Summer Break

“Summer afternoon—summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.”
Henry James

I’m taking a rest from the computer and social media till August. Summer is here and I don’t want to miss a minute from being outside. Life and Summer is too short and I don’t want to miss a moment.

I’m not doing anything exciting. Going over to the high school race track every morning trying to shed the last pounds of Winter’s fat. I’m currently just walking around, but hope soon to be walking/jogging, then jogging leading up to running again……if my back and hip hold out. Oh! The dreams of Summer. I’ll let you know how that is going in August.

I just love the sun and want to enjoy its embrace….. Mother Nature is calling… see you in August.

Finish the Story: The Locomotive Part Six

June 20, 2019 lensdiary

Part 1: Teresa’s bit:

Every summer since Charlie turned six was spent on Grandpa’s Iowa farm. Charlie loved to run through the fields chasing butterflies and spent his nights laying on the cool grass, watching the fireflies and Milky Way. Life was perfect until the train arrived.

“I don’t believe it,” Grandpa said, shaking his head. “Are you sure?”

Frank, a family friend from the other side of town, nodded. “Saw it myself two nights ago out by Cooper’s Ridge.”

Grandpa pulled his old handkerchief from his pocket and wiped his brow. “What are we going to do? We can’t let it happen again. Charlie… I can’t… I won’t.”

“What’s the matter, Grandpa?” Charlie walked into the kitchen when he heard his name.

Grandpa’s face turned white as he grabbed Charlie by the shoulders and shook him. “Don’t you ever get on that train. You hear me, boy? No matter what he says, or what you see happening inside, you never get on that train.”

Charlie was terrified by Grandpa’s expression and could only muster a whimper.

“I’m going to let you go,” Grandpa said, hugging Charlie as tears streamed down his face. “He’s not going to get another one.”

Later that night, as Charlie laid in bed and imagined the mysterious train that had terrified his Grandpa, he heard a whistle in the distance. Slipping on his shoes and bathrobe, Charlie stood at his window and watched as a train appeared through the night’s mist and blew its whistle again. Charlie rubbed his eyes and gulped.


“You get out of here,” Grandpa shouted as he ran out the front door carrying his rifle. He fired twice and screamed at the train. “You can’t have him! You can’t!”

A well-dressed man stepped into the doorway of the train, looked at Charlie in the window, and said, …

Part 2: Fandango’s bit

“Boy, you come over here. Don’t make me come and get you, Charlie.”

Charlie was conflicted. He remembered his Grandpa’s warning to him to never get on that train. But the man calling out to him looked so dapper and debonair, just like those men in the fancy magazines his mother would look at back at home. And inside the train he saw other kids playing and partying, having what seemed like a lot of fun. And where was Grandpa?

“Charlie,” the man called out once again. “It’s time to go. You need to come out here and join us on the train before we leave for the next stop.”

“I need to get dressed,” Charlie called out to the man, stalling for time as he tried to figure out what to do.

“No, come as you are, Charlie, you’re fine,” the man called out. “Your Grandpa is already on board, and we have new clothes for you here.”

Charlie grabbed his stuffed teddy bear and slowly walked out of the house and approached the train. The well-dressed man had a broad, welcoming smile on his face and held out a hand of encouragement to Charlie as he neared the train.

“Come on, boy,” the man said, his hand still reaching out to Charlie. Charlie was still hesitant as he thought about Grandpa’s warning, but he couldn’t resist the draw of the man and the train. Charlie reached up and grabbed the man’s hand and was gently assisted onto the train.

“Welcome to the Soul Train, Charlie,” the man said. “Go inside and meet the other children.”

“Where’s Grandpa? Where does this train go?” Charlie asked.

“Relax, Charlie,” the man said, his smile now appearing more sinister than welcoming. “We’re headed straight to ….”

Part 3: Michael’s bit:

Boomtown where all your dreams will come true.”

Charlie thought that sounded a good idea and looking around found himself in a small room in which there was a tiny window that looked down the corridor of the carriage he was in.

He expected to see the many children he saw when he was being lured to the train, but instead, there was no one apart from the scurrying of a few rats.

Then unexpectedly a rat’s face appeared at the window he was looking through, and he stepped back in fright.

The rat looked at him and shook its head as if disapproving. Charlie found himself against the far wall of the small room as the rat continued to gaze at him.

Then to his amazement, his body shrank down to the floor. His nose grew, his body was wracked by a momentary shudder as a tail grew out of his rear end, and he realised he too had been turned into a rat.

