT YOU ONTO AN ALARM MOOD WHEN A MOOD IS NOT A LOCATION OR OBJECT?

      please let us try to accept what is right for what is right..if here on NS we cant be fair to ourselves, where will we?

      about everyone on NS trying to make corrections on works i really don’t know what to say. people have corrected my work and i have argued but it is all for the good of us all.

    2. @Kaycee, I am happy you understood my drift. And I am indeed very surprised that a suggestion about how to make a comment made my friend, Xikay, angry. He himself quoted me where I gave the suggestion on a new form of comment-making in NS and I quote myself:
      “…Any person can just walk into someone’s story and simply say: I disagree with every sentence here and I see error everywhere. Even a baby-writer can do that. But what a baby-writer cannot do very well is say WHY he/she thinks an error exists. This is where Mature and Practical critique comes in. Think….”
      I AM UNCOMFORTABLE WHEN AN ERROR IS POINTED OUT WITHOUT AN ACCOMPANYING REASON TO MAKE IT CONSTRUCTIVE AND PRACTICAL. When an error is pointed out and a GOOD reason is given to justify it, why would I be uncomfortable? The reason is there to make me grow. Without the reason, how would I know how not to make the error another day? It is like giving somebody fish without the fish hook. Another day, the person would come back and request for another fish. I think this is what Xikay have failed to understand, no matter how many times I say it. See the comment thread above.
      Meanwhile, thank you for coming over to read this. I am indeed very grateful and more power to your writings.

      1. @Xikay (May 22, 2011 at 6:25 am)
        Hmm. Good.
        I am happy that you have FOR ONCE made a constructive comment, stating your perceived errors and WHY you think they are errors, however done after my suggesting that you come back and make a practical comment. Kudos. And I am happy you took back your words never to make any comment on my posts almost this early. Good.
        While I am not trying to excuse or fault your perceived errors, your reasons for seeing them as errors have helped me note which is correct and which is not. Of all your points, just one is correct. And of all these back and forth comments, just two REAL errors have been pointed out so far. And I accept them, of course. The real errors are 1. Breaks/ brakes (which I accepted, wonder why you saw my comment there to Doubleexpresso as an excuse). 2. paring (which is a typo really. It should be “pairing”. This is the correct point you made! THANK YOU SO MUCH. I will go immediately and correct the typo).
        Now, if I keep quiet on the other perceived errors you pointed out which I disagree with, it will be very unfair on those who are learning (You see, disagreement is natural. At least you have also disagreed with my justifications above, using the word, “disagree” even! So where does the desire to provide links to my reactions came from actually? Don’t you SEE that you also do the same thing, however with a different reason? Or you want me also to provide links to your own reactions, aside from the glaring one above?).
        So to be fair on every scholar hear, let me let you in on a good secret of writing flash fiction (a story of limited words). You plot it in such a way that everything falls into place. Now, don’t you know that the sleeping woman would have told the gathered crowd that she was sleeping because there was bad market and then the MC came to kidnap her baby? And didn’t you deduce that she would have done so in the presence of the MC, giving the MC the info. that formed the first paragraph? And giving the story a unique style that appeared like a 3rd POV at first, but changed to a 1st POV later on, when in actuality it is in 1st POV throughout! Just like in the use of ellipsis, not everything is made obvious in a flash story. Certain things remain in the background because of limited words. If I add a sentence such as this: “She told the mob about how she was sleeping because of bad market and then I came and tried to steal her baby” Don’t you know it becomes tautological because of the first paragraph in the story where the info. about sleeping and bad market is already provided, making a good writing of flash become over-painted, and even leading critics to point out the tautology? Again, like Kaycee have said, STYLE is unique. I did a psychological plot before I began this story, my dear Xikay.
        I have already provided my reasons for using SINGE FOR and for using “ONTO AN ALARM MOOD”. See my comment to Doubleexpresso above. I don’t need to repeat myself here.
        Aha! Xikay, a train driver should have a character of his own, shouldn’t he? A streak in the character of this particular train driver is to feel smug after a danger passes. Or do you want him to have the character which you, the reader, want him to have? Hmm? I repeat again, your correction on paring (which I intend to be “pairing” is accepted. This is a typo, I repeat)

        What sound does a shivering body have that should overshadow other sounds? Now, before I got to that sentence, I tried to make my readers understand that “There was calm. A gust of fresh air got to me. There was silence everywhere except for the sound of my shivering body, my gasps and the rustling leaves by the banks of the railroad.” Not the calm and silent environment. When a person with asthma is shivering in a silent environment why would it not be heard? Again I did not say it overshadowed other sounds. I mentioned it amidst other perceivable sounds. Remember again, the place is almost silent except for the few sounds I introduced.

        Well, all in all, the two REAL errors/typos (“breaks” which should be “brakes” and “paring” which should be “pairing”) have been accepted and corrected. This is how it should be in NS. Thank you once again, Xikay and Doubleexpresso for noting the two typos respectively.

  7. I do agree with Jeff about brainy-poet not being specific about errors noticed, that makes a void criticism but i am also aware that Jeff is almost incorrigible. I like the story anyways.

    1. Thanks, Colotrends. Incorrigible? Hmm. Na wa oh. Thank you very much anyways.

  8. @colotrends, when someone knows what he is about, he might appear to be incorrigible. Make una leave the man alone jare. Haba!

    1. @Kaycee, I am happy that we have similar brain wavelengths. History keeps repeating itself. And I will put this quote somewhere in another flash story or somewhere else someday: “when someone knows what he is about, he might appear to be incorrigible.” Thank you for that.

  9. I enjoyed this. Nice suspense.

  10. Thanks Igwe for the big ups!

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