Townsend Vignette

Harold Townsend was throwing flipping his pencil. His shift was over in about an hour. Then he’d get to go home and sleep. But fuck night shifts. He’d get home. Then kiss his wife goodbye as she went to work. Because she, for some reason had wanted a house on the outskirts of town. An hours walk from the station. He guessed he could play with the kids and walk them to school. Harold looked at his watch, five minutes before the inbound munitions train. Thirty minutes until the passenger train from the Medway. Who wants to ride a train overnight anyways? What’s wrong with these people.

“Harry? The munitions train has it’s own loaders right? I always get scared loading the explosives.” Myrtle had walked in without Harold noticing.

She was a beautiful woman. Nineteen years old and had been working here for six months after it came out in her Army training that she had Asthma. And for five months now he’d been having an affair with her. It’s not that he hated his wife, it’s just they never had time for intimacy. Between their schedules and the kids, they were never really alone. At least that’s what he told himself. He did sometimes fantasize about running away with Myrtle sometimes.


Harold shook his head, “Yeah Myrtle. They’ve got about forty people…” Harold looked Myrtle up and down, “I’m feeling a bit… You know… How about we have a tumble at your apartment after work? I can tell my wife I needed to stay late.”

Myrtle blushed, “I was thinking we could do it in one of-” She was interrupted by an impact.

“What the hell was that?” Harold got up and looked outside. There was a flaming train impacted in the rear wall of the station, with some of it’s cars laying across the tracks. Harold’s eyes widened as he noticed the numbers on the train. It was the munitions train. It’s brakes must have failed. And it was loaded with explosives. And as soon as those explosives went off, They’d catch the shells on the platform, then blow the munitions warehouse a block over. He turned around, “Myrtle. Get everyone you can onto the two trains on the outbound tracks and get out of here.”

“What’s happening?”

“This whole stations gonna blow. You and everyone else here will die unless you get the trains out of here.”

“But what about you Harry?”

“I need to send a warning to the fire department. I’ll get on the train when it’s leaving…” Harold paused, ran to the telegraph, and started tapping a message, “GET OUT OF HERE! Leave me. I’m sorry.”

Myrtle nodded and ran out, screaming for everyone to get on the trains. Harold finished tapping out his message and ran to the set the alarm. After no message was received, he repeated his message. He started whispering the Lord’s Prayer. By the time the message was acknowledged, Harold was shouting his prayer. He looked up at the station. The two trains Myrtle filled were gone. The platform was clear of people. Harold Townsend smiled a last smile.

The sixty seven people at the station were evacuated. The train carrying four hundred people was stopped in time. Saved by Harold Townsend’s telegraph message “SF STATION EXPLOSION IMMINENT HALT TRAINS SENDING EVAC ON TRACKS ONE AND TWO.” The blast at the station leveled the industrial district of Strongfield. About four thousand were killed in the blast, with thousands more injured. Harold Townsend and Myrtle Stark would get a monument at the rebuilt train station. His wife would receive a full government pension. Myrtle Stark would be given placement at the University of Strongfield and became a silent movie star after the war, but suffered from nightmares about the event for the rest of her life.


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