The Freight Train: by Dave Moores

Excerpt from his best selling novel ATTITUDE.

Published by MiddleRoad Publishers

Lyle desperately needs to find Laura. Her best friend Darlene may know something. She’s at volleyball practice

Lyle couldn’t bear to wait on this any longer. During the phone calls, horrid visions of what might be happening to Laura kept surfacing. He tried to push them aside but they wouldn’t go away. Idiot! How could he have wasted a whole afternoon hanging out at Garth’s? The need to know if Laura was alright had become a fire alarm jangling in his head.

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 Volleyball practice for the Southmead Storm girls’ rep team would be at the school gym. Mom wouldn’t take him, no point asking. He’d have to ride his bike. Really, dipshit,? Three kilometres on snow-covered roads? Walk instead? It was already past seven and he needed to get there. So it was bike or nothing.

Lyle shrugged on the parka and mitts he wore for mornings waiting on the school bus in the frigid darkness. He headed for the back door. “Mom, gotta go out, forget supper,” he yelled, slammed the door without waiting for an answer, ran to the garage and grabbed his bike. 

Dad had got it for him, a mountain bike with knobbly tires, not long before he went away. It could handle the winter roads in a pinch, but was hardly ideal transport at this hour, lacking lights.

A bitter night, no wind for once. No moon either. Instead, an endless canopy of stars, enough to light the way as Lyle’s eyes adjusted. The spectacle caught his attention and brought to mind a TV program about galaxies and the Big Bang and stuff. Here it all was, right there above him, and for a moment the reality of it was almost scary. Here he was, biking across the flatlands by the light of a billion suns. Sorta awesome, he’d have to tell Garth about it, the little nerd got off on that kind of thing. Then images of Laura being used by Brad and Mitch returned and eclipsed the majesty of the Universe.

A couple of vehicles passed going his way but nobody stopped to offer a ride. Which they could have, a pickup and an SUV after all. Lyle didn’t care, he could do this, was going to do this. A hard knot of purpose had formed. Wheeling through the freezing darkness, he’d embraced a mission. The women he cared about needed help and he would find a way to bring it. And right then, his distress about being the not-totally-up-to-the-task younger brother fell away, no longer shadowing him like an unwelcome revenant. It felt strange, yet free, and he pedalled on.

The deep insistent drumming of a locomotive sounded across the fields. Lyle approached the railway crossing. His leg muscles had begun to burn but time was short and the approaching train would be one of those mile-long freights that took forever to pass. He stood up on the pedals and made all deliberate speed toward the tracks. The air started vibrating.

No problem, he’d make it with a good hundred meters to spare. He sped up to the crossing, the locomotive’s siren deep and urgent in his ears. The barriers had come down and the red lights flashed a warning. No problem again, a quick zig around the barriers and he’d be by. 

The train’s headlight was a staring white eye getting big. The bike’s front wheel hit a skim of ice and Lyle slammed down hard, sprawling. The siren sounded staccato, urgent blasts. Lyle’s left leg got hooked through the bike’s frame and it was taking way too long to drag it free. The train had become a child’s nightmare monster bent on ending his life but in the final panicked moments Lyle managed to free his leg and scrabble, like some crabwise crawling thing, across the last rail. He barely had time to twist around and watch the locomotive thunder past, shaking the ground.

Every part of him felt like jello. His leg hurt bad. Freight cars rumbled by, that close, stirring up gusts of cold air. The bike was gone.

On the yacht Jackdaw. There’s a storm coming.

Extract from the novel WINDWARD LEGS. Copyright Dave Moores and Middleroad Publishers.

A flick of lightning lanced down in the middle distance. Oh, here we go, Alice said to herself. She felt a clutch in her stomach.  No use wishing they were safely tied to the dock. This thing was coming for them and would arrive long before they could make harbour.

