home > stories > The Short Train Ride

The Short Train Ride

 

As a prelude to an earlier story, Billy and I made our way from Louisville to Bloomington a few months ago. It started out as a lame last leg of a trip to Paducah and Nashville, hitching home from somewhere in the greater Louisville area, which we deemed to be New Albany, as just about everywhere else I've deemed shit from past attempts. But when the bus to New Albany, IN ran right by the further ramp in Jeffersonville, IN we jumped off there. Walked right by the ramp that had given me a laugh as I hobbled away from it to catch the LIRC northbound months before, cooked to a crisp in the sun from standing there way too fucking long. This time we walked by it, and up state road 31 towards the split for sr. 60 to Salem. But just past the strip club, a drunken biker in a pickup truck pulled over and just kept driving, so long as we took nips off his whiskey and gave him the brother-man arm-wrestling hand-shake thing. And he kept driving, that is until his girlfriend chewed his ear off, through a cell phone no less (sorry, that was his joke, uh... quote?), which wasn't all that raw of a deal, my ass was seriously burning from the bed of the truck that had been in the sun for an eternity. He simply pulled over and whipped a shitty and headed back for wherever the hell he came from.

In the moment of disorientation after pilling out of the infernal machine, we heard the dinging out crossbucks across the main drag of Borden, IN. Where? I have no idea either. So the two us matched each other's shit-eating grins and strolled to ballast with no train in sight, oh wait there it is, waaay the fuck down there. So we strolled waaay the fuck down there, through the two blocks of town, past the ball fields into the corn fields and sure as shit the chimera in the summer sun was in fact an engine, or was it two? Wait is there freight on it? Uh... yeah three cars: two boxes and a grainer.

There was no way the two of us were going to ninja on the fucking thing. So we decided to stumble on. We asked if they were headed up to Mitchell and conductor responded "probably won't make it there" "why, you gonna go dead on the law, or just not going that far?" to which he grinned just a little. So Billy asked "you mind if we ride?" to which he signed 'hold on a moment' with palm of his hand with the index finger extended upwards, gets on the phone and starts yakking with dispatch over which the engineer takes a gander at us. And sure as shit without breaking stride in his conversation he cuts us a smirk and nods while thumbing backwards.

Sooner or later the thing gets trundling down the jointed rails clickity clacking it's way through time. The old Monon semaphores would break the clouds every now and again: lights changing, arm dropping as the engines tripped the signals. Buddy came back with some water and a smile. The conversation that took place was what you'd expect: good times in southern Indiana, kinda distant but pleasant with a yearning. Worked a lumber distro before falling asleep in the sun. I woke up to watch the tiniest bird nest in Billy's armpit and sit there for most of slooow ass trip: miles floating by would be horribly inaccurate as the clock eventually brought us out of our dream "sorry we can't take you any further, we're in Orleans now" "Orleans, eh? There's 33 cent refills on coffee at the Sunoco, suits me fine. Thanks Buddy"

Sweltered into town to the gas station, where every booth was already occupied by yokels eating up the air conditioning. As I was watching the cream swirl and settle into mud, and the occasional drip of sweat fall in, one of the old boys exclaims "here comes the judge!" to a whole bunch of hoots. I look out the window at the old Amish man, still sitting in front of a pile of melons and his buggy. Nothing going on there, for generations really. And then the sweaty bastard, one shirt tail hanging out his pleated pants, barely holding the spare tire in, bumbled in smelling of white port, muttering one-liners. In unison the docket yelled "hey judge!" to which the bumpkin in a suit's clothing retorted "you may be seated" although everyone already was. Really I would have like to have stayed, but I didn't have time to stand around and... Oh wait, who the hell am I kidding, I had just rode a three car train 35 miles in a lightning fast 4 hours. (which still doesn't beat the local from Lawrence to Boston, 21 miles: 7 hours, wow)

So I stuck my thumb out and hitched the remaining 35 miles back into this century, although as is par for the course one of the old boys that picked us up recited the almost scripted "I used hitchhike, but I was in uniform then".