Alysa Salzberg

Alysa Salzberg
Paris, France
December 31
Writer, copy editor, translator, travel planner. Head servant to my cat.
A reader, a writer, a fingernail biter, a cat person, a traveller, a cookie inhaler, an immigrant, a dreamer. …And now, self-employed! If you like my blog and if you're looking for sparkling writing, painstaking proofreading, nimble French-English translation, or personalized travel planning, feel free to check out


Alysa Salzberg's Links

JANUARY 19, 2011 5:03AM

I stole your post, designanator!

Rate: 11 Flag

[First, a word of explanation.  Creative OSer designanator blogged a post called "steal this post", encouraging readers to steal the beginning of a sentence and a photograph.  I thought this was a wonderful idea, and almost immediately I felt inspired to steal both and put my own spin on them. Thanks, designanator, for your Abbie Hoffman-esque generosity, and for a really fun writing experience!  I hope others will take you up on your offer!]




As his train crossed the Harlem River on that cloudy morning . . .

…George wondered how he’d gotten here.  

He remembered being on a train, indeed, but not the same one. He turned from the strange view at the window and examined the interior of the car. His heart jumped alarmingly in his chest.  No, not the same one at all.

What was this illumination, flickering with the movements of the locomotive, surely, but not as a gas lamp flickers?  What was this material that coated the car, too cool to the touch to be wood, but with a very slight stickiness to it that did not resemble stone?

A piercing noise behind him made his whole body jump this time, not just his heart.  He settled back into his seat and unconsciously straightened his waistcoat.  Even the seats were not what he knew – but there was little time to think on that, as the piercing sound tore through the air again.  

Between his seat and the wall was a small space.  He twisted slightly and let one of his eyes peer through it.

A man was sitting on a seat like his own. He wore a strangely long cravat – or perhaps a thin one that he’d loosened – perhaps he, too, was suffering from a heart pounding far too fast, and needed fresh air -- but the windows here did not open.  George observed him more closely.  The rest of his clothing was cut quite too loose.  He began to wonder if the man had subdued some innocent bystander and stolen his garments  – hence the cravat that had not yet been properly tied and the ill-fitting su –

-- But all his theories left him as the piercing noise came a third time – and now, the strangely dressed man reached into his breast pocket and withdrew a small, rectangular object.  He touched it lightly with a thick finger, then held it to his ear and began to speak softly.

What was this madness?  Was it merely that?  How had he gotten here, he wondered again.  Was he dreaming?  Was he, himself, mad? 

The strangely dressed man laughed quietly, then drew the object away from his ear, touched it lightly once more, and returned it to his pocket.

George wondered what he should do.  All his life he’d dreamt of being a man of action, but he’d never done more than watch, just as he was doing now.  The years had passed him by like a train. In his four decades of existence, nary a moment of real interest had occurred.  Had he ever felt passion or powerful conviction impelling him forward like a locomotive?  He closed his eyes and tried to recall.

Suddenly, a metallic, muffled-sounding voice called out: “Gr….entra…”

George’s eyes popped open and he sat up straight.  All around him, other passengers stood up in front of their seats, reaching for baggage they’d left on the racks above their heads.  George wondered if his valise would be there.  He glanced up and saw nothing but the strangely dull metal grille.  

Sheer panic started to wash over him – not the stops and starts of his nervous body and heart, but a chill that began somewhere at the base of him and went all the way to his scalp.  For a very, very short moment he wanted to scream. Where was he?  What had happened?  He looked desperately around.  No one seemed to notice him. Everyone was dressed strangely.  Individuals whom he’d first taken for boys, turned out on closer inspection to be women with strangely short hair, and wearing tight blue trousers…..  George felt he might faint. 

The metallic, disembodied voice came again. This time he could hear it more clearly: “Grand Central Terminal.”

Grand Central?  This, at least, he knew.  Watching the others now, but not too closely, he got in line, facing the thin metal doors whose narrow oval windows showed an exit to the right.  He inhaled subtly, bracing himself to be caught up in the inevitable rush of the crowd on the platform just outside.

If the Grand Central Terminal was here, that was something.  He felt quickly in his pocket and found his papers and some money.  He decided that before taking any other course of action, he would leave the terminal and find something to eat.  It was essential to fully recover his faculties. 

