Being There

By Chella Courington

She had not seen a train pass through the town in years, yet she lived on the outskirts and could easily be wrong as she often miscalculated anything bound by a schedule. Time to her was a fixed concept easily eluded if one were concerned with other things like filling pages for a novel or thumbing through Franny and Zooey for inspiration. She could sit in her bed, computer on lap, and click words into existence without noticing the sun had come and gone multiple times when she walked to the kitchen for a peanut butter sandwich and found an empty jar among banana peels. The Amtrak could have blown its whistle every day, maybe three or four times, rushing over the rails, such as they were, and she would not have heard it. But now she wanted to go somewhere, leave her characters alone to settle their own snarky problems.

She went to the station. A one-room brick house with a toilet in the back. The stationmaster said it used to be an outhouse with a deep hole and a tub of lye to smother the smell. “Perfectly enclosed, of course.” But with the 21st century came porta potties. Somehow the town’s Amtrak still seemed behind, but he assured her otherwise. And he was a modern-enough looking man with his black pants and red vest, though his glasses reminded her of John Lennon. Round wire rims. “We have a train coming through today at 4 p.m.” His table heaped with spreadsheets, some marked with coffee stains, he asked if she wanted a ticket. “Not now,” she said.

At home, she changed into a pair of gray leggings with a black top long enough to cover her butt, sadly surrendering to gravity. Avocado leaves scraped against the window as wind blew several avocados to ground. Filling a basket with them, she returned to the depot and sat on a wooden bench. She spent the afternoon waiting to hand anyone who passed a dark green fruit. But without the train, there were no passengers. So she placed the avocados in a line on the seats and left to see what her characters had worked out.


Chella Courington is a writer and teacher with a Ph.D. in American and British Literature and an MFA in Poetry. Her poetry and fiction appear or are forthcoming in numerous anthologies and journals including SmokeLong Quarterly, The Collagist, and The Los Angeles Review. Originally from the Appalachian South, Courington lives in California with another writer and two cats (

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