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An Untrained Mind

The wrong side of the tracks

By Leeza CooperPublished 2 years ago Updated 2 years ago 18 min read
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Created by Leeza; using Pinterest, Videoleap.

AN UNTRAINED MIND

She was just as exquisite, as beautiful and majestic, as magical as he remembered her to be in the two decades since he’d first seen her. Her sleek lines and her friendly and inviting demeanour excited his mind and vitalized his body. After all, this time he had finally arrived at her entry, excited, keen and utterly mesmerized by the incandescent light which seemed to envelope her. There was a wonderful sense of splendour and strength about her, which was why, brazenly and energetically, without thinking of the consequences and oblivious to the danger, he leaped at the chance of becoming part of her journey into the future, into the unknown. If it hadn't been for her seduction of him across the platform all those years ago, he wouldn't be where he was today, crafting new experiences and playing joyfully and happily. He had no doubt in his mind that this was the case. He wondered as he approached her, standing there in her magisterial isolation, would she be as compliant and willing as she had been those two decades ago.

“Refreshments, sir”?

Fredrich was startled from his daydream by the sound of a man's voice.

He opened his eyes, and wondered where he was, and who was this stranger asking him questions? He wasn’t even aware until that moment that he’d apparently boarded a train, and that it had begun to move along the platform as it left the station. How could he have been asleep when it was making its way through the bustling terminal. Suddenly, the piercing scream of the train’s whistle startled him, a triumphant farewell to the city and its people.

When he’d first seen her, the smoke from the furnace of trains in those days had been dirty and annoying as they left the station, pouring out acrid sooty pollution; but today, his electric love smelled of modernity and freshness, of potential and unknown vistas.

Peering out the window he could see that the train was now humming its way through Hamburg, along the picturesque canals of Neumunser, and according to his waiter, it was enroute to Denmark. He was confused and rattled, wondering how he had forgotten his act of embarking the train. His mind was a swirl of fog, but he was aware that he was tired, so very tired, and so he reasoned to himself that he must, quite simply and understandably, have forgotten doing so.

Hovering over him, and asking in a raised voice, the waiter said again, “Refreshment, Professor?”

Blinking his eyes rapidly and trying to place himself in the present moment, Fredrich finally found his voice. “Yes, yes please. So, how about a round of Kirsch Royale”.

How on earth could he possibly order any other drink, he mused to himself; after all, it was her favourite drink. He had done his research on what constituted the perfect beverage when complimenting Adele's beauty and her bubbly effervescent personality.

“Are you travelling for business or pleasure sir”?

The waiter handed Fredrich his champagne and blackcurrant beverage, as well as a serviette, straightened up, and waited patiently with his hands behind his back, for the passenger’s reply. It was obvious that he took his position in one of the world's finest, most expensive trains very seriously.

“Thank you kindly, and the others would like some too.” Fredrich motioned to the table while studying the rich ruby colored Champagne in his hands, with its infusion of Creme de Cassis, the heart and soul of its berry tange, that distinct wild blackcurrant flavour reminding him of the time he and Adele had run away on the train together to get married at eighteen. Despite the passage of time, he was still mesmerized by its ability to transport him back into the arms of his love, even if it was just in spirit.

Taking a long sip of its nectar he savoured the moment before looking outward from underneath his spectacles at the young innocent waiter who was just standing there looking somewhat confused. He’d instructed the lad to pour for his guests, but the man just stood, staring.

“Young man this trip calls for a celebration on both fronts, business and pleasure.

“Why not drink to the more sensual things in life, and all the things that help you achieve them, like that of a fine-looking buxom woman on your arm, and a successful business deal to go with it”.

Raising his wayward grey eyebrows Frederick gave his waiter the once over and then proceeded more cautiously, as though he was in the throes of another impending and annoying interrogation from a stranger. This kind of thing was happening more and more lately.

“I am certain, young man, that under these wonderful, picturesque circumstances, one might overlook imbibing such a fine alcoholic beverage at this time of the morning and just dive straight in and enjoy it, celebrate it. You won’t get anywhere in life being a cantankerous killjoy, a censorious wet-blanket, and trying to force your passengers to stick to some arbitrary rules.”

