Freight Train

by Mitchell Grabois



When, onstage, the Who’s Peter Townshend began smashing his guitar, he was looking for a sound that summed up existential truth. When Toto Fez, leader of the Ceades of Distruction, a local Chippahitchka band, followed suit, he was thinking of splitting wood and of his time in prison.

He was secretly in love with Tiffany, but his girlfriend knew it and wanted to scratch Tiffany’s eyes out. However, Tiffany benefited from the rep of mental patients, that they tapped into sources of superhuman strength and could be lethal if trifled with.

The Ceades’ house was one of Tiffany’s hangouts when she had grounds privileges. She knew she shouldn’t go there, but after she’d exhausted the Gate Café and Highcastle’s Pharmacy, drank coffee, smoked cigarettes, smeared on lipstick, pawed through musty fashions in the used clothing store, her feet traced their own schizophrenic path to the house the band rented in the no man’s land between white Chippahitchka and Happy Town.

It was an ambitious walk for her. Her medication sapped her strength. When she got there, she let herself in (the door was never locked—the landlord had never given them a key) and flopped into a ratty armchair, the kind she’d likely have if she were living independently .

Then she and Toto Fez’s girlfriend traded evil looks. Tiffany got one of Toto’s wrecked guitars and fondled it in the most lascivious way until Toto’s girl’s eyes were spinning with almost the velocity of Toto’s. She tried to blow herself up like a puff adder, but her intimidation factor was only about 15% when normal and, when angry, only about 18, so Tiffany was unimpressed. Remember, Tiffany lived among the dangerous. Loretta Gotes, Burt the Bruiser’s daughter, had it in for her, was waiting to murder her when God told her to. 18% was chickenshit. Tiffany settled in, waiting for a fuck from one of the band members, if not Toto Fez himself, then someone else.

But, the next thing, Tiffany and Toto Fez’s girlfriend were on the couch, clinging to each other. They both heard the same thing: a freight train smashing every electric guitar in the world, coming to take them to Hell.


My books were dragged from their shelves by the tornado at the same moment my cousin’s cows were torn from their barn and the barn was torn from the earth. The boards put up more of a fight than my books. The cows put up a greater protest than Garcia Lorca, John Kennedy Toole, Zakes Mda, who all flew silently away.

Later, my cousin and I met at the township hall, the site of rural political crimes that had been planned for years. I don’t want to describe them now, in the wake of such great loss, my cousin’s, not mine. Books are not a loss. Cows are a loss, and antique guns, one he claimed was fired by Wyatt Earp. It’s gone to join Earp in the sky. If he hadn’t before, Earp can fire it now.

Everything that was once in my head is still in my head. There’s even more in there now. The shredding of my home was not in there before, or the moment I crawled out of my storm cellar. The lids of the cans of house paint had been torn off, and I was multi-colored, as if Jackson Pollack had dripped on me for a while, then given up and thrown the rest in my face.

I always knew you were a clown, said my cousin.

I always knew you couldn’t keep track of your cows, I said.


Freight Train

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