We are excited to announce the winner of the July 2022 Chattanooga Writers’ Guild Monthly Contest is G. N. Zaccaria with the submission “The Track Nine Beam.”
G. N. Zaccaria is a fiction-writer, playwright, artist and performer. He holds a B.F.A. from the School of Visual Arts in New York City. He is a long-term member of the Atlanta Writers Club, PenAmerica, The Dramatists Guild and Working Title Playwrights. A recent member of the Chattanooga Writers Guild, this award-wining fiction writer is currently working on a second novel.
The Track Nine Beam
“It’s a wonder nobody got killed here tonight!” said one of the Car Men for the railroad, captivated by what had happened a few minutes earlier. “Nobody hurt?”
“Just one lady,” replied the Porter. “Twisted her ankle somethin’ fierce a’ runnin’ away as that baggage car jumped the platform. They asked if she needed a doctor but she told ‘em no, she just wanted to get on her train and get back home to Cincinnati.”
“Well she ain’t gonna make it.”
“The hell she ain’t.” The Engineer, standing nearby, spit a glob of chewing tobacco onto the tracks of the next platform. “I’m getting the “Special” out of here by midnight. I already called over to the boys in the Switch Tower crew. I never been late more than one hour coming out of this Terminal, and this ain’t gonna slow me down. “Marked for late departure on July 17, 1953” ain’t gonna be recorded on my transfer sheets. I got a Pension and a Union Card to protect.”
By this time, the Station Agent had lumbered out from his office and was thundering down the platform to the men, with chest heaving and perspiration dripping from his forehead and neck.
“What about that beam?” he piped. “Look at that dent! I want to talk to you!” The Station Agent wagged his finger toward the Engineer.
“I ain’t got time for small talk and silly chitter-chatter. I got me a train to move.” He turned and sauntered toward the other end of the platform.
“And you! You the conductor? “How did you overshoot the end of the track? Ain’t you never backed a train into Terminal Station before?”
“Nope, this is my first time coming in here. The height of the bumping post just come up on us all of a sudden.”
One of the Terminal shoeshine boys ran towards the men. “Mister Station Agent, sir. I done gots the Central on the telephone line just like you asked me, sir. They’s a-holding until you gets back to your desk.”
“Come with me to my office, Conductor. I need to file a report.”
The two railroad men pushed through the crowd of passengers that had gathered to observe. A newspaper photographer had already arrived and was popping flashbulbs. Everyone curiously looked at the derailed baggage car, the twisted iron gates, the destroyed platform-end bumper, and at the dented support I-beam.
“Like that man asked, what about that beam? That sure don’t look good at all.”
“The whole roof is about to collapse!”
“No it ain’t.”
“It’s just a little bent out of shape is all.”
“How are they gonna fix an iron girder support beam that’s bent like that?”
“They can do it! My Daddy can do it!” Another one of the platform Shoeshine boys stepped forward. “My daddy’s on the repair crew here. He can fix anything. He says a good welder can cut out a few pieces, weld in a few new plates, get a machine to straighten some of it back up. It’ll always show some being busted up, but anything can be fixed.”
“Okay folks,” shouted a Platform Attendant. “Please keep moving toward your designated train or into the Terminal. We have passengers and baggage moving here. Sky Caps a-coming through!”
The crowd dispersed as workers began to unload the contents of the crippled baggage car. A Switch Man uncoupled the twisted knuckle connectors of the car to prepare for the train to pull forward from the station platforms.
“Yessiree,”said the Shoeshine boy. “My daddy can have that there beam fixed by the end of the week. Anybody that walks underneath that big “Choo Choo Time” clock a-hanging over this Track Nine is gonna know that when a train car jumped the track, it was a railroad man like my Daddy who done fixed it all better again.”