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21 February 2017 @ 12:36 pm
LJ Idol Season Ten: "Streetcar Scoundrels"  
Streetcar Scoundrels
idol season ten | week nine | 708 words
The Trolley Problem

x-x-x-x-x

The problem wasn't just the trolleys parked on the sidetracks after dark. Those mouthy ones, who clanged their bells at skirts and smoked the newspapers riders left behind? That bunch was trouble, and everyone knew it.

But it was bigger than that, much more widespread. Cities everywhere had trolleys, and anyone who thought their little downtown darlings were better behaved than the tourist-trade riff-raff was kidding themselves.

The breed itself was flawed.

Maybe it was the electricity, scrambling the brain and eventually taking its toll. After too many years on the rails, there was nothing left but a hum between the wheels and a never-ending thirst for the juice. Or it might just be the restlessness trolleys were prey to, with every line and circuit lit up and buzzing with the burning need to go somewhere new.

Either way, the results were inexcusable.

There were reports of trolleys marauding the streets in packs, spoiling for a fight. They would cluster at intersections waiting for delivery trucks to approach, and then lunge at them. The trucks might be crushed, or just shaken enough to spill their loads across the roadway. Afterward, the trolleys would slink back to their byways and depots, their destructive urges sated until the next time.

They were too smart to pull those pranks in broad daylight, of course. Anyone who claimed to have witnessed the nocturnal hunting expeditions was dismissed as drunk or crazy.

The trolleys didn't take well to strangers, either. Every year or so, a new streetcar would be added to the line. After dark, the other trolleys would gather around it, jeering:
     "Well, now, would you look at this?"

         "Just who does he think he is, with his fancy paint and polished brass?"

              "We're gonna knock some of that shine right offa him!"

City officials always blamed the damage on vandals. Everyone knew the downtown area was rife with crime.

A few of the trolleys were more dangerous and unbalanced than most. They would run their routes for months—years, even—acting solid and reliable, and then one day pedestrians would step into their paths and the cars would mow them down. The trolley conductors claimed they had done everything possible to stop the cars, and accident investigators always decided that the trolley's brakes had failed.

The other streetcars knew better. They called it going rogue.

Once trolleys developed a taste for attacking humans, they rarely got past it. They all hated humans to begin with—the way people stomped and scuffed with their dirty shoes, or spilled their food and sticky beverages on the floor, or banged the poles with their briefcases and luggage. Once in a while, someone (usually a child) would offer that rare praise of, "Oh, what a pretty trolley!" But usually, trolleys were the means to an end—reaching a destination, or an experience to be felt and then checked off the list.

A rogue streetcar would start racking up incidents like a two-bit robber on a Mom & Pop corner-store spree, and eventually it would be deemed too hazardous to keep on the line.

Rogue streetcars were decommissioned. It was their fate.

The trolley would be loaded onto a flatbed and driven away, never to be seen again. But that didn't stop rumors.

Some said the cars were stripped down to bare metal and rendered scrap to be melted into something new—stepstools, shovel heads, toilet handles, toy airplanes for tourists, or any number of unimaginable things. Others said that was ridiculous, and that the cars were probably dumped in scrapyards and left to rust.

But all trolleys hoped that the wheels were treated differently.

The soul of a streetcar was in its wheels, those wheels that only ever wanted to travel whatever parts of the world they could.

Inside their forged and welded metal hearts, the trolleys dreamed that the wheels of decommissioned cars were saved and used again, perhaps on those shiny metro rail systems or elevated trains. None of those modern creations were as beautiful as trolleys, or as beloved by tourists.

But they were fast, lightning fast at times, and all wheels were the same.

No matter the track or the chassis they sat in, wheels always wanted to run.


--//--

If you enjoyed this story, you can vote for it along with many other fine entries here.

 
 
 
Murielle: Scrunchedmurielle on February 22nd, 2017 07:54 am (UTC)
I settled comfortably into the humour of this piece, enjoying the images of trolleys ganging up on trucks, rumbling through the streets at night looking for trouble. Then it got serious. Trolleys going rogue, killing pedestrians, people. Then it was sad when the rogue trolleys were crushed and melted down. But when the other trolleys wished, dreamed that the wheels would go on to be faster, travel farther I had tears that needed to be wiped away so I could continue reading.

As a reader, your work took me on as full an emotional journey as I could ever hope for. Thank you.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on February 22nd, 2017 11:18 pm (UTC)
Oh, this is such a wonderful comment. Thank you very much! :)
dmousey: cheesedmousey on February 22nd, 2017 12:06 pm (UTC)
This sentence ,

A rogue streetcar would start racking up incidents like a two-bit robber on a Mom & Pop corner-store spree, and eventually it would be deemed too hazardous to keep on the line.

Growing up in Philly, trolleys were part of my daily life. Love the strong visualizations!

Thanks for the enjoyable read! Hugs and peace~~~

Edited at 2017-02-22 12:07 pm (UTC)
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on February 22nd, 2017 11:19 pm (UTC)
Now you know what those trolleys were up to when you weren't looking!

Glad you enjoyed it. :D
Teo Sayseternal_ot on February 22nd, 2017 01:49 pm (UTC)
I like the transitions in this piece which covers so much in such a small time frame. Well written, I enjoyed this POV. Good Work!
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on February 22nd, 2017 11:20 pm (UTC)
Thank you! This may be the only misbehaving trolley story you'll read this week. I sure hope so!
penpusher: PBSpenpusher on February 22nd, 2017 06:40 pm (UTC)
A wonderful "R" rated version of Thomas the Tank Engine! Those darn anthropomorphisms!!
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on February 22nd, 2017 11:21 pm (UTC)
Haha! I seriously thought about calling this "Troublesome Trolleys," but I thought most people probably wouldn't get the reference, and then it would lack punch.

