Thursday, August 4, 2011

Train Marshal Diary - Entry One

"____________ Shoot! ____________ Shoot! Shoot! ____________ Shoot! ____________ Shoot! Shoot!!" DOT DOT fucking DOT.

It went on like that for 17 minutes and 32 seconds. Yes. I did time it. Call it a compulsion. Whatever. I could tell from the first "Sh–" that I would not enjoy waiting it out. So, I started counting.

Numbers reveal many things. 5 minutes until the next Red Line train, 4 fingers on the left hand of the man quietly sitting across from you, 3 mirrors reflecting your mug as you shave at 5:26 am, or -$2.22 in your damn bank account. Some practical, some depressing, some a measure of decline. Like 17 minutes and 32 seconds of listening to "shoot shoot" rhymes second hand.

I couldn't even hear the kid's iPod. Between the sound of his feet shuffling and stepping to the beat and his punctuated leaps to join in, I couldn't tell if he was actually listening to anything at all. At best, he's off his meds. At worst, a stupid punk fuck who thinks that gyrating and yelling on a public train somehow makes him cool.

"Shoot! Shoot!"

The people around him are no better. They pretend he is no bother or ignore him altogether. They scatter as best they can on the crowded car. They make a dance floor. They grant him center ring. But I see their eyes twitch – their teeth grind. I see between their robotic smiles and the skin under their fingertips. At 5 minutes in, I know they are cowards. I would have to involve myself.

What rubs me is this is below my station. This is not why I am here – not the job. Anyone else could open their mouth and ask. Bitch at him. I am here for the bigger picture.

Being a federal train marshal is a thankless position. The people who volunteer know that up front. We do not need or really want a pat on the back. Most of us begin out of a sense of duty, imagining days of quiet satisfaction. Being a silent protector. The unseen hand over the shoulder. At some point, duty rolls over and becomes nauseating inertia. I still believe in the job. I just don't know about the people we are protecting.

I start to hear the music that seemed imaginary. "Boom tick-a-chick splash boom chick-a-splash SHOOT! Boom tick-a-chick splash boom chick-a-SHOOT SHOOT!" This takes me right to the edge of my seat. I am staring directly at his face as he lobs it from side to side. He throws his head back and lets out a high pitched "Whooo!" Mistake. I take the book I have been trying to read (Doc Savage: His Apocalyptic Life), lean forward about a foot and swiftly tap it's spine across his Adam’s apple.

He is on his ass before someone can catch him. Following protocol, I swiftly stand up and walk off the train right before the doors close. No need to engage the public with details they don't need to know. Not for something like this. I see faces pressed against the windows as the train pulls out of Francisco. Everyone looks shocked. An old Asian lady is pointing at me, tapping her fingernail on the plastic coated glass. Her lips mouth the word "asshole".

Hrmph I think as it begins to disappear.

Thursday, July 21, 2011


Under the shadow of
Empty boxes
This heat
This damn heat
Makes me smile
Legs and arms
Arms and legs
Kicking and punching
To hold up nothing more than air
Wrinkled coupons
And sun bleached posters
Promising bliss
At 30 to 40 percent off
All this concrete could have been
Could have
The glass however
Will take care of itself
Crawling back to the beaches
And deserts
When we least stand watch