The man responsible for luring him onto the train reappeared at the same time the train gave a jerk and moved along its invisible tracks.

Charlie looked up to see the man standing over him a pleased look on his face as he opened the door of the room and beckoned for Charlie to go through into a room filled it appeared with rats similar to himself.

“Good boy Charlie,” he heard the man say, “you will all come in handy when we…

Part 4: Crispina’s bit:

“…thread the labyrinth.”

Charlie looked up with questioning eyes.

“The labyrinth,” the man said as if Charlie should know what that meant. “The labyrinth … you’ve had your short life to learn how to thread it. Ah, don’t remember?”

No, Charlie did not remember, and he was sure that he would.

“Done in your sleep,” the man explained. “Done in your dreams.”

But wasn’t this a dream now? It couldn’t be real. And he wasn’t alone in his confusion. Thousands of sniffing rats all scurrying and turning in circles.

The rattle-chunt of the train changed; became sharper and developed an echo.

“Ah,” the man said, “we’re into the mountain won’t be long now.”

But on and on that train rattled along. And Charlie grew tired. And sleepy.

He woke with a start.

“Labyrinth Station. Labyrinth Station. All rats disembark,” boomed a voice that seemed to thrum in the air.

A door opened, the rats streamed out, Charlie amongst them. But where was he? Everywhere, all around him, everywhere so bright …

Part 5: Padre’s portion:

. . . . almost blinding. Yet despite the brightness, there was something cold and “shadowy” about the place.

The well dressed man from the train stood before the “rat” children. He had changed, not in a blatant way, but he too seemed darker – more imposing. Two other men appeared from the interior of the train and produced heavy hard bristled brooms and began to force the children towards the entrance of a maze of some sort. The walls were angular and seemed to produce the brightness from themselves. This made the gaps and passages of the labyrinth difficult to distinguish.

“Okay, my little rats,” the man said in a mocking tone. Some of you will find your way through my little test. There are two ways out. The first will take you home to you “Mommy” the other will take you to my Boomtown. A place of fun and enjoyment for me and mine. Are you worthy of me?”

At this the broom-men sniggered, as if the “Prince of Air,” had said something funny.

Charlie could see no humor in it. He had been tempted by the exciting prospect of a journey on the Soul Train with happy playing children, and even of the idea of “living it big” in Boomtown. But now all he wanted was to go home to his Grandfather.

Just then the broom bearers started to force the rats into the labyrinth. There seemed to be the inviting sound of party music and brighter light in some directions. Many of the children began to instinctively head in those directions.

Charlie was unsure. He and a two small sandy coloured rats stopped together at the first intersection. Uncertain as to what to do, Charlie went in the other direction, and the small rats followed him.

As they began to move alone down the passageway a loud roar came from in front of them. The small male rat immediately turned around and chased after the larger group of rats.

The young female stared after her brother for a moment, and then she followed Charlie.

As they turned a bend, instead of finding a beast waiting for them there was a basin of cold fresh water, and three archways. Two were bright and blinding like in the first passage, the other had a more pleasant soothing light.

Pair drank the refreshing water, and then followed . . . .

Part 6 (My part):
… their eyes to something glowing in the water. Could it be a passage to daylight? From their long histories of sailing, rats have learned to be excellent swimmers. Charlie looked at his partner in this adventure, the female rat named Falina, and her head gave a nod.

Charlie and Falina plunged in and swam towards the glow below in the water. It was not unpleasantly cool. Their arms and legs churning like tiny furred torpedos, it didn’t take them long to surface in a small cave which indeed did lead to the outside. It was another quick swim and soon they were standing at the foot of the large stone structure that held the labyrinth.

Looking around, they saw the train tracks in the distance, where the train was headed back towards his and Grandpa’s farm. They needed to get on that train to get back and warn the adults so they could stop “The Prince of Air” from kidnapping any more children. There was no telling what sinister event would happen if one of the rats reached the center of the labyrinth. They also needed to find someone to lift the rat enchantment. Charlie and Falina waited until dark, then headed towards Labyrinth Station, with plans to secret themselves on the undercarriage of the train. What they didn’t prepare for…

Jade Li has tagged me to write another chapter of this riveting tale, The Locomotive. The others who have written chapters are:

Haunted Wordsmith



Crimson Prose

Jade Li

Conclusion (My part)

……..was Charlie’s grandpa walking down the tracks towards them. Charlie scrambled down the track jumping onto Grandpa’s foot and scrambling up his leg to his grandpa’s arms sobbing uncontrollably.