“Forgive me, Sir, but not many passengers order three drinks for themselves,” the waiter told him.

If his waiter was perplexed by his guests' sudden hostility and his strange request, he certainly tried not to show it. He decided to oblige and politely poured another two drinks and set them onto the table in front of his patron’s invisible company, he quickly tidied up his food and beverage trolley and then made haste to serve the other passengers.

His VIP passenger certainly was an odd-looking old man, wearing completely inappropriate clothing for one of the world’s most luxurious trains, and especially in an a la carte dining carriage. His dress was more reminiscent of a serious fan of baseball and it screamed of mothballs. If he didn't know any better, he would assume that he was a country yokel rather than as the train’s manifest identified him, a Professor at a University, and with the way he used words, probably an emeritus professor of Literature. …instead of possibly a blow in traveller from out of town. Or maybe he was just an extremely eccentric old man whose love of sport and nostalgia guided his travels; or was there something more worrisome at play here? Were the marbles in his head rattling around, was he suffering from a loose screw or two, or perhaps he was an escapee from the nearby mental asylum?

And what of his accent, he didn't seem to have the typical German accent as he attempted to speak the native tongue. It was as if his way of speaking was tainted with another language, but he couldn't quite place it. Although identified by the train’s manifest, he really wasn't sure who this man was, or where he was going, but he knew it wasn't at all normal to behave as if you were in the company of invisible guests, least of all order them all a round of expensive celebratory drinks.

Frederick sat back against the soft leather chair and rested his weary body. Traveling wasn't as easy as it used to be when he was younger, back in the days when life was much easier to navigate, and everything was much more simple. Oh, how he longed for the freedom of his younger years, and the unwavering ability he enjoyed back then to be taken seriously by those around him. Growing up as a young man observing his father’s work on the railroads as an engineer, he was determined to travel the world, to go beyond the terminus of the rail tracks; and travel it he did, but after retirement in his sixties, he developed an unfortunate health issue, and these days, it was a minute-by-minute guessing game regarding his well-being.

He was frustrated, more now than ever; he had noticed in the last month or so that those around him had also begun to undermine and judge him, and this was one of the reasons he had run away and booked this trip, to show them all he bloody well still had it in him, that he was absolutely capable of looking after himself, and that waiting for him at the other end of the line was the love of his life, and no one was going to talk him out of his Goddamn plan, nobody!

As he drifted in and out of sleep lulled by the clickety clack of the metal wheels on the railroad, he imagined what it was going to feel like when he reached his love at the other end. It had been an eternity since he had last seen her, her long flaming red hair and her pale white skin, her big blue eyes, but most of all, the way she looked at him. He could never ever forget how she made him feel when she looked deeply into his eyes, when she spoke his name and brushed her hand through his hair, or what was left of it. Her delicate floral smell that she wrapped him in, he could never ever forget her aroma, it was unique and beguiling, and one of the very first things that had drawn her into him. He couldn't remember how long it had been since he had seen her, smelled her and felt her, all he knew was it had been way too long.

He had traveled the world; he’d explored Italy, Switzerland, Finland, Sweden, Vienna, France and even Alaska, and he had never ever seen such a beautiful soul. His line of work had offered to him an incredible experience both in creating the architecture and structure of some of the world’s most aesthetically beautiful and challenging buildings, as well as defining the art of loving one's job, or in Frederick’s case his “hobby”. He would never allow anyone to diminish his art into that of being labelled a job, because to him that would not respect or reflect on the joy and love that it had brought him throughout his life's journey. His real job was that of an English literature professor, and for many years he had thoroughly enjoyed it. But, shortly after the tragic death of his daughter with whom he was so close, he stepped away from his profession, incapable of facing an audience of young people without being overcome by emotion. Teaching about Homer and Ovid, Lucien and Cicero was too much for his soul to bear. When he discussed these and other classical authors with her, she was like a sponge, absorbing everything he said. But how could he have a voice when her voice had been quelled by death?

“Do you mind if I sit down here? I'm afraid it's rather full and loud where I was sitting”. Without any warning he was rudely interrupted from his thoughts. The young child didn’t wait for an answer, but just plopped himself down opposite Frederick and proceeded to make himself comfortable.

