The Train of Thought

 A short story about the top 6  fictional characters inside of my head. We are too multifaceted to identify with just one—and it’s about time they  coexist in peace.

Introduction:  Meet the passengers aboard!

Maria Von Trapp of Eastern Europe is family oriented, and resourcefully dons herself in drapes. She enjoys climbing every mountain, and believes  that music can make grassy hillsides come alive. Shang, the train’s drill sergeant, values serious hard work;  he can also be ruthless towards the rest of the crew.
Bill Nye the Science Guy, thinks logically, and studies the human body to help keep the train running as smoothly as possible. Belle, native to the little town in the quiet village, adores libraries, writing, and dreaming dazedly of great adventures.
Buddy the Elf, a curious and cheerful kid at heart, constantly spews out questions, and occasionally feels like a misfit compared to the others aboard. Buzz Light Year the classic space case,  has high expectations, and big ideas, which if left unchecked, he will attempt to launch to the moon.

Chapter 1: Derailed

For many years the train of thought chugged a circuitous but smooth route around the brain tracks. All was ‘just fine.’ But one day, the passengers began to bicker as they caught sight of a crossroads in the horizon. Losing control, the train gathered speed and screamed blindly through the darkness. Clenching their teeth to brace for impact, the passengers held onto their seats with white knuckled grips until finally the train came to a screeching halt.  

Belle lit a candle to illuminate the cabin, while Shang blew a shrill whistle before barking orders.

“Everyone! Assemble swiftly and silently to the emergency decision making compartment located in the frontal lobe!” He exhaled into the whistle a second time.

“Please. Isn’t there another way to get their attention?” asked Maria. “We don’t have to run this train like a ship.”

She stood at the door of the compartment motioning the others to take a seat around a circular wooden table.

Shang narrowed his eyes at her. “I’m calling order in this train, so that we can figure out who made this mess. Where do we even start?”

Chapter 2: The Theological Round-table

“We start at the very beginning.” Maria spoke in a soft caring tone, effortlessly concealing her fear in the moment.

“Belle, fetch some tea with jam and bread from the cupboard, will you? And everyone else, let’s pull out our Bibles to share what we find most relevant. Buddy you first.”

Buddy traced his finger along with the words of a fully illustrated Message translation.

“The best way to spread Christian cheer–let’s see–oh here it is. REJOICE in the Lord in all things!” A goofy grin spread across Buddy’s face, but Buzz only grimaced in response.

“Are there any signs of intelligent life on this train?” He muttered under his breath. “Siri, bring me the word of God.”

Instantly the book of Ezekiel projected pixels on the inside of his glass helmet and he read aloud in a deep and dramatic voice.

I looked, and I saw an immense cloud with flashing lightning, surrounded by brilliant light.” He paused. “Folks, it is time for us to gear up for a daring life so extraordinary that my space helmet will finally be useful.”

Belle nodded in agreement as she turned the pages of a well tattered leather bound King James Bible.

“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul and with all thy mind.” Her eyes lit up in epiphany.

“Oh, isn’t it obvious? Jesus said Haven’t you read? We need to go to the library to collect literature and information on the topic.  This train crash is metaphorical for a collapsed castle that God will renew and rebuild even better than before. It might be ready for a Prince even!”

Shang hovered over Belle’s shoulder with his arms crossed.  “Easy on the analogies Princess,” he mocked.  “They won’t make sense to anyone outside this train.”

“But Jesus spoke in parables,” Belle rebuttled.

Shang dismissed her and took the floor. “If you look here in Proverbs it says  ‘Good planning and HARD WORK lead to prosperity.’ Gang, to set this train back on course, we must be more discipline and work harder than ever before.”

Stung, Belle recoiled like a sea anemone and Maria placed an arm around her in comfort. But instead of reading, Maria closed her Bible and stood up.

“You know what? We forgot to pray. God bless all my friends aboard. And God bless Steve, Laura, Marie, Johnny, and what’s his name? Oh God bless Pete!”

When Maria finished, all eyes fell to Bill Nye to speak next.

Bill shook his head. “I choose to withhold advice in the form of informational input,” he stated. “The argumentative decibels in this train have resulted in a migraine just behind the right eye. I propose that instead, we hold a criticism free brain storm. Scientific question: Where do we go next?”

Chapter 2: Fashion Crisis

“I think,” Belle started, “We’re due for something new: some kind of adventure.”

Terror flashed across Shang’s face. “Wait, hold up, what do you mean adventure?  This thought vessel has always stayed agreeable and safe.”

Belle, glared at him. “Don’t you see? People perish with lack of vision and purpose. There has to be more than this provincial life.”

Buzz reached over to high five Belle. “I second that, and I can take us there! The Holy Spirit gives us power without limit!” Buzz looked around scanning the cabin for travel readiness.

“No offense Maria, but unless you want to live in a convent for eternity and beyond, stop roaming around wearing those drapes.”

“But  I’m having a marvelous time,” Maria responded.

“He’s right Maria,” Bill Nye chimed in. Not only do cotton drapes place you at risk for hypothermia during the event of a capsized kayak, but studies also show that women in drapes appear 50% less attractive to men. That’s not rocket science.”

But Buddy, now clutching an oversized ceramic mug in his hands, shook his head.

“They sit on thrones of lies, Maria. You look pretty enough to be on a Christmas card in those drapes! You know, people used to tell me to lose my tights, but I never listened.

Chapter 3: Food Fight

Before Maria could respond, Shang diverted the group’s attention.  “Buddy, what’s in that mug?”

“Syrup, and coffee!” He said with excitement. “It’s actually a grade B maple, with a medium bold Nicaraguan roast.”