” It’s me, Charlie? ” he managed to gasp between sobs ” What’s happening,why are we here? “

His grandpa held Charlie close, uttering soothing words, trying to control his and Charlie’s hysteria.

” I’m glad I found you Charlie. I jumped on the back of the train when they took you and I’ve been searching ever since we arrived at the Labyrinth. I’ve taken this train before,when I was your age, but escaped. We’re trapped in a dream Charlie. The Sandman, sometimes called the Prince of Air in other countries, wants your soul. But we won’t let him take it. We have to fight.”

“But how is this possible” said Charlie ” Dreams aren’t real”.

” They become real only at the Summer Solstice. It was a compromise reached between the Creator and the Destroyer when they were bargaining for souls. The Sandman is allowed to take souls on the longest day of the year to keep him company through eternity. But there is a way out. You have already escaped the Labyrinth, now we have to try and board the train back to the farm.”

Charlie suddenly remembered Falina and looking down spied her standing on Grandpa’s foot. ” Grandpa this is Falina. She escaped the Labyrinth with me”.

Grandpa stooped down, picking Falina up putting her in his pocket. Then putting Charlie in his other pocket he hurried down the track towards the train.

The train seemed deserted. Everyone was probably at the Labyrinth watching the outcome of those poor children/rats trying to solve the puzzle. Grandpa jumped onto the engine of the train and looked at the control panel. He had been in many a train engine room and knew his way around the controls. Quick as a flash he had the train underway and they were heading back to Iowa. As soon as the train left the station Grandpa felt his pockets getting heavier and he reached inside to extract Charlie and Falina and placed them on the floor of the engine room. The tiny rats began to grow and change shape and soon they were children again.

Before too long the train reached Falina’s house and she hugged Grandpa and Charlie and said her goodbyes. Then they were off to grandpa’s farm and were glad to reach there without any further adventures.

As they were leaving the train Charlie asked what would happen now as their was no one to drive the train. Grandpa smiled and went into his farm to search for a hammer. He came out with a gigantic sledgehammer and wreaked havoc on the engines controls. “The Sandman will have to be content with his current companions” said grandpa “he’s not getting any more poor souls”.

Grandpa and Charlie went inside for some nice hot chocolate before bed time.

Back at the Labyrinth the Sandman was plotting revenge.

An Irish Country Road

Reena’s challenge #91. For full description see following url:

In the Summer of 1958, on a visit to Ireland, I haunted the two kilometre stretch of country road that ran from Moolum to the village of Kilmacow. It was an adventurous route for a ten year old.

Blackberry bushes were my favourite target as my siblings and I would go armed with one gallon cans to reap the bountiful harvest that grew on each side of the road. The cans would be overflowing on our return.

I travelled along that road with my great aunt Kate in her assen cart to deliver bread and eggs to the neighbours. Leaving early in the morning and returning late in the afternoon.

I tried to steer Blackman the donkey, along that route, riding him bareback, but invariably failed as he was more interested in grazing on the hedgerows at the side of the road. Donkeys can be very stubborn.

Every morning, the farmer up on Moolum Rock, would stop by my great aunt’s house with his horse and cart and give me a ride to the creamery in the village of Kilmacow. There was always a long line of horses and carts awaiting their turn to empty their churns of milk into the creameries containers. I usually stood in line holding the horses bridle, steadying him, while the farmer wandered off to speak with the other farmers.

I would walk down that road to the pump to fill two buckets with water and struggle back trying not to spill the contents.

It was a happy and glorious road to travel for a carefree ten year old.

Fifty years later, in the Summer of 2008, I walked down that same road and nearly died a hundred times from careless drivers. The road, as most country roads in Ireland, are very narrow and have many blind corners and bends. Past practice was for drivers to honk a number of times when they reached a bend in the road to make other users of the road aware of an approaching vehicle. This safety measure is no longer practiced and causes great risk to hikers.

My mother used to walk this road a number of times every day, but became fearful of the inconsiderate drivers and stopped walking this route. The last time she went for a walk along this road she had to throw herself sideways into a ditch to stop being run over. She was eighty. She lay in the ditch with a broken collar bone trying to get to her feet and exit the ditch. Despite her discomfort, she felt embarrassed and kept calling herself an old fool, hoping that no other traveller would pass by and see her predicament.

Two different slices of life, from two different eras. I liked the earlier slice better…..or was that because I was ten years old. Anyway. Thanks for reading. Its been a slice.