“What a cheek, what rudeness,” Frederick mused to himself. Eyeing the young child to determine whether or not he could be a potential problem or a nuisance, he determined that maybe he would be well-behaved and obedient, and a distraction could be a good thing, at least until they arrived at their final destination, and he was in the arms of his love again. What harm could the lad possibly cause?

“Where did everyone go?” the child asked.

Eyeing the untouched drinks on the table the young boy motioned towards the full glasses.

‘How should I know, everyone is so busy these days, it's like one minute they’re here and then the next they are gone”. Frederick was beginning to regret his decision to allow the boy to sit down.

“I know what you mean, no one sees me much either, my family are all too busy telling boring stupid stories and drinking or……. Sometimes I don't even feel like I have a real family”.

Frederick asked, “What's your name, son?”

Frederick felt his heart suddenly soften a little at the thought that perhaps the lad too was of little importance to his family. Although he couldn't ever imagine how such a smart, intelligent and handsome young thing could ever be overlooked by anyone, least of all in his own family.

The little boy heaved a big sigh and pulled his jacket closer to his body as if he was suddenly cold.

“My name is Leo, it's short for Leontophron and I’m 10”.

“I see Leo, that's a rather long and unusual name, but I've heard it before, I'm not sure where, maybe it will come to me soon”.

“What is that tucked into your hand. It's not a book or a ball, what is it”?

“It's my train carriage and engine, this is my favourite.”

Leo placed the little wooden train onto the table in front of Frederick and motioned for him to play along with him.

“Tickets please, ticket please,” he demanded in his deepest voice, doing his best to imitate a train conductor, Leo nudged him to hand his ticket over.

Rummaging through his coat pockets he tried to find his boarding pass, he didn't want to disappoint the young boy, but he couldn't find it anywhere, all he could find was a few pills and used tissues.

“It's ok, here you go, Frederick, you can have my ticket”.

Smiling at him, Leo handed him a crumpled piece of paper, it was tattered and torn and covered in food stains, and didn't much resemble a ticket to a train, and certainly not a grand modern train such as the one they were on. Frederick ignored the fact that it wasn't a real ticket,

“Thank you, my lad, that's very kind of you”.

Leo’s face lit up as he played along with him, “And where are we going today, Mr Huber. Let's run away, keep going and never get off, what do you think?

Leo loved two things in life: reading books and playing trains; his father had taught him about the world's greatest poets and writers. He loved curling up on the big old leather lounge in the library at home with a peanut butter and jello sandwich and a glass of warm milk. Every night before bed, he would escape into a creative wonderland, as he listened to his father read the greatest adventure stories of literature.

Leo also had a huge train set at home where he lived with his father and grandparents. It was the highlight of his young life to immerse himself in another world, a world that felt safe and happy, especially after his mother had died suddenly in a freak railway crossing accident when he was only 5 years old.

“Is that my new name, Leo? Am I Mr Huber? Ok then, I can accept that, but I won't be staying on this train forever. I have very important business to attend to in Denmark”.

Leo looked at him inquisitively and then burst out laughing. “it's not a real train, silly billy. It's make-believe”.

Frederick began to explain to Leo the intricate workings of a train and how its engines propelled them along the tracks, and how in an hour's time they would be arriving at Copenhagen station.

Leo ignored his response and kept talking. ``First, we pick up Grandma, and then we stop at the next station and pick up mummy, and then we all ride the train together through the mountains and then we go up and up into the sky and around the clouds and ....”

He was happy to play along with the old man, but he could sense that he had left him behind somewhere.

Frederick had stopped talking and was staring blankly at him, he was completely expressionless and void of emotion, and then suddenly his face transformed into one of sheer horror, as though he’d just seen a ghost. He suddenly felt himself becoming dizzy and disorientated, he no longer knew where he was or who he was with.

The room was spinning but he could make out a little boy sitting at a table with his train, he seemed completely oblivious as to the nightmare that was happening around him. Then without warning Frederick found himself caught up in some kind of evil energy, he no longer had any control over his physical body. He had been hauled up onto his feet by a great malevolent force and he was dancing about the train, jumping and leaping around like a mad man, a person possessed. At the ripe old age of eighty, he knew such a thing was impossible given his bad knees and his two hip replacements.