His hat was nowhere to be found, but the others seemed to be mostly bare-headed as well.  Perhaps he wouldn’t shock anyone at the restaurant.  He took a breath and concentrated on the thought of a delicious plate of oysters that awaited him somewhere.  He hoped. 




Your tags:


Enter the amount, and click "Tip" to submit!
Recipient's email address:
Personal message (optional):

Your email address:


Type your comment below:
The words in italics at the beginning are the line designanator asked us to steal; the image is stolen from the post, as well!

Thanks again designanator - this was a lot of fun!
Thanks so much, kate! Coming from you, that means a lot!

I write fiction quite often, though not a lot of it is on OS. If you're interested, I have some stuff posted on Writers The link is in the left hand column of my OS blog page, under "Blogs and Writing Worth Checking Out". Also, here are links to the fiction I've posted on OS:

"Eddie's Clothing Line" (a strange, Magical Realism-inspired short story):

"Weekend Tomatoes", a descriptive fragment about...tomatoes:

"Father and Daughter at Loose Ends" (a short excerpt from an abandoned novel):

"Notre Dame Speaks" (the history of the famous cathedral, through its own eyes):

"Competitive Eating" (saucy story involving a sex strike and a hot dog eating contest):

"Man vs. Mower in the Square de la Justice" (a humorous collaboration with OSer Dom Macco):

Thanks for reading this piece - it was so fun to write!
Harlem oysters... Now there's a sensual stimulating thought!
Great story. I missed designanator's OC, but am gong to try my luck at something today.
Got me hooked, Alysa. Has a Kafkaesque feel to it. More!
Inspired! I enjoy and write fiction myself, so I will be reading your work. Thanks!
Out on a limb - Thanks for reading. Actually, I'm not a fan of oysters, but I thought of a food that people have always enjoyed and that was especially popular in the New York area around a hundred years ago, and oysters came to mind! Glad you enjoyed thinking about them! I also hope you'll answer this OC -- can't wait to see what you'll write!

Matt - Thank you so much! What an honor it is, 1. to write something that can be compared to the work of the great Kafka, and 2. to have such a compliment come from a talent like yourself.

maryway - Thanks! And as a writer of fiction yourself, I hope you'll feel inspired to do this OC! "can be compared to" Kafka, I mean that someone would think that - not that anything I write could really be comparable - the man is a legend and rightly so, and nothing I do can truly live up to the terror and absurdity he juggled so well. Franz rules!
Alysa, this is perfect!! Thank you so much for taking my post and running with it! You have shown us how creative you are by taking the minimal starting point from my post and weaving a wonderful story around it. I was delighted to inspire you and it's great to see the other readers here who are intrigued by your story. This exemplifies the spirit of Open Salon!
This is one of your best, Alysa! The visuals, the pace, the tone, the angst -- all perfect. What a creative idea designanator had!

Wow! You did a fantastic job. I like the pace and the feel of your story. Kudos.
This is such a great idea.. Fiction from Alysa? Wow.. I only do Halloween fiction.. My brain only knows bizarrrrrrrrrre..:)
rated with hugs
designanator – It took a really creative person to come up with the source of this inspiration. Thanks so much yet again for having done this! And I’m glad you like what I did with your stolen words and image.

Lezlie – Thanks so much! It was indeed a great idea designanator had. You should steal his post, too!

Fay – Thanks so much! It was really fun to write.

Linda – It really was a great idea on designanator’s part. As for fiction from me, actually, not so strange at all – I write a lot of fiction, but I don’t post most of it on OS because I know that’s not the main interest here. I’ve left links in an above comment and mentioned my other stories on Writers Café if you’re interested in reading more of my fiction work. As for only knowing bizarrrrrrrrrre, that’s all you need to write a great story!

You guys should all steal from designanator, too!
I really like what you did with this. I read that challenge and absolutely nothing came to mind, but that's not unusual for me. Nice job, Alysa.
Margaret - Thanks. I hope you'll find some inspiration, too!
I am just so, so impressed! Nothing seems to be keeping my attention right now, but this sure did! I agree with L, one of your best.
Thank you heidibeth! You should do this, too - I bet yours would be very cool!