St. Patty’s Day train ride

Thanks for the feedback on the last entry, those who posted and those who messaged me. When I ask for feedback, I’m asking for what Brooke offered by telling me what the piece was lacking and where she thought I could move forward; I’m not asking to hear how awesome I am. 🙂 Constructive criticism is win, so give me some.


You’re on the red line subway in Boston, Charles/MGH stop heading south. Green surrounds you, sparkly from hats or shiny on pins or soft on jersey-knit shirts or fluffy on toy leprechauns. It’s St. Patty’s day. For some reason, Irish pride shoves this Joyce line in your head: Ireland, they say, has the honor of being the only country which never persecuted the Jews. Do you know why? Because she never let them in!

The train lurches ahead going slower than normal, but that’s to be expected today. You’re going to the parade, and they say that even the real Irish come over to Boston for this. To be honest, you really expected the train to be a little more full.

You pull into Park Street unaware. Really, you should’ve known. This is like a Red Sox night; the Green line bears most of the burden. You look up from your thoughts. You’re submerged in a sea of green people.

Crack a joke about Tokyo, little Japanese karate masters with white gloves politely cramming you like sardines into the train. You know a girl teaching English in Japan, glad to be away from home.

Your mind goes back to Ulysses. He was in Dante; he tried to do what man just can’t do, tried to climb the mountain that man, without manna, cannot climb. He failed and fell.

Propose a thought experiment. Your mind goes dark places when you let it. Your girlfriend is embarrassed for you, but this is legitimate: imagine that you’re not going to the parade; imagine that you’re afraid, that you’re in Germany and that everyone around you knows just like you know where this train is going, or maybe not where, to be precise.

Imagine panic. It drains the blood from the white faces around you, shreds the atonal wails, broken only by the staccato of the men with the guns, few in number but enough to slaughter the lot of you, at least the majority of you; then, when the bullet cases are done hitting the ground, who will be left of the resistance?

No, you file into the train. The cabin is rank with stale sweat, but soon it will be urine. Soon children will lose control, then the adults. It will stink not just of body fluids. Someone will die because they won’t be able to breathe. The people around them will try to shuffle away through the crowd, and the people they shuffle past will let them, not knowing what new company they’ll have.

The walls are painted now with blood from fingernails that have ripped themselves against grooves. The doors are locked; the train is moving; the air is still, refuses to circulate, to become clean. All is stagnant.

Already a part of your humanity is lost. Already you’re afraid, clinging to your instincts to save you in this strange place, this strange time, to save you from this deadly peril. Some maintain through religion or stoicism, but that will all go away, too, under the tyranny of the camp. The metal rods and the senseless killings and the food rations and the showers; it will all strip away what you had just moments ago, moments ago when all you had ripping at your then-stable psyche was fractured wails. Now there’s the copper smell of blood, the fingernails stuck in the grooves. Soon it will be worse.

But no, the thought is ridiculous. You’re on your way to the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in south Boston where the police will march, but they’re not going to arrest you. They’re not the ones who shuttled you onto this train. It’s not the same bureaucratic instinct that leads them to form lines with their concrete barricades that leads you away from the train and led Jews to the train. Let the experiment go. Celebrate.


Where I’m thinking about going with this piece:

American feeling towards bankers was German feeling towards Jews, coupled with anti-Semitism left over from Middle Ages. Write up scene involving American rhetoric against bankers during 2009 economic crisis, switch bankers with Jews. Point is to re-humanize the German forces; un-PC, I know.

German Holocaust as related to meat-packing industry

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Author: Greg Freed


5 thoughts on “St. Patty’s Day train ride

  1. When I came to Boston I told you that reading this piece made me want to cut my wrists and cry in a corner. Obviously you took my advice and decided that due to its dark and hopeless nature, no human being should ever read this story.

  2. Last time I am getting on a subway…and here I always thought that it would be because of my OCD! Your writing gave a really good visual, and I agree with Mani.

  3. I like this one. Good comparisons brought out by the poem.
    two things: maybe pick out one person/family on the subway and describe them specifically, describe what they do when the chaos arises.
    second – paragraph 7 – It drains the blood from the white faces around you.
    It makes white faces white? Shouldn’t you say it drains the blood from the flushed faces around you?

  4. Hmmmmmm…

    I still struggle at being a person to comment on the writing of others. I go to a writing group, here on the outskirts of East Hickington, and I struggle to do more than just sit and listen when others are reading or commenting.

    Lemme try this…

    How awesome you am!


    Actually, I do agree with the comment about picking out a person. There’s something a little too “in your head” about it. Racing internal monologue that seems a little more detached from external specifics than it could be. There are a lot of broad specifics, to be sure. Experiment with focusing on an individual or two instead of people and things broadly. One particular Jew, one particular Nazi, one particular fingernail, one particular pool of blood, or one particular pile of excrement.

    Maybe it all fits if I look at it as how everyone was depersonalized in order to get into those Nazi trains?

    I like the idea of re-humanizing the German forces. Judgment (i.e. in the “it’s just evil” category) hurts human understanding… even of evil. Never stop learning. I like the idea of re-humanizing bankers, too… even if they don’t deserve it. 🙂

    This reminds me of some of the German self-defense espoused in the film “Judgment at Nuremberg”.

    Good enough?

    I’m more open by typing, to begin with…

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