Trains, Planes, and Wishes #AtoZChallenge

#AtoZChallenge April 23, 2018. Trains, Planes, and Wishes

trains, planes, and wishes. atozchallenge. www.cherylsterlingbooks.comTwilight resident Terri Little learns the hard way to be careful what you wish for in Trains, Planes, and Wishes.



26 posts. 26 days. And 26 letters of the alphabet, one post beginning with each letter, in April.

Follow me as we visit the not-quite-normal retirement village of Twilight, Arizona, where reality clashes with the unexplained.

Trains, Planes, and Wishes

“Shh. Shh. Wait a minute. Wait a minute.”

Terri Little strained to hear her neighbor’s warning. Fighter jets flew overhead, drowning out her words and rattling the ice tea glasses on the patio table.

Laura Evans tracked the sound, her blue eyes scanning the cloudless Arizona sky. As the twin jets circled to the north and their rumble rolled off the flat valley surrounding the retirement village of Twilight, she lowered a cautioning hand then nodded.

“They’re practicing for the air show next month.”

“Damn planes.” Terri popped an ice-cold grape into her mouth and crunched down, the juice refreshing in the late April heat. “They never told me it would be so loud here.”

“I can’t believe your realtor didn’t tell you about being so close to Luke Air Force Base.” The third member of their group, Amy Zimmerman, a realtor herself, picked up her glass of ice tea and waved it in the air like a bandleader’s baton. “It’s a standard document.”

“It’s miles from here,” Terri said, trying to defend her misunderstanding of the paper she’d signed along with dozens of others. Knowledge the base existed didn’t translate to planes going up in twos and threes all day long as fighter pilots from around the world practiced taking off and landing. If she had known, she might have thought twice about purchasing a condo unit in the area.

“I don’t mind the planes so much as the trains,” Laura said with a wrinkle of her nose. “Sometimes, they sound like they’ll come right through the living room.”

“Amen to that.” Terri reached for another grape. Her new neighbors had welcomed her to Twilight Palms with an enormous fruit basket brimming with local produce. Amy had added orange marmalade, made from area trees, she’d bought at a flea market.

“Did you ever notice all the trains have the same whistle?” Amy asked.

“They do?” Terri hadn’t notice anything other than their loudness and their unpredictable schedule. The 11:15 p.m. train might rush through at 11:28 or 10:45. A dozen times a day, an engine and as many as a hundred cars rumbled across the tracks two blocks away.

Amy nodded. “The conductor always blows two long blasts, one short, and one more long. Why do you think that is?”

Terri shrugged. She’d grown up on the quiet Kansas plains with the nearest town and railroad five miles away. How she wished she’d moved back instead of this noisy place, but she’d burned those bridges forty years earlier.

“Must be a code or something,” Laura added.

Terri opened her mouth to ask what code train conductors would need when she heard the ding-ding-ding of the gates closing at the railroad crossing and the sound of an oncoming train.

“Speak of the devil,” she said with a nod of her head.

“I have to get home anyway,” Laura said as she stood. “Tom’s taking me to the movies.”

Terri thanked her neighbors and carried the fruit basket inside as the sixth train of the day roared past.

She dropped the basket on the counter and covered her ears.

“Lord, I’d give anything not to hear that every day.”

* * *

Something woke her in the middle of the night. She sat straight up in bed and glanced around the bedroom, but saw nothing. Then she heard it—the blast of a train’s whistle, far off, two long, a short, another long. It rumbled through the Arizona night, the sound intensifying as it neared. In disharmony came the overhead roar of jets flying night maneuvers.

Terri rose from her bed and opened her back door. She tracked the twin lights of the fighter jets, circling from north to south. The train barreled through the intersection, and the pavement under her bare feet shook with the combined force.

After long minutes, the sounds subsided. Angry, trembling, Terri stepped inside, mumbling the same wish over and over.

“Lord, I’d give anything not to hear that every day.”


Sunlight streamed in her bedroom window. Terri stretched and reached for her phone.

I must have forgotten to set the alarm last night.

She punched up the app and squinted at the numbers. Six-fourteen, one minute before it was due to go off. As she touched the screen to disable it, the phone jumped in her hand, the vibration sizzling up her arm.

Had she muted the sound? She fumbled with the volume control, watching the bar slide to the right even as the instrument continued to vibrate.

“Cheap phone.” She tossed it on the bed and stood.

From the corner of her eye she saw the garbage truck pass as it did on Monday and Thursday mornings.

It didn’t make a sound.

Her heart shuddered inside her chest. With a growing panic, she raised her hand and snapped her fingers next to her ear.

It didn’t make a sound.

She clapped her hands, pounded on the wall, and screamed.

As the silence consumed her, she remembered the last words she’d said.

“Lord, I’d give anything not to hear that every day.”

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Thank you so much!

Twilight, Arizona, all the stories now available on Amazon

“Fly” over to Amazon and buy the complete Twilight volume.

Don’t want to wait until April 30th to read all twenty-six Twilight stories. For a limited time, they are available on Amazon for 99¢. From Arizona Heat to One-Zero-Zero, read and enjoy twenty-six stories set in the strange retirement community of Twilight, Arizona.

Purchase here:

Tomorrow’s #AtoZChallenge April 24, 2018 Under the Shade of a Thin Tree

Nothing is more coveted in the Arizona sun more than a parking spot in the shade.

Until then, blessings,


p.s. Laura Evans also appeared in Llama Drama, and will be in April 26th post, Water, Water, Everywhere

Amy Zimmerman appears in Arizona Heat, and Quick Sale Realty. and in the upcoming One-Zero-Zero on April 30th.

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  1. Pingback: One-Double-Zero a supernatural short story celebrating a 100th birthday

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