Saturday, November 17, 2007

Train Ride

The last thing she wanted to do was get on that train, but she had no choice-it was the only way to get back home, and she DID want to go home. Still, she hesitated. Bookie and Wolf started yelling at her as the train jerked to life
"C'mon! If yer comin!!"
"Here we go!!"
She came to life with the sound of their voices and she realized they were slipping away down the track.
"COMING!!" she yelled suddenly wanting with all her might to be on that train.

The train was gaining speed and she ran along beside to catch up to the open door.

Bookie stuck his big black hand out and she grabbed it after slinging her kit into the darkness behind him.

"On 3" he called "1 - 2 - 3 - JUMP!" and she complied flying into the boxcar like a fish reeled in by an exuberant boy.

"Queenie," he said " I didn't think you would make it girl. Good 'un." He flashed a smile at her as Wolf struck a match and lit his hand rolled cigarette. The match eliminated his face - the darkness of his beard over shot with his oddly yellow eyes. It was his eyes that gave him his name - that and his silence.

Wolf and Bookie had been riding the rails for close to 30 years. They'd taken her under their protection when she'd been brought to the hobo camp by a dealer. Queenie they called her because her years as a scoliosis survivor had given her a ram-rod straight back. That was the only regal thing about her. Still, they had noticed and the accepted and protected her. A single woman on her own in their world was either an addict or a camp whore and she was neither. She was a college kid who had slipped out of her life - abducted by the lure of anonymity and perceived independence of life outside of the box.

Queenie settled back against her burlap bag of belongings. She curled her hand around the bottle Bookie passed her, took a swallow and began to sing. Wolf closed his eyes and Bookie smiled as she sang them through the darkness and into the dawns light.

By noon the next day they were in Iowa. She could feel the fall cold sneaking in underneath her as they pushed northward.

She nudged Bookie with her foot and he opened one eye. "Soon" she said. He sat up stretching a bit and looked at her "You sure, girl?"

Queenie nodded and then smiled - lighting her eyes with her certainty.

"Good, you're sure." he said catching her excitement "Okay, just remember to roll."

The train slowed as it entered Ames and when she saw the campus rail sign she crouched by the door. Then she was flying through the air. She hit the ground hard and her wind left her as she fell and rolled as Bookie had told her. As her breath came back it took a minute for her to realize that she'd stopped - that it was the train that carried the motion forward while she laid still. She lifted her head and waved at Bookie watching her from his perch in the boxcar now picking up speed on its way out of Ames.

Queenie stood and picked up her burlap bag. She shook out her hair and brushed the grass off of her soiled jeans. She turned toward campus and Queenie became Jera as she stepped back into her college student life.

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