A co-worker and I created Metra’s first blog, The Signal, in November 2016 to show to riders and railfans alike a chance to see the behind-the-scenes workings of Metra. This blog also served as a way to reveal the human side of Metra by sharing stories of the hardworking employees in various departments and to highlight successes within the agency. Below are examples of blog posts I wrote. In addition to writing some posts, I also shot and edited most of the videos and photographs throughout the blog.
Published in Crook & Folly, Volume 37. Selected by Sharon Solwitz as winner of the Fiction category.
Behind the rows of half-finished houses, in the middle of the dirt field that once grew things, a neighbor boy kissed my best friend, Sarah. He was the boy who walked around with his shoulders hunched forward and his chin tilted up, like a bird swallowing a catch. His cracked voice always gave me goosebumps.
Since the moment Sarah and I met, whenever we played together, our conversations usually melted into what we imagined a kiss would feel like. I imagined it would be like a sunrise breaking the horizon and warming every cell in your body. When I described this sensation, my hand twirled in the invisible rays streaming from the sun as a way to encapsulate that feeling. It was difficult to describe.
Sarah thought it would be like finally rounding the curve at the top of a rollercoaster and feeling that weightlessness leaching from your belly button. We laughed and held our stomachs as we felt the phantom effects. The anticipation of that moment, whenever it may arrive, was the reason we looked forward to getting older.
I asked what it was like. She looked away and told me how damp it was. How cold the air felt, there in the middle of the empty field.
“But how did it feel,” I asked again.
“I got mud all over my shoes,” she said. “My mom yelled at me.”
A dead frog laid belly up near the edge of a hollow, exposed basement. A ribcage of rain-soaked wooden beams interlocked above our heads. I imagined again how I thought a kiss should feel, disappointed at her description. That wasn’t how it was supposed to feel like.
A science fiction short story. Written as a class assignment at DePaul University.
Nicholas stared at the rows and rows of accounts he managed, at one time some of the more successful investments the firm had. Now, all the numbers blinked a red $0. They had been cleaned out.
Chuck called Nicholas into his corner office. Nicholas sat in one of the leather chairs in front of the rosewood desk his elbows propped on his knees.
“You know why you’re here,” Chuck said.
“I know why you think I should be here,” Nicholas replied. “But I had nothing to do with this.”
“We traced the transfer to your employee I.D. and thumbprint. I don’t see how it could be anyone else.”
“I don’t know how someone got my thumbprint but I swear it wasn’t—“
“And we have the whole issue of this.”
Chuck turned his monitor around for Nicholas to see. In the screen was security camera footage showing Nicholas’s faintly illuminated form standing at a computer, supposedly transferring all those funds into a foreign account in the middle of the night. Or at least the man in the video looked like Nicholas. The man on the screen had identical features: his shallow chin, his receding hairline, his broad college football shoulders. But it wasn’t him. The night in question, Nicholas had dinner with Diane, watched the football game and went to bed as he always did.
“I can’t believe you actually think I’d steal from this company,” Nicholas said. “And like this? Who’d be so idiotic?”
“I wish I could help you out, but my hands are tied,” Chuck said. Was that a smirk, a flame of humor flashing in his blue eyes, slightly creasing his perfectly trimmed stubble around his mouth?
“It’s not me, Chuck. You heard about those bodymask scams going around. Someone stole my fucking identity!”
“The CEO is asking for your head, Nick,” Chuck said, turning the monitor back toward him and drinking in the footage of felony embezzlement. “He wanted to pursue legal action, but I talked him off that cliff. Instead of years of litigation, countless thousands being spent on a lawyer, all you have to do is just… leave.”
“I’ll sue,” Nicholas said. “You guys have it all wrong.”
Chuck shrugged. “Hey, go ahead and take on the boys from legal. I’m sure they’ll love another notch in their belt.”
Now, sitting on the couch in his living room, still vaguely drunk from the night before, Nicholas was without a job and trying his best not to think of how long he and Diane would last without an income. At least he had his investments to rely on, and his personal portfolios have been doing well. If he had to move some money around to cover an expense here and there, so be it.
Nicholas hoisted himself off the couch and stumbled to the kitchen sink. As he gulped down a glass of water he noticed a paper note wedged under the steak knives on the counter.
Went out to run errands. Be back later. Take some pills. –Diane
He thought in that moment about how much he loved her. They had been married close to 25 years now, high school sweethearts that settled down and attempted to start a family. Diane had been through it all with him: college, his parents’ deaths, the purchase of their first home. She stuck by him all these years, even when he discovered he was shooting blanks and she’d have to give up her dream of having a big family like the one she grew up in. He collected the note in his hand and held it for a moment before placing it in his pants pocket.
Nicholas returned to the couch and laid his leaden head back on the pillow. The water felt good. The late morning sunlight no longer caused him pain but that sinking feeling of shame still weighed on his shoulders.
It was nearly impossible to catch someone using a bodymask, especially one so perfectly identical to someone’s image. With a complete sample, and a few photo references, a scam artist can replicate everything about the victim down to their fingerprints.
Nicholas closed his eyes and wondered where someone got such a complete sample of his DNA. There was that woman at the bar a few weeks ago who wouldn’t stop draping her long, bare arms over his shoulders, pushing her breasts and body against him. Was she just pretending to be drunk?
Maybe it was Chuck. He always had it out for him.
Nicholas’ mind, swimming in whiskey, relished the darkness behind his eyelids and he let sleep take over once again.
Currently, I am working on an animated web series to explain what happens behind-the-scenes during service disruptions on Metra. The goal of this animation project is to inform the rider of what to expect during significant service disruptions and to better equip the rider with information they need to make proactive decisions in their commute.
View the script PDF here: Metra Police Recruitment Video
This video was written, storyboarded, shot, and edited by me with guidance from the Metra Police Department. They were looking for a video that was not only humorous but reflected their goals and shared traits for ideal candidates. View the pre-production packet for more project details.
View the script PDF here: How to Plan a Trip On Metra
A short story about childhood. Written as a class assignment at DePaul University.
Everyone in Rockton, Illinois, was an amateur something: an amateur golfer, an amateur physicist, an amateur painter. In the town of 4,000 there were hints of talent that sprung up like tulips in a field of grasses, captivating everyone with its beauty and potential. Conversations around town would usually melt into what that talented person’s next big thing was going to be.
“Did you hear he’s got an art show in Bloomington? I forgot what its theme is but his paintings are really neat.”
“She just got a call back and is going to be playing Mary Poppins at Starlight Theater! They got shows all summer, honey. You’ll be able to find tickets.”
“The Chevy is coming together nicely. He’ll probably have the thing finished by next year if he can figure out how to get the engine block out of it, you know he’s been wanting a crane for years.”
Compared to the rest of the town, their futures looked so bright. Some of them would find their break and move away to become even more legendary in the town gossip. But most of them returned to the area, raised a family, and lived their life simply, sinking back into the sea of limp, faded grasses and familiar blue-collar work ethic that bore them.
My family was one of the simple ones. My dad worked at the Chrysler factory as a weld engineer. For his 15 years of service, the company rewarded him with a fully decked diesel truck. The thing was a monster, squatting like a shiny, grey bear in the driveway. The engine rumbled like it had boulders under its hood when it idled at red lights. My dad, barely taller than my eleven-year-old self, had to climb into the cab like Tarzan, but I think he liked feeling the power of the engine every time he pushed the pedal down. I imagined he felt the rumble in his bones and relished the moments he and his truck turned heads. I personally thought it was too big for the basic errands he runs with it, but honestly I’m just glad he has something to be proud of.