Black Swan

Peregrine Arc’s bi-weekly challenge. The premise is about a swan that turns into a Fairy Prince. I have taken extreme liberties with this premise.For the full prompt please go to the following url:

I waited patiently for his arrival, the pond’s currents carrying him lazily towards the bench where I was seated. I closed my eyes and sensed the change that was about to happen. I listened to the rhythm of the pond’s waves lapping, I breathed in the heady scent of flowers, I felt the sun’s rays trying to penetrate the shade of the Weeping Willow and my awareness expanded to sense all life around me.

The swan floated to the edge of the pond directly before the bench, and began his transformation. Within seconds the swan had morphed into a human male, standing naked before me. Human except for the wings attached to his shoulders. I reached into the bag and threw him pants, shirt and sandals.

” Cover yourself up” I commanded ” Before you scare any passers by.”

He caught the clothes in mid-air and proceeded to dress.

” I answered your summons” he said ” You have been away for 80 years and now you return. Why? “

I replied ” Thanks for heeding my summons. I sense great changes for mankind. A new dark age is coming and I need you to prepare the other swans to adopt human form and assist the human race once again”.

” So we are to be….. what do they call us? Angels. We have to become Angels once again.” He smiled quizzically at me.

“Yes. You have to become Angels and walk among the human race and spread hope and courage. Do not let them give in to rage and despair. Though I suspect many will.” I rose from the bench and peered at the sky. It was time

I undressed, folded my clothes and put them in the bag sitting on the bench. I stepped into the pond, morphed into my swan guise and swam away. I swam past a boy and his father sailing a toy boat and heard the boy cry, ” Look daddy a black swan. I’ve never seen one before”.

It was then that a violent burst of electromagnetic energy from the sun swept the earth disabling all satellites and blowing out all electrical transformers in the power grid. The planet was plunged into chaos.

The theory of black swan events is a metaphor that describes an event that comes as a surprise, has a major effect, and is often inappropriately rationalized after the fact with the benefit of hindsight. The theory was developed by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. (Wikipedia)


Reena Saxena Challenge #90. The word prompt is compromise.

He shuffled forward. He could sense the swarm of humanity behind him but kept his eyes fixed to the front. He was patient, recognizing that he had all the time in the world. No, that wasn’t quite right. Single file, another step forward. He was approaching the gates.

The gates hovered over him, disappearing into the misty heights. There were two elevators just inside the gates. The elevator on the right had an UP arrow and the elevator on the left had a DOWN arrow. Before the gates sitting at a desk was a young woman peering at the page of a book.

” If you could just sign here confirming your name and date of birth”. She pointed to a column in the book and extended a pen.

The book was duly signed.

“If you could just step on to the scale nearest you. This will help us to determine the direction you will take”.

He noticed a large set of scales by the side of the desk and stepped on the nearest scale. The scale started to rise until it was exactly in balance with the opposite scale.

“That’s very unusual” she said ‘You’re good energy is exactly in balance with your bad energy”.

“I don’t understand” he said.

” We can’t determine if you should take the UP or the DOWN elevator. Good energy/bad energy. Good character/bad character. What ever you want to call it.Usually it’s pretty straight forward, the scale tips one way or the other. Either your goodness outweighs your badness and you go UP or vice versa and you go DOWN. Perhaps we can send you up for 50% of eternity and down for the remaining 50%”.

” How can there be 50% of eternity? Is there no place to go for people who balance the good with the bad?” He queried.

“You humans are so arrogant. Your life is less than a blink of the cosmos but you behave as if you know everything. ” she said.” There’s really only one thing we can do. We’re going to have to send you back. Do try a little harder to weigh in on the good side next time.”



Exploration Challenge #89 from Reena Saxena -Haiku Prompt
You could write a story or an anecdote with a haiku as part of it. A Haibun or Alternating verse and poetry, of course works.
A subtle fragrance
so easy to capture with
senses heightened

He sipped his glass of wine and breathed in the spicy aromas emanating from the kitchen. Contentment washed over him as his senses were continually assailed with the fragrance of domesticity. Good food, good wine, and a perfect wife. Life was good.

She liked a clean and orderly house. She vacuumed, she mopped, she dusted, she polished. She liked the clean fresh scent of lavender that cleansed the floors, the scent of pine in the bathroom cleansers and the assorted fragrances of the pot pourri placed strategically around the house.

He loved to be close to her. Her subtle perfume stirred his desire and he would hold her close, breathing in her essence. She never pushed him away.

One morning she told him that she would be spending the evening with a friend taking euchre lessons, it was only for four weeks. Another morning she told him that she and three of her friends had decided to meet once a week to play euchre.