Buzz reached across to give Buddy a fist pump. “Rocket fuel, I like it! Hey Belle, come give this a whiff.”

But belle only starred away dreamily.  “Aww the delight of sitting beside a fire in a castle with a good book, and creamy espresso mixed with sweet maple.”

Shang, looked displeased, again.“Guys, come on champions don’t eat sugar. Will power is a muscle intended to be used.”

Muttering something about a “south-pole elf” under his breath, Buddy shuffled to the sink to dump the coffee down the drain.

Chapter 4: Electrical Storm

At this point, Shang grew restless at the lack of progress in the group’s conversation.

“You know what?” He faced Belle squarely. “ I’m worried about you and Buzz, and all your romanticized talks of adventure and new things.”

“Why the doubt, tough guy?” Buzz squinted at Shang in a face off.

“Just look at yourselves, do you even know who is running for President right now? Or how to do your taxes? I doubt it. You’re a pathetic lot really, except Bill Nye. He is the only one on this train worthy of credibility, and we are the only reason this train is even funded. Wake up to reality, Buzz.”

Buzz’s jaw dropped.

“Reality?? I am in the world and not of it.” He closed his eyes in deep offense before continuing.

“Shang, I’m taking Belle to infinity and beyond, whether you like it or not. We are the great innovators of the world. Infact, if your best pal Bill Nye knew what cool discoveries I found while my head was in the clouds, he might even consider studying them.”

Bill furrowed his eyebrows.   

“I know all about clouds; My father is a science teacher. Speaking of, if we don’t restore this train soon, the density of the emotional burden could result in mental thunder and lightning.”

Chapter 5: Curiously Cotton Headed

At that phrase, Buddy’s face perked up in curiosity.

“Light-ning. Now that’s fun to say. What’s the root word for that? What produces the sound outside exactly? And why is it so crackly? What happens if I get struck?”

By now, Shang had reached his limit with the unruly passengers.

“Buddy SHUTUP! Your questions are annoying and irrelevant. You keep detracting us from success, and its your fault we only slept 40 minutes last night” His voice nearly shattered the windows.

Immediately Buddy gazed downward tearing up.

“Just say it. I’m a cotton headed ninny muggins and I don’t belong here. I don’t belong anywhere.”  He hugged his green clad knees to his chest, and Maria tried to comfort him.

“Now Buddy, whenever I’m upset, I write a rhyming list of my favorite things in my gratitude journal. Let’s try a few, ‘sunshine on shoulders and dry lakeside boulders?’”

Buddy chucked the gratitude journal into the hallway.

“I already get it. You don’t need me here,  I’m leaving the train”

Unexpectedly, this time it was Bill Nye who stood up in a bold act of protest.

“Buddy, No! Questions are the beginning of all scientific discovery. Without you, I am nothing.”

Buddies face lit up again.  “You mean I can stay? Wow, science really does rule!” Suddenly, he broke down into a spontaneous dance, chanting,  “Bill, Bill, Bill!”

Shang, calling order to the train once again, addressed Bill.

“Have you completed a statistical analysis on the effectiveness of Belle?”

Sensitive and taken aback by the open discussion of rejection, Belle’s face turned crimson with emotion.

“I can already predict what you’ll say, Bill. All you care about is science, school, and career!  You don’t even think I have a purpose on this train, do you?”

Once again, Bill Nye restored the train from emotional back to the rational.

“False assumption, Belle. I already thought about it. When you collect ideas through reading, and connect the dots in writing, it catalyzes something called ‘flow state.’ The flood of endorphins is necessary to keep the train running as a smooth well oiled machine. We need you on the train. To be honest, the only one I question is Maria.

Furious, Buzz removed his helmet and slammed it on the ground.

“Are you kidding? Maria is the soundtrack for the mothership. She always–”

But before Buzz could finish, something else caught his eye.

“Shang– Where are you going?”

“I get it, nobody wants me to lead anymore. You all want me off the train, so you can just be a bunch of free spirits living in anarchy. Maybe it’s me who should leave.” He sighed, and picked up his belongings.

Chapter 6: The Unexpected Journey

The train sat in silence for several long moments, until Maria motioned the rest of the group away from the compartment. She had a soft heart for the strong leader types.

“Shang, we need you here. Because of your discipline, we can get things done. Your consistency gets us up in the morning to run, and keeps Buddy on track during studies. But I know you’re not as cold hearted as you pretend to be. Now take Belle for example–”

“What’s that noise?” Shang interrupted, as a faint sound of melodious voices leaked into the compartment.

“It’s singing,” said Maria.

“Yes, I know that it’s singing, but who?”

“It’s Belle, Buddy, Bill and Buzz. I taught them a song by Journey to sing during stressful times.”

Sure enough, as Shang and Maria walked out into the hallway, an acapella quartet with Belle on soprano, and Buzz on the bass, rang out with a glee cast rendition of  “Don’t Stop Believing.”

Shang looked dumbstruck as he marveled at the complimentary voice combinations.

“So it is true. If we can harmonize like this, we could be tranquil as a forest, but on fire within! And that could be unstoppable. Where should we go first?”

“Singing through the Austrian alps, with the family.” said Maria.

“To the library, ” said Belle.

“To the Physical Therapy clinic,” said Bill Nye.

“To the North Pole chocolate factory,” said Buddy.

“All of the above, TOGETHER, to infinity and beyond!” said Buzz

And with that, the train wheels locked back into place and once again, continued along their journey.

*Note: The rocks pictured above were painted by a college student who lives down the street from me. I discovered them while walking around the block one morning, and promptly left a note asking for permission to take pictures of them. We have never met in person, but I am grateful that she texted back YES; and I hope she keeps painting more rocks!


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