“You all saw that, right?” she said. “We’re only a couple of minutes from the windward mark and then we’ll be heading back towards the shore anyway. I suggest we keep racing, but if anyone wants to turn around right now, just say, and we will. No discussion.” So strongly did she believe this that she didn’t even consider asking Mr O.

They turned to him anyway. He stared right back.

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“Your skipper asked you a question, why are you looking at me?” 

Thanks Mr O, she thought, much appreciated.

“I’m good,” said Marcus.

“I’m good,” said Derek.

“Go for it, we’re good here,” called Joss, from the rail. Teenagers: immortal of course.

She had one last question. “If it gets crazy, which sail do we drop first on these boats?” 

“The jib for sure.” answered Mr O, as they arrived at the windward mark.

Once around it, Jackdaw was sailing downwind with the mainsail out to one side as far as it would go, the wind pushing them from behind. 

The storm swept in fast, really fast. Spooky-looking skeins of pale cloud rolled in beneath the darkening overcast. A draft of chilled air felt like somebody opening a freezer door. Lightning strobed in the clouds, making deep booms Alice could feel in her chest. So far the wind was manageable, gusts showing up to thirty knots on the display. You’d have to be crazy to even think about hoisting the spinnaker.

Back at the mark, Tomahawk rounded with Fang right behind. Tomahawk was trying to reef his mainsail, a tough go with the boom way out to the side. The crew were screaming at each other and the sail flapped like crazy. Then the wind exploded it with a crack like gunfire, leaving shards of sailcloth fluttering from the mast. 

“He should’a done it when we did, you were right!” shouted Derek over the roaring wind and rush of water past the hull. 

 The tiller was kicking and pulling in Alice’s hand as Jackdaw careered along, rolling from side to side and barely under control. It was hard work, like driving a car without power steering. 

“Chas, can you come down?” she called, “I need a hand on the helm here.” She wasn’t sure why she’d chosen him, could be the smiley face and the mop of straw-coloured curls. It was tight quarters in her little steerer’s cockpit and he had to squeeze in next to her. She noticed the heft and warmth of his hard young man’s body. 

“Follow my movements, okay?” He gave a nod and a thumbs up and in seconds they had it together. They were side-by-side, he had an arm around her waist to brace them, and the other hand on the tiller next to hers. They weren’t fighting each other for control and it felt as if he knew her movements before she made them. She turned to gaze into his earnest young face. “You’ve sailed with a tiller before, right? I can tell.”

“A few times, yeh.” 

Good boy, more than a few, she suspected.


Dave Moores: Author profile

Dave Moores

Raised in Bristol, UK, Dave Moores secured  a place at Cambridge University where he took a degree in Philosophy. Since prospects for a lucrative career as a philosopher were non-existent, Dave’s interests quickly took a hard turn away from liberal arts to technology, resulting in a Diploma in Electronic Engineering from British Aerospace College. His inclination to write was sparked soon after by a short story contest in the industry journal Airframe. The entry, a science-fiction piece, didn’t win but received publication.

Marriage, the arrival of offspring and, in due course, migration to Canada, took writing off the table. Along the way, Dave’s career spanned the domain of information technology, culminating in the position of Chief Systems Architect in a major high-Tech corporation.

Dave has long enjoyed a passion for competitive sailboat racing. One evening after a race, his crew of spirited ladies suggested he write a story based on their adventures and personal anecdotes. The writing gene was reactivated and the result was Windward Legs, set in the sailing milieu of Ontario’s Golden Horseshoe and much enjoyed by the sailing crowd.

Dave’s preference, both in reading and writing, favours narratives that keep the pages turning. He’s a big believer in one of Elmore Leonard’s Ten Rules for Writers: If it sounds like “Writing,” rewrite it.

Dave’s novel Attitude, a Young Adult story is published by Middleroad Publishers. His third, Sparkles and Karim, set in Iraq during the ISIS incursions, is coming along.

Dave lives in Oakville, Ontario with his wife Chris. 

Dave Moores is the author of:

Windward Legs (2021)