I love trains, the slow local and the 200-mile-an-hour express. I have traveled on all sorts of trains over the years. As a child I fled westward from the advancing Soviet army with my family atop an ammunition transport.
There was the old steam engine chugging from Dubrovnik to Sarajevo on a narrow-gauge rail line with village women carrying chickens and lugging baskets of farm produce.
My face was soot-smeared with coal dust blowing in through the open windows.
I have shivered in air-conditioned compartments and perspired next to antiquated radiators. I have savored sumptuous meals in elegant dining cars and munched on snacks on wooden commuter benches. Decades ago, on a trip from Stuttgart to Istanbul I bedded down in a luggage rack strung like a hammock above the compartment seats. And once in a sleeper from London to Glasgow, I was awakened with morning tea.
A whistle, a hooting, and the wheels begin to sing on tracks that look like ladders stretched end to end along the ground. In Ukraine a station master in a red cap motioned with his hand signal as we passed through his little town, a herd of sheep on the left, an onion-shaped church steeple on the right. An elegant lady wrapped in fur stepped down from a first-class car in Turku, Finland. And in Italy students jumped onto the caboose of our departing train in the nick of time.
Chicken Soup Ice Cream
She met him at an international student exchange.
He was German—not her first choice. But he was dark and subdued, unlike the Brazilians who talked too much and ran their eyes over every woman in the room.
“Hello. I’m Sharon,” she said.
He stood up. “My name is Hans.”
They drank plastic cups of fruit punch and communicated in simple English phrases until it was time to go, and then Hans grew agitated.
“Will you … can I … “ he began, fighting the language.
“All right,” Sharon said.
She wanted to see a movie but his English wasn’t good enough.
They went for ice cream instead.
“In Germany,” he said, “We have an ice cream shop that sells every flavor in the world … even chicken soup ice cream.”
187 entries were received! Winners were selected by John Givens.
Contest Judge John Givens teaches fiction writing workshops in Dublin. He got his MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, studied art and language in Kyoto and worked in Tokyo as a writer and editor. Givens has published three novels in the United States and a collection of short stories in Ireland. His stories have appeared in literary journals in the US, Asia and Europe.
FIRST PRIZE (20 euro): Chris Minton SECOND PRIZE (10 euro): Kate Raynes THIRD PRIZE (5 euro): Petra McQueen