But I see you're in the know... :D
Direst Ryl: Diana Trentryl on February 22nd, 2017 10:10 pm (UTC)
This reminded me of Maximum Overdrive and that's not a good thing. :)
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on February 22nd, 2017 11:23 pm (UTC)
Um... I was not familiar with that movie. :O

Sorry? ;)
(no subject) - ryl on February 23rd, 2017 12:00 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - halfshellvenus on February 23rd, 2017 08:11 am (UTC) (Expand)
mamas_minionmamas_minion on February 22nd, 2017 11:05 pm (UTC)
The direction you took with this topic is wonderful and it was a wonderfully hilarious story.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on February 22nd, 2017 11:23 pm (UTC)
Oooh, yay! I'm so glad you enjoyed it!
kick_galvanic, zagzagael, skull_theatrebleodswean on February 22nd, 2017 11:09 pm (UTC)
Heh. This personification was delightful. I can see these bad boy trolleys hanging about and causing problems. I like how you finished with a more spiritual longing on the part of these machines!
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on February 23rd, 2017 08:08 am (UTC)
I think even naughty trolleys would imagine they could be forgiven, even if they enjoyed wreaking havoc left and right FAR too much.

I still blame the electricity, though. That would fry anyone's senses after a while1
Rebeccabeeker121 on February 23rd, 2017 12:02 am (UTC)
I enjoyed this anthropomorphic take on the trolleys, I'm now humming bits of West Side Story and seeing them trying to get across town like the Warriors.

the longing at the end was lovely, and a nice twist on what had come before.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on February 24th, 2017 06:11 pm (UTC)
Haha-- I see you picked up on the "gang" vibe from the trolleys going around in packs and looking for a fight! Buncha little delinquents. :D

So glad you enjoyed this one. :)
cindy: spn - metallicar (by mara_sho)tsuki_no_bara on February 23rd, 2017 01:44 am (UTC)
this is lovely! the ending is really touching, and before that we get the infinitely entertaining image of trolley car delinquents. well, except for the running people over, that's not so entertaining. but trolleys running amok! and then sneaking back to their yards and depots so they won't get caught! i love it.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on February 24th, 2017 06:12 pm (UTC)
It's only the really bad ones that run people over, but as with any group of delinquents, sometimes things get serious. :O

But mostly, it's just irrepressible naughtiness. Bad trolleys! Bad!
Jenmy_name_is_jenn on February 23rd, 2017 09:14 pm (UTC)
I can say this is the first anthropomorphism of trolleys I've ever read, and I enjoyed it very much. :)
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on February 24th, 2017 06:13 pm (UTC)
:D I'm glad this brought you a smile. Crack is so much fun. :D
i_17bingo: toileti_17bingo on February 24th, 2017 10:53 am (UTC)
The secret lives of trolleys. I never thought about it before, but it makes perfect sense. Thank you for bringing this to our attention. Very, very cute.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on February 24th, 2017 06:14 pm (UTC)
Hahaha-- now you know what they're capable of. Never turn your back on them, and be glad you're not a new trolley having to run the gauntlet with this bunch.

Thanks for reading and commenting!
rayasorayaso on February 24th, 2017 04:07 pm (UTC)
Rogue trolleys! The soul of a streetcar in its wheels! This was fantastic stuff, and so very well written. This was wonderfully original, humorous and sly. I will never look at streetcars the same way again. The nighttime hunting expeditions were great. This was so funny! You are an exceptionally versatile writer.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on February 25th, 2017 10:12 pm (UTC)
For anyone who might ever have asked themselves the crazy question of, "Just how naughty could a trolley actually BE?", the answer is Very.

So stay off the rails, and be careful after dark! :D
Rebecca Sparrow Wanderlustrswndrlst on February 24th, 2017 07:06 pm (UTC)
I also kept picturing Thomas the Tank Engine and friends just going super evil and causing mayhem and destruction haha!

Fun take on the topic but the last image of the souls being in the wheels hit me on a deep level.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on February 25th, 2017 10:17 pm (UTC)
These trolleys would certainly need more than a timeout to put them in their place! (and yes, in one of the written Thomas stories, Gordon effectively gets a time out. :O)

I'm glad you liked the ending as well. Don't we all want another chance, whether or not we might deserve it?
dee_aar2dee_aar2 on February 25th, 2017 02:14 am (UTC)
Gangsta Trolleys. Wow ... this was such a fun way to present the prompt.

The secret lives of trolleys ... blame it on the wheels ... they wanted to run didn't they ?

I loved reading this. Thank you for writing so well and giving us an opportunity to expand our thoughts.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on February 25th, 2017 10:18 pm (UTC)
:D I very nearly wound up titling it Gangsta Trolleys, because that's exactly what I was thinking of while writing it.

I'm so glad you enjoyed it, and thanks for taking this weird journey with me. :)
l0retta on February 25th, 2017 06:41 pm (UTC)
I could picture all of this so vividly. I particularly loved this line; The soul of a streetcar was in its wheels, those wheels that only ever wanted to travel whatever parts of the world they could. ! :D
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on February 26th, 2017 08:59 am (UTC)
It was a lot of fun to write-- weirdness is its own reward, really. So glad you liked it!
(no subject) - l0retta on February 28th, 2017 10:20 pm (UTC) (Expand)