He commanded, ordered his limbs to stop but it was completely futile, he had become a marionette in someone's evil play. Watching his body move about with a mind of its own, reminded him of how easily he could lose himself in the blink of an eye. He had spent years worrying about losing the rest of his family and the thought of losing himself had never entered his mind before, until now.

He used to be the master of his domain, the educator of many, the artistic director, but over the years his position had dwindled to that of a fictional character, an observer rather than a conductor, he was no longer even a participant, he was gone, finished, dead, and now the present scene was merging with his greatest fears and becoming his reality.

Looking towards his bemused and hysterical audience he wondered if he really was the puppet, or was he in fact the puppeteer. Had he truly become the town joke, the old unhinged nutty professor, or was he the untrained mind of a novice writer attempting to create the ultimate fairytale that never existed?

It was true he had become the laughingstock of his family and all his friends, he was trapped inside a body he no longer recognized, in a world that had forgotten him.

He was completely spent, he had been at war for over ten years, during which time he encountered many perils and most of his dear old friends had died. To many, he was spoken about as if he was already dead, even his love, Adele, had apparently presumed him gone forever.

He had consciously made the decision to board the train and he was returning, like Odysseus to his beloved Penelope. It was as though he’d just fought in the Trojan War, and now he and his crew were lost in the stormy wine-dark sea, between Scylla and Charybdis, between a rock and a hard place.

What was happening to him? Ten years was a long time to be left floating aimlessly in space like a forgotten soul, he was determined to fight the evil forces that were responsible for his hijacking and to return to his home, his loved ones, his daughter and his son-in-law and grandson, and the woman at the end of his journey. He was well versed in the story of Odysseus and the others who had conquered Troy with their wooden horse, who freed Helen, and if the gods had any mercy, they’d let him, and his men, come home too.

The susurration of the wind against the carriage windows and the violent shaking of his arm by the little boy at the table woke him from his deep philosophical thoughts.

“Ah yes Leontophron, son of Odysseus, I know who you are!”

Leo stared at Frederick with wide eyed anticipation, but as soon as he had uttered the true origin of his name he had moved on to his next subject.

“Excuse me young man,” he asked the waiter, “how bloody long until we disembark at Copenhagen station for God's sake, it's taking too long.”

Instead of the young man answering him, he ran off in the other direction. How odd, Frederick thought to himself, what's happening, why is everyone staring at me. Looking around him Frederick could see the people in the room were glaring at him disapprovingly, but for what reason, he had no idea. Perhaps they were in the silent carriage and the young boy was too loud?

“It's ok, here you go, you can hold my train, Fred. Whenever I feel upset, I hold my favorite train, especially the one that reminds me of my grandmother”.

Frederick decided to sit back down and then he took the train that Leo was kindly offering him. He studied it closely, something about it seemed familiar somehow. And then he saw its engraving.

Finding his voice, though shaky, he whispered to Leo, “Your little train is called Adele, now that is a huge coincidence isn't it, my love is called Adelle, fancy that.”

Frederick looked back towards the light of the window, suddenly wishing and longing that the distance between him and his love would quickly close, but shockingly all that he could see was a large cold and unfamiliar room with no windows, no windows at all, just bleak unsympathetic walls and old tatty furniture.

Leo was rattling away about the different countries they were going to visit, oblivious to Frederick’s rising distress.

“Yep, that's Adele, she takes care of us when we travel and……..”

Suddenly Leo was knocked off his chair mid-sentence by the sudden and unexpected shove of Frederick as he jumped up trying hurriedly to get past him.

“I must get off, I must get off this train right now”, Frederick was shouting uncontrollably.

“It's gone too far! I've missed my station, slow down now, please!” The old man was in distress.

