By Carolina Tweetsie
A lonesome whistle disturbs the quiet.
There’s something about a train that captures the imagination while sending images onto the inner mind’s screen of days gone by.
The wheels clattered down the tracks, pushing the train further on to its destination… its last trip. The whole train was retiring. Boxcars were slated to be put out to pasture – so to speak. The big mighty engine had worn itself out and was heading for the junkyard – the cemetery of old trains. The caboose – well that was going to be redesigned into a private car for some old retired VIP from the railroad.
Inside one of the open door boxcars, a few hobos were holed up. They had ridden the rails for years – pros at changing their address at a moment’s notice.
Hoosegow leaned against the side listening to the wail of the whistle. The car swayed lulling him into one of those half asleep states. Across from him, another old timer laid on his side moaning.
“Hey Railbender, you alive?”
He heard another moan, but no words came out. Railbender was hurting real bad. He had been in disagreement with another hobo who was not only dangerous, but crazy to boot. After the dust settled, Railbender had gone down with no count. Crazy Fry Pan whooped it up something fierce grinning with no teeth while yelling gibberish. Ambidextrous Stang had grabbed Crazy pushing him away then propelled him back to their boxcar.
Hoosegow scooted over to Railbender and leaned over. He picked up his hand looking closely at it. It was turning not only black and blue, but green also. This was bad, in addition to the other cuts, bruises and possibly something seriously broken inside. He let his breath out realizing that his buddy was in damn bad shape.
“Railbender, I’m going to pour some whiskey in your mouth and on your cut,” he said.
Railbender muttered, “Thanks Hoosegow, grateful. I’m dying.”
“We be getting to da next town soon and I’ll find the doctor. I have some money to pay him.”
Hoosegow poured drops of his precious whiskey into his friend’s mouth and then onto his hand. If they didn’t get to the doctor soon, he wasn’t going to live. Hoosegow crept back to his side. From the corner further down Half Dollar asked, “He goin’ ta die?”
Hoosegow shrugged his old shoulders.
They all sat quietly in the car swaying to the motion of the train waiting for the next town. Soon the rocking motion lulled them into sleep.
The train slowed down pulling off onto a side rail moving further down that track sounding the mournful whistle. The sound rippled its way across the terrain, a lite disturbance to the quietness – a haunting refrain. Inside the boxcars the hobos slept on – each one in their own dream. Vague dreams of what was glittered like fireflies in the night. The train faded into the darkness leaving a trail of forgotten memories behind – the ghost train to Nowhere.