Don’t Miss That Last Train

Orleans, Illinois - don't get lost out there...
Orleans, Illinois - don't get lost out there... Do you knoooow where you're going to?

Do you know the way to San Jose? Do you take the A Train? This trip leaves a bitter taste, but do drink it down. It’s good for you to take your draft… isn’t it?

 

 

 

 

Stepping Off That Last Train

By A. M. Trakke

My Champaign-Urbana to Centralia by train ride never left Illinois aboard the City of New Orleans.  Two hundred instead of two thousand miles of swaying passenger-car, late November to visit home for the first time in three months, feeling years older, filthy and disgraced.

My first failure in life was destroying one of my childhood dreams. My solemn spirit as lifeless as Lincoln’s body mourningfully returning to Springfield.  A Viet Nam body bag seemed closer than downstate in my stoned fears from being registered for the draft as my student exemption evaporated in failing grades.

The night before had been a drunken full bottle plus of Mad Dog 20/20 suicide attempt.  The 9am alarm to catch the train home clanged awake my first hangover.  Painting the dirty dorm toilet with clasped face, a whispered phone call for a taxi and bent over barfing on the train tracks followed.

Good morning Amerika why do hate me.  I’m your native son?  I choked on Steve Goodman’s paraphrased words while wiping vomit from my sour mouth.  The tracks appeared and disappeared as certainly as my future success and ever marrying my first love, not ready for sex, girl friend back home.  My roommate had four different girls to fuck during his holiday; while I was left my palmed fist and nightmares of bloody body bags.

I met, Rhonda, that day during the train ride home.  She was a wild girl that Lisa hated from summer musical camp.  I hated being a virgin rather than being a real man,  Rhonda would tease, but never please.  Lisa never smiled or loved me again.

I stepped down off the train looking as grave as moldy haze and worming clouds hanging low in the wet, bare trees.  My draft board of Christian soldiers, who had marched off to war, had denied my request for conscientious objector status.  Being too poor to escape to Canada, rolled reefer and opiated hash in a pipe had become as stale and real as the cheap, sweet wine carried in brown paper sacks.

The summer heat of new freedoms had become fall chilled collegiate failures at claiming my own life’s purposes .  What would my Nixon hating, upper-middle class, detective and judge mother rule about my schism with my family’s small town, liberal, hypocritical morality?  Would she be more Germanic stoic, pissed or accuser?

My Mom chose all three with , “You’re doing drugs aren’t you?  I knew you weren’t ready when we dropped you off in August.  You will explain yourself to your father and me later.”

“I’ve never done drugs mom.  I’m just hangover, sick, homesick and struggling with a couple of  courses.”, I lied, with my coat smelling more of marijuana than vomit.  I didn’t fool her umbilical cord sense.  The twenty mile ride home was ghostly silent.  I had been delivered homeward as a dishonest, straw-less scarecrow betraying my mother’s past trusting belief in me. My childhood innocence died from stepping off that last train.

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6 comments

  1. Stef
    Stef says:

    How disappointed Brian Wilson would be when he sees how little Rhonda helped him.

    War. What is it good for? Only for reefer, apparently. Which, to my knowledge, was pretty prevalent in Vietnam. He can only hope there’s enough of it over there to block out his entire tour.

  2. Parisianne Modert says:

    I sense here, a young man coming of draft age unprepared for life, setbacks and Viet Nam. The impression is left of a great defeat of spirit having tasted freedom from his parents for the first time in life. There is a clear lack of character in this young man exposed to elements of life which have shocked and destroyed his false assurances and inadequately planned dreams which he began college with just three months earlier. O, what a season can make when life falls apart in arrogance, paranoia and poor judgments. The writing has uneven word loss, is choppy as the tracks, sways unevenly, but being a woman, it left me in tears to read about this young man. I asked myself, how I would have helped him if I had been his mother.

  3. Michael Stang says:

    There were many who lost themselves, thinking Vietnam was evident. Factories of fears, hopeless schemes to escape, never to relieve the nightmares. Here, I could say, a boy becomes a man. But in the normal sense of draftees, it was piss and vinegar, and shit in the pants. A. M. Trakke, the raw honesty you push into this flash is becoming of the writer you will become. Hints and allegations of brilliance I recognize in and between your lines.
    Keep writing, and keep coming back.

  4. Diane Cresswell says:

    Remembering those days and the fear in some of the boys going to war were brought back with your words. Lots of levels here and some very good writing.

  5. Parisianne Modert says:

    I wrote this autobiographical story crying the entire time. I apologize for the one written hiccup. This was the worst year and a half of my lifetime. Imagine knowing in late 1970 that you, a pacifist woman, are expected to fight in a man’s war for a cause you don’t believe in. Call me a cowardly girl, but I came within one week of being inducted into the armed services against my will. The funniest offer for enlistment came addressed to Miss Peter Modert from the Navy Waves. I accepted, my mother also did calling and legally badgering them, but they refused to take me. My health was so poor that I was disqualified just in time. My mother saved my life by sending in my legit x-rays.

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