Turning around and waving his arms, Frederick yelled out “Stop, stop this train!” in an attempt to get the attention of the crew to listen to him, but he suddenly lost his footing and fell crashing through the furniture in front of him. He could feel the blunt impact through his lungs. He stopped breathing, his arms and legs had also deserted him and were now refusing to move. He felt the pain from his fall coursing through his body like sharp knives, but none of that compared to the acute and intense pain stabbing at his heart. He was so close, so close to seeing his one and only true love again, and now he had lost her, lost her forever.

He lay foetal on the floor, completely spent, crying like a wounded animal as the room around him spun like a wild tornado determined to tear him from limb to limb. His mind was spent and his soul was lost somewhere between Hauptbahnhof and Copenhagen station, between Scylla and Charybdis, and he had no idea where he was or how to get home.

He prayed, he prayed hard for some answers, something, anything to show him the way. Then, as if by magic, his flailing hands felt some little wooden pieces of a train set around him. Blinking back his tears he could see that he was sitting amongst a huge handcrafted wooden train set, and that he was central to its engine room. It was as if it was beckoning him to play and command it back to life, which is when he felt a gentle hand running through his hair, and then a pair of big blue eyes appeared in front of him and were staring at him, peering deep into his soul.

“It's ok darling; I'm here, I'm not going anywhere, and neither are you Fred. You’ve arrived, you didn't miss your stop, you’re home now”.

Frederick watched as the red and gray haired lady sat on the floor in front of him, and on his other side was the same little boy from the train, he was holding his hand and smiling lovingly. Grabbing his other hand he placed his train into it, eagerly motioning for him to read the name engraved on it.

He looked down through his tears and then he saw it……

Frederick, it said Frederick, made by Frederick Huber, for Adele Huber, made in the United States of America.

Suddenly recognising his own distinctive handwriting he let out a big warm smile.

“I am on my own train, the one I spent years building with my bare hands, the one that made the Guinness book of records as the largest model train set in the world, with over 50,000 feet of track spanning through hundreds of countries, with over 900 trains?

“Yep that's right grandpa, you're on your train with us, with Grandma Adele, daddy, mummy and me. Mummy came down from heaven to be with us.”

“You mean we’re all on our train together, the one that I built, and we are still on our train, and we can't get off, ever, never ever, we are on our own runaway train?

“Yes Grandpa yes, you built a whole train set with every country in the world included in it, especially for us. It was the last thing you did before…before you…., I mean after we lost mummy, so that we could travel forever and never be separated, and we could spend the rest of our days together as a family for all eternity.

Frederick was beaming from ear to ear, he had finally found his home and he could hardly contain himself.

“Oh, my dearest grandson, that's wonderful, '' he whispered. “That's fantastic. I love you all so much my precious angels. Now someone go and get that bloody waiter to bring us our drinks!”

By Leeza Cooper

family
3

About the Creator

Leeza Cooper

Leeza Cooper, a devotee, artiste, creator of published literature & poetry; Studied Degree CU, founder/president of Wheels & Dolls SMC; raising funds for DV, lover of travel, nostalgia & anything vintage.

Ms Australia International 2023.

Reader insights

Outstanding

Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

Top insights

  1. Easy to read and follow

    Well-structured & engaging content

  2. Excellent storytelling

    Original narrative & well developed characters

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Comments (4)

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  • Scott Jacobs 2 years ago

    Outstanding! This story was obviously created from a very unique imagination and brilliant story telling ability. I look forward to reading future works by this epic talent. Thank you for sharing.

  • Carol Townend2 years ago

    This is so beautiful. You are very talented at writing stories.

  • K.H. Obergfoll2 years ago

    Wooooow!! This is amazing!

  • James Joyce2 years ago

    Leeza, this is an amazing wonderful story. It was very personal to me, because my husband, Duncan, died from Altzheimers when he was in his 70's. And he was just like the Fredrich in your story. He was like a little boy some of the time and then he became angry and didn't know who I was, or who his children were. Your story, Leeza, was absolutely brilliant. I read it and burst into tears, thinking of all the things that I could have done with my beloved husband, just like your Frederich in your story could have done so much with his family, until the disease took his mind away. Oh Leeza, your story, and the way you told it, was stunning...just stunning. It touched me so deeply. Thank you, thank you, thank you for letting the world know how devastating Altzheimer disease is.

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