The night she came home from her first card party he noticed she had acquired a new smell that overrode her subtle perfume. It smelt like musk. Was that a masculine smell? His mind worked overtime as he tried to reason this new development. Perhaps he was being overly sensitive and just imagining things. He knew he could be possessive.

He made a point of meeting her at the door when she came home from her card party and buried his nose in her, hoping to detect her usual body smells. But his senses were always assailed with the scent of that indefinable musk. He became upset at this new smell and confronted her.

He accused her of infidelity. She said he was crazy. Things escalated. She packed her bags and moved in with her mother.

The following week she arrived at the card party. Following her normal routine she took the bottle of musk oil that Mary had left for her and lovingly polished the card table. Finishing she caressed the freshly polished table with her hands and laid her cheek on its surface.

A subtle fragrance
so easy to capture with
senses heightened


This is a fictional story responding to a prompt by Peregrine Arc based on the following prompt:
“You received a letter from the state explaining you were chosen in a lottery to come and rescue an animal. The shelter is being closed due to the owner’s untimely death and his will instructed for his estate to be divided up randomly. Being the animal lover you are, you decide to follow up on this mystery and pop on down to look at a potential pet or two. The address typed on the back of the letter is unfamiliar to you, but your Saturday is wide open. You fill up your gas tank and head out. Why not? “
For the full prompt please go to the following url:

I punched the GPS coordinates into my phone and followed the directions of the affirming feminine voice. She directed me through busy urban areas and quiet suburbs till I found myself travelling down isolated country roads. After a number of hours I entered a long, narrow tree lined driveway with deep ditches either side. At the end of the driveway was an abandoned security entrance, the gate fallen off its hinges. I drove through the security entrance into a large court yard which fronted a large concrete building. The feminine voice on my GPS intoned ” You have reached your destination” just as the signal bars went blank. No connection.

I approached the front door of the building and entered a long hallway. The end of the hallway opened to a large room, which I took to be the reception area. The room was devoid of all furniture with the exception of a sofa. Laying length wise, head propped on a cushion, closed eyes, legs dangling over the edge of the sofa, was a tall, thin man. As the sound of my footsteps echoed on the bare wooden floorboards the stranger opened his eyes.

“Welcome”, he greeted in a soft, melodious voice.

” Sorry for the intrusion” I replied ” I’m here about adopting an animal. I received a letter”.

“Of course, of course” he said arising from the chair to shake my hand.

“This seems an out of the way place to house animals” I asked “It’s a bit off the beaten track”

” I quite agree” replied the stranger ” the previous owner was a little eccentric and a loner. He wanted to raise his pets in seclusion, far from the maddening crowd “.

“Are you the states representative” I asked “Are you here to administer to the disposal of the animals?”

“Are you interested in adopting one of the pets. I should let you know that they are a little peculiar?”. He smiled enquiringly, his green hypnotic eyes fixed on me intently.

“Peculiar. How?”. I was genuinely puzzled.

“Let’s say the recently deceased owner was a little more than eccentric”. He paused as if considering his words carefully. ” He graduated in medical research and spent his life trying to create a unique species. A hybrid of animal and human. He had some successes before his death”.

I was appalled. “That’s unconscionable. That’s experimenting with the very order of nature and goes against all ethical boundaries”. I was angry and turned to walk out of the room in deep indignation.

“Wait just one moment” he said.

He approached me and I turned to face him. His mouth opened as if to speak, but instead of words a long narrow, forked tongue shot out and landed on my neck.

“This is a little love bite” he whispered ” Just enough venom to put you to sleep rather than to kill”.

I lost consciousness.

I awoke to strange surroundings. I was locked in a cell like room measuring 16 ft. by 24 ft. Concrete floors and walls, with a bed in one corner and a toilet and a sink in the opposite corner. The air smelled damp and musty. The door to the room had a sliding grill at the top which opened to a concrete corridor. I had a splitting headache and felt woozy.

The smiling face of the stranger appeared at the grill.

“Perhaps some explanation is in order. I was the late doctor’s masterpiece. He was very proud of me and treated me like a son. He needed someone to carry on his work. Every great man needs his legacy to continue. The doctor first experimented with injecting human DNA into animals. He came up with some interesting hybrids. But the animal DNA remained dominant and as a result awareness was limited. The doctor then reversed the process by injecting animal DNA into human subjects. Many did not survive. I did. This gave him hope. I became his assistant and so his knowledge passed to me. I am hoping for great things with you. Relax and enjoy your stay, the real work is just beginning.