Runaway Train

By Bub 

“I am not a faggot,” Dolton said nervously to himself. He had been preparing for the exercise for days. He scoped his route. He timed the traffic – luckily for him there hadn’t been any. He knew every potential witness in the neighborhood by first and last name and he knew their hopes and dreams. Dolton had gotten the total execution time down to under sixty seconds. This had taken several dozen practice runs in his basement all while listening to the cassette single of ‘Runaway Train’ by Soul Asylum on repeat.

He had dressed the part, too. No one would call him faggot wearing his grandpa’s WWII Navy outfit. And that was exactly the point. He wasn’t a faggot. Yet Jerold Hulger, the teenager from across the street had spray-painted a message stating the contrary on Dolton’s door. Dolton observed this brazen act in the middle of a Saturday afternoon from his window while he was enjoying his elaborate train set in the attic. Dolton lived by himself, off of the insurance money from the death of his mother, so the message had to have been intended for him.

He had avoided the boy for years after Jerold once showed him his box of knives that he kept in the garage for the inevitable Chinese invasion. But his avoidance was mostly because he felt he knew too much and didn’t want to be implicated when he got the chance to switch allegiance to his new Chinese overlords. In reality, Dolton had a crippling fear of the world and everyone in it - especially of those that rode BMXs, had girlfriends, and spray-painted graffiti on peoples’ houses.

He hadn’t been outside since his mother’s death. His groceries were delivered to his front porch. At night when he would go to sleep he would cry, not out of grief but out of a sense of the depth of suffering and fright that plagued every direction outside of his house all the way around the globe back to his front door. Now even his door was not safe.

“I am not a faggot,” he reassured himself one last time before he set his clock for 3 a.m., cried, and then fell asleep. When the alarm went off Dolton fluidly got out of bed, retrieved his grandpa’s hunting knife from the lock box and braced himself at the front door. He surveyed the neighborhood for activity - loose dogs; wandering drunks. It was all clear. Dolton burst out of the front door, sprinting, his kerchief ends flapping flamboyantly in the breeze. He ran up the stoop to the Hulgers' front door and unsheathed the knife. He engraved the words, "Kilroy was here" in half-inch letters while violently mumbling “This is for grandpa!” and “Who’s the faggot now?”

After he finished he turned to prance back home. He had been so focused on executing what he’d practiced that he didn’t notice the car approaching. It nearly hit him as he ran out into the middle of the street, then froze – caught in the headlights. The car stopped and the police officer inside squinted at Dolton for quite awhile trying to take in the shaky, knife-wielding man-boy in an antique sailor’s uniform. Finally Dolton sneezed, regained his composure, and completed the run.

Dolton scramble into his house fifteen feet from where the police officer watched, confused. No lights came on in the house. The police officer eventually shook his head and drove off. After the neighborhood was still once again a faint noise could be heard:

"Runaway Train, never going back
Wrong way, on a one way track
Feels like I should be getting somewhere,
Somehow I'm neither here nor there"


  1. i rel8 too much to dolton. this made me cry.

  2. I can't help thinking every story is a reference to some sort of high school or junior high calamity from 1995-2001 that I never heard about.


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