This story is written for Friday Fictioneers. The challenge is to write a complete story with a beginning, middle and end in 100 words or less using the picture prompt below. My story follows the picture prompt.
His mind wandered in and out of the real world. His twenty eight years working on Amtrak trains occupied his decaying mind at the moment. He had a nightmare that would not go away.
He had to throw a switch.
The switch that would allow his train to enter the siding and allow the Amtrak California Zephyr to pass on the main line on its way to its final destination in Emeryville. He didn’t realize how much the heavy snow would slow him down.
The headline in the San Francisco Examiner read: “Brakeman only survivor in Amtrak train disaster.”
This post is submitted to Friday Fictioneers where the challenge is to write a complete story with a beginning, middle and end in 100 words or less.
The train whistled two long blasts, a short one and another long blast indicating it was approaching a highway intersection.
The engineer had experiences on shorter trips. Trips from Chicago to St. Louis carrying hogs, cattle, and sugar beets. On these trips there were no toilets. The men didn’t care if they missed the pot. This engineer had to sometimes wait twelve hours unless there was a stop. Air conditioning was an open window.
Along these trips she got to know hobos and some other “unauthorized passengers.” Often these homeless were surprised to see a black woman as an engineer.
Night after night, week after week, month after month and year after year,
Clad in her garments of dingy black, ragged and wrinkled, she’s waiting here
Watching the passenger trains come in, silent and sad in the self same place,
Anxiously viewing the careless crowd, eagerly scanning each stranger face.
Never a word she speaks as she waits patiently every night for the train,
Sadly and silently turning away, over and over again;
Children have grown to be women and men since the first evening she waited there,
Close by the station, silently, with that eager vacant stare.
Ah! that was thirty years ago, where she looked for three or four engines then
She watches, unnoting the flight of time, a score of trains come in;
And the city has grown to twice its size, yet faithful still at her post she stands
Grasping her old worn traveling bag tight in her wrinkled hands.
The station employees scarcely heed the thin bent figure and anxious face,
They have seen her there ’till she seems to them almost like a part of the place;
If any of them, as they pass her by, kindly warn her of coming snow or rain,
She only says, with a faint sad smile–
“He promised to come on the evening train.”
When the lights are extinguished, the crowd dispersed, wearily she will walk away
Only to come to her lonely post with a feebler step next day;
Whom is she looking for? you ask.
Perhaps it is not worth the telling o’er
The same old story I know you’ve heard many a time before.
He was her sailor lover and she, courted by many, young and fair
With rosy cheeks and graceful form and sunshiny golden hair;
She stood that day where she’s standing now, watching the train ’till it passed from view,
Never doubting but he would prove faithful to death and true;
He had gone on a voyage across the sea promising to return in the Spring
When, with the chime of the early year, their bridal bells would ring;
But the Spring flowers bloomed and the blithe birds sang and she waited and waited in vain
For her sailor lover never returned and no message came to explain.
Whether he met with disaster or death, or proved to his promise false and untrue
No one can prove or even guess, for nobody ever knew;
Wild with anxiety, worn with grief, disease had found her an easy prey,
Flickering between life and death for many a week she lay.
And when she rose from her weary couch, restored to life and health again,
This one thought throbbed in her vacant mind: “He promised to come on the evening train.”
So down to the station she daily walks, standing alone at the corner there,
Closely scanning each stranger face with that eager, vacant stare.
She sees friends meet when the trains come in, with clasping of hands, with smiles and tears
And fond embraces she often sees, and lovers’ greetings she often hears;
But the face that she looks for among the throng will never gladden her sight again,
Poor faithful heart, you will soon forget the broken vow of the evening train.
I had worked for the railroad for almost 11 years. I worked outside. It was hot in the summer and cold in the winter. In the winter I even resorted to wearing a snowmobile suit. For those bloggers outside the US, you don’t want to know. But this is what it looks like:
Can you picture trying to write down box car numbers wearing that. Add snow and/or ice and you have a pretty depressing job. And I was single.
I made a decision to leave that job, and that involved leaving family and friends. I crammed everything I owned into a 4×6 Uhaul trailer and left for Tucson Arizona. I ended up working for a major computer company and was transferred many times across the US.
Do I regret leaving my job at the railroad, or do I regret staying there so long? I regret staying there so long and holding on to something I was familiar with instead of seeking out new adventures. One other turning point after I moved was getting married for the first time at the age of 45. But that’s for another post 🙂