2010 summer fwriters dbdale trolleyproblems

by David B. Dale

A runaway trolley is racing downhill. If I hurry to the switch, I can divert the trolley to another track, that is, if I understand switches. Sunlight crinkles on the storefront windows, under a fresh spring sky as blue as a crayon, and I and my philosophical girl friend, with nothing but coffee and little wrapped chocolates and late afternoon lovemaking and ontological nothingness on our minds, are walking arm in arm down the leafy avenue, and now this! But divert the trolley toward what? Undiverted, it will surely crash into a second trolley full of innocents, but what of the five girl scouts on the other track? If I didn't know better, I'd think I had strolled into a dilemma devised by an ethicist to test my convictions. Should I continue to deceive my girl friend about how I spend my weekends, or would the consequences of leveling with her be perhaps more damaging to both of us? Surely I can't do Nothing. Two trolleys full of passengers are at stake. On the other hand, the girl scouts, their youth. Is there a way to quantify the downsides? The roasted pungency of deeply distressed coffee beans wafts from the door of the charming café, beckoning us. I think I should just tell her. The fat man, startlingly fat, fat enough to divert a train, has lost his footing at the curb. The merest touch against his back will tip him into the path of the careening trolley. Saving everyone? Except the fat man? And me, of course. Who flips the switch and gets away with it? Who pushes the fat man has to live, too. I will tell her, but probably not today. She looks at me and laughs her little philosophical laugh, that gets me every time.

Featured Works

Very Short Novels
The Paperboy,
Trolley Problems, and
The Cutting Board

About the Author

David B. Dale teaches writing to international students at several colleges in and near Philadelphia. He irregularly posts 299-word fictions to his Wordpress blog, Very Short Novels. Since his days at The Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins University, David has written under the name David B. Dale (or on the web, davidbdale) to honor his parents Beatrice and Dale.

322 Review publishes provocative emerging and established artists. Conceived and operated by former Rowan University graduate students of the Master of Arts in Writing Program, 322 Review is aggressively seeking the best fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, and mixed media works of visual art.