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Last Run

January 27, 2012

I wrote this a few years ago when I was participating in the weekly photo prompts from Madison Woods’ 100-word Flash Friday Fictioneers:

The instructions: Come up with a story, 100 words, more or less, based on the above picture.

This was exactly 100 words. I decided to re-post it. It’s one of my favorites.

Last Run

Peterson had hoped his last run would be easy. Thirty-five years witnessing hugs and tears along every stop should’ve hardened his heart. But somehow it splintered every time it saw a freshman’s face leaving for college, or he’d have to tell a young soldier we’re on a tight schedule, all the while hoping sun glare would burn out the lingering young wife’s image: one baby on her hip, another burying its face in her dress.

Last run, he’d told the engineer. And then she boarded–reddened eyes, cuffs for baggage–and strapped a new word across her young son’s heart.


31 Comments leave one →
  1. January 27, 2012 7:44 am

    Oh, this one’s sad — and very different than many of the others. I definitely appreciate the unique take. Thanks for sharing!

    • January 29, 2012 10:32 am

      Not sure why but I feel there’s something inherently sad about trains, more so than other forms of travel.
      Thank you for your comments.

  2. January 27, 2012 7:48 am

    You really the developed the character of the conductor nicely. I feel like I know him, even though you had very few words to introduce him. Good job!
    Here’s mine:

  3. January 27, 2012 7:50 am

    Good images, interesting perspective for sure. Oh and Peterson is pretty much a perfect name for this guy.

    Not sure if I understand the end however.

    • January 29, 2012 10:38 am

      I settled on Peterson after trying some others that didn’t seem to work.
      As far as the ending, it confused other people as well. Something I need to work on.
      Thanks for the honest appraisal.

  4. January 27, 2012 9:00 am

    Very touching. Good job. Here’s mine:

  5. January 27, 2012 9:01 am

    You’ve captured the emotions very well in just few words.
    Here’s mine

  6. Caerlynn Nash permalink
    January 27, 2012 11:28 am

    I didn’t quite get the last line either, but it was nice to get to know the conductor. Good understanding of him in just a few words.

    • January 27, 2012 5:09 pm

      I may have been a little too subtle. In the last line,”she” refers to the woman not in the photo, who conductor Peterson is looking at. She’s the boy’s handcuffed mother who’s going away for a long time (“cuffs for baggage). The ordeal leaves her son with a new word “strapped across his heart.” It’s your choice what that “new” word might be, but it probably has something to do with her ‘cuffs–felon, convict, prisoner, etc. This from the perspective of soon-to-be-retired Peterson, the conductor on a very memorable last run.
      I appreciate your stopping by and commenting.

  7. January 27, 2012 11:50 am

    I don’t know if it’s appropriate or not, but I’ve got Billy Don’t Be a Hero playing in my head now. Pointless quips aside, this is one of the most haunting entries I’ve read so far. Nice job.

    This is mine.

  8. January 27, 2012 1:19 pm

    I agree that you’ve done a fantastic job of introducing Peterson, with the few words here it’s easy to see that he is a likable guy. It’s very good and sad and I do wonder what the mother’s story is?

    • January 27, 2012 5:14 pm

      Thank you for the compliment. I really appreciate it. I’m not sure what her story is–so far. That’s what’s great about these prompts. They get you thinking about possibilities.

      Thank you for stopping by.

  9. January 28, 2012 5:09 am

    It somehow seems appropriate that his last run would be one of such impact. I wish you could have had a few more words to work with, this brought me in with interest and makes me want to see where it goes.

    • January 29, 2012 10:22 am

      I wanted to use something different and finally came up with the idea of a conductor about to retire. Once I had that, I knew his last day had to be memorable in some way. Thank you for your encouraging comment. I really appreciate your stopping by.

  10. January 28, 2012 5:29 am

    This was beautiful, and an excellent and unique take on the picture. I too, was a bit confused by the last line, but understand now that I’ve read your other comments. I think it was confusing to me, because I thought the cuffed woman boarding the train was the same woman who was holding the child in the previous paragraph. But so poignant and beautiful, and a new perspective on what it might be like to be a train attendant.

    Here’s mine:

    • January 29, 2012 10:44 am

      Now that you mention it I completely understand how that would confuse someone. I had them separated in my head so never thought along those lines. That’ll teach me to use pronouns haphazardly.
      Thank you for stopping by and commenting.

  11. January 28, 2012 6:35 am

    I had trouble connecting the conductor’s emotions and it came with the word “before”. Why would there be another run? Otherwise, caught that bittersweet retirement feeling.

  12. January 28, 2012 1:37 pm


    Despite missing a few things because of being addlepated, I thoroughly enjoyed this story. Of all of the entries so far I think it flowed the best from the mind of the protagonist and evoked the most emotion from varied sources and memories. You pack a lot of life into a little space of time. Well done.



  13. January 29, 2012 9:10 am

    I really liked how you brought out the character of the Conductor and gave him such a great name. I was also a little puzzled by the cuffs (I’d visualised a big furry coat!) but understand having read the responses above.

  14. Madison Woods permalink
    January 29, 2012 2:00 pm

    A very sad and touching story. I wasn’t sure if my interpretation of the last line was correct or not, but after reading your replies to others, it was. I would probably not be second-guessing if we had another paragraph, but that’s the challenge of only 100 words 😉 It’s a great story and you did an excellent job at setting a mood and developing the characters.

    • January 29, 2012 5:34 pm

      I truly appreciate your kind words and for the prompts and interaction you encourage between writers. I think we all get a tremendous benefit from your great idea. Thank you for sharing.

  15. January 29, 2012 9:14 pm

    This was a wonderful use of the prompt. And it makes the perfect story accompaniment to St.Vincent’s song, Strange Mercy.

    The link to my drabble is:

  16. Caely permalink
    January 30, 2012 9:16 am

    Well written for 100 words! I liked how you described the passion of one’s work, and how much effort it must have taken to analyze such a character. Splendid!

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