Where are They Now: The Little Engine that Could

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With his mantra of “I think I can, I think I can…” The Little Engine that Could, real name Percival Baldwin, became an eternal part of children’s literature after scaling a mountain through sheer determination and belief in himself.

Once receiving that inspirational taste of victory, however, the other side of the mountain proved to be all downhill for Baldwin as his aspirations began to overreach his bounds.

The failures at first meant relatively little to the train. He thought he could grab a coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts. He thought he could feed the seagulls at the beach. He thought he could learn the dance-based Afro-Brazilian martial art capoeira. Alas, none of these dreams came to be.

It is a short relationship with a yellow Corvette that many saw pushed Baldwin over the edge. It was once of those chance meetings—each at a crossroads in their lives—and soon became a whirlwind romance. Baldwin dreamed of finally settling down; maybe having some little green cabooses running around the trainyard. Unfortunately, word soon came that his beloved Corvette had been fooling around with a Hummer behind his stack, believing Baldwin was “always too straightforward.”

Enraged, Baldwin called a press conference to denounce the morals of his story.

“You think I’m so great because I pulled a load over a mountain,” he said. “Well whoop-de-do; I’m a train! That’s what I do! And, I’ve come to discover, it’s all I freakin’ can do! You all cheer  and crap and then you go away and forget about me while I’m stuck on these tracks. I can only go where they lead; I have no other cho—hey! Don’t move my mike away! You just wait until you step in front of me; you’ll have to someday! I’ll remember your face!”

In the ensuing public relations nightmare for his company, Baldwin was decommissioned. He was last seen roaming the country’s tracks serving as a mobile church for extreme Calvinists.

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Romance Stories Written by a Virgin: Pinnacle of Passion

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(This one’s lighthearted again. Promise)

“This is it,” she said. “The place where all the magic is supposed to happen.”

Half of a chuckle escaped his throat; the rest firmly held in place by nerves. “I guess it makes sense,” he said, turning back toward the sweeping vista of the island and out to the sparkling ocean beyond. His peripheral vision, however, caught the tips of her long, dark hair, riding upon the warm breezes, and he could not help but follow the flowing trails back to her smooth, bright face.

“So it’s really true?” she asked. “You’ve never…”

“I haven’t,” he said, giving a dismissive shrug. “And this is your first time–”

“Yeah…” She shifted her weight to one foot and scratched her ankle with the other. “We’re sort of both dying breeds.”

He nodded, another chuckle escaping more freely. “You could say that. So, well… how do you want to go about this?”

Pinches of pink turned up on her cheeks. “I kind of came up earlier and picked out a spot.” She pointed. “I know it takes two for this, but I was hoping you wouldn’t mind.”

“No, no,” he said. “That looks perfect! At least as far as I know.” He gave a lopsided smile.

She sighed in relief. “Thanks. You’ve been so wonderful. I… I’m glad my first time is with you…”

“Hey, there’s nothing to worry about,” he said, hesitantly reaching out to touch her shoulder as they walked to the spot. Gaining courage when she didn’t retaliate, he gave it a reassuring squeeze. “Honestly, it’s probably going to go a lot quicker than either of us imagine.”

It was her turn to chuckle as she turned and hugged him. “Are you ready?”

“Yes,” he said after a long breath. “I’m already so warm…”

“It’s part of the experience,” she said softly, drawing out to hold his shoulders at arm’s length before looking up to the sky.

“Oh, Great Goddess Mala of the Harvest and the Flame,” she boomed. “We mortals have finally acknowledged your long-forgotten power again and so humbly beg you to reveal it again with an end to our famines and blights! We honor our pact to you in offering of this strong, male virgin for which we had to scour the ends of the earth! We offer his spirit as a prodigal tribe who seeks not to stray again! Mala be praised!”

With a firm shove, he toppled backward over the lip of the volcano and disappeared from view. She took a deep breath, straightened her sacrificial robe and turned to leave when a faint sound caught her attention above the bubblings and hissings of the nearby lava pit.

“Ow…”

She peeked over the edge of the chasm and gasped as she spotted him lying on his back on a ledge, jutting out from the inner wall of the volcano about 10 feet down.

“Oh, crap! I’m so sorry, I never looked down there to check!”

“It’s OK…” he moaned. “Your first time…”

“Can… can you move?”

He wiggled his limbs. “Agh, yeah… Think so…”

“I’m really sorry! Can you just sort of… roll off?”

“Yeah… No problem…”

“Thanks again, so much. You really are the best!”

They stared at each other for a few more seconds before he suggested she probably leave so he could finish his plunge into the lava. She gave a smiled and agreed, but as they parted ways they both knew the moment had grown awkward.

Romance Stories Written by a Virgin: A Pinpoint of Passion

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She eased into the chair beside him. They had placed him to face out the large window of the community room, and by his locked gaze forward it was hard to imagine he was nearly blind to the snow lazily falling outside.

He was near-deaf as well, so saying anything wouldn’t be very effective. But ever since she had arrived at the home, she had never seen him act out like the others, or complain, or refuse to eat or just generally be stubborn like so many others there. He just seemed to be content sitting, almost as if waiting for something.

She hesitated a moment, then reached out and set her hand upon his. She could detect the faintest flexing of muscles beneath her fingertips as he closed his eyes.

<>

He was 22. A few girlfriends had crossed his path, but left after he made a mistake or they just didn’t find him interesting enough. No major concern, though. He had college to concentrate on, and once he graduated and found his path, a relationship would just come naturally.

He was 34. He listened to his co-workers congratulate one of the interns on her engagement. His prime had passed him, he realized at that moment, but it was all right. There were still years ahead of him to find someone; start a family. The right one just hadn’t come yet, but she would; his friends were confident of that. He was too nice to pass up, they always said, and he couldn’t just spite them all by enjoying that great singles freedom for the rest of his life, right? He smiled and joined the group.

He was 49. The prostate surgery went well; the cancer was gone. But as careful as the surgeons could be, there was still some nerve damage. “It’s OK,” he kept telling the nurses with a sharp grin and wave of his hand. “You don’t use it, you lose it.” The other patient in his room was sent home that night, thankfully, so he could take a night to cry without shame. He was sent home several days later with a better outlook. Sex was a fading ember with people around his age, anyway. Companionship was still possible. That’s what mattered.

He was 61. His co-workers were congratulating him on his retirement. He smiled and nodded his thanks, holding down his desire to scream. They made him retire early. Budget cuts required fresh, lower-salaried meat, and all the extra loyalty and dedication he had to funnel into his career ultimately proved worthless. As they set a pocketwatch in his hand, he briefly thought of strangling his boss with the chain. When he came home that night, he set it beside his bed.

He was 75. His trouser legs rolled up, he combed the beach with a metal detector as he commonly did, to fill the time. He found a golden band sticking out of the sand once. Took it home and cleaned it with the utmost care, then put out a newspaper ad for it. When no one responded, he considered taking it to the police, but something inside him made him set it beside his pocketwatch instead.

He was found at 84; sunburned and dehydrated, lying in the sand. He didn’t know how long he had been there. He couldn’t tell them his address. When they discovered his home, they found decay and deterioration; forgotten mail and food. He was ruled incapable of living independently anymore. There was no family to contact. Only one person at his old workplace recognized his name. He was admitted into the state-run home. They placed the pocketwatch and ring on his bedstand. Occasionally an aide would ask him if it had been his wife’s. When he was lucid enough, he lied.

<>

Now he was 89. When able, he would think back to his youth and his dreams of having someone to be faithful to. He had tried — at least he believed — as hard as everyone else, but in the end time and circumstance had always bested him; removed his pieces one by one from the board until only he was left, and they took pieces of that, too. Like a fool, he had glossed each loss over with compromise until finally, his world a hazy, vague miasma, his core had been chipped away to one single point:

I wish someone would hold my hand.

He never turned his head, but she could feel his hand turning over; rough, worn fingers slipping between her own before closing in a firm, warm grasp.

She squeezed back.

He was 22 again.

Startup

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Welcome to Latshaw Loses It, a blog where I, Tim Latshaw, intend to get back into writing as fun and hopefully provide something worthy for others to read in the process.

I’ve grown up always writing for amusement in at least some regard. Many examples of the kind of stuff I’m talking about can be found on myDeviantART page. I picked up journalism in college and have gone on to become a reporter and editor, but over time I feel my outside writing effort has faded some as I’ve concentrated more on the style of my profession; hence this blog.

I intend to use this blog to post regular writing of various types, from small stories to satire of current events to possibly even some simple musings on my personal life. We’ll see how it goes, and maybe I can keep it categorized.

By the way, I also enjoy writing video game reviews and related items for UGTV.ca. If you enjoy such stuff, you can often find my work there.