By Lady Euphoria Deathwatch
Molly Ferguson headed to the bus station. Her short hair was sticking to the back of her neck on her small frame as she struggled to carry the bags. All that she now owned was in two beat up suit cases and a tote bag. Once she had almost everything she needed and some extras to feel good about. Now all that was left was here in her hands. This latest flood had taken all the rest.
She had wanted to take a train out of town. Molly had dreamed about it for most of her school years, but the trains weren’t running yet and wouldn’t be for a while but the buses were. There was nothing left for her here and it was time to leave town.
She had lived with her grandfather until he broke his hip then she was sent to the Foster Homes. After that she had her little apartment and a job in the local video store.
The flood had washed away her past and Molly was off to start over some place new, maybe in the mountains above where it could flood. As soon as she could find a moving train she was going to get on and keep on going. Molly was tired of waiting. With all the money, which wasn’t much, that her grandfather had left to her when he died and his little house on the edge of town was sold, she was made to wait until her eighteenth birthday and that was the day of the flood. So she was forced to wait some more.
When Molly was younger and lived with Poppop in his little house, she could hear the trains from her bedroom. Their rhythmic clickity clacking on the rails, the low rumble of the engine and the wailing whistle as it left town. Molly liked it all like a lullaby in the night. She wanted, thought about and dreamed of traveling on a train. She wanted it even more when she found out that her parents died on a train. Molly never knew the whole story, Poppop told her that he would tell her the details of how her parents died when she was older but that day never came. So all she had was a faded picture of them and her dreams of trains in her sleep feeling the rumble of it under her in her bed.
Whenever she felt sad or bad as a child she would tell herself that a train would answer all her questions and it would calm all her fears. To the child that she once was a train was all she needed. Molly didn’t believe that any longer but she still wanted to take a trip on a train away from the only town she ever knew but was the loneliest place on earth for her now. The picture of her parents was gone with everything else when the muddy water came through.
The bus traveled through the devastated flood zone. Mud and muck painted everything with the same dead looking gray brush. What once must have been beautiful countryside was ugly caked with muck and piled with debris. Having nothing to look at out the window she read from the tattered novel she had gotten at the shelter from one of the Volunteer workers. It was about a boy named Johnny and his dog, Rufus, trying to get home. Not her type of book but there was nothing else to do. She didn’t even know the title or author because the cover and first few pages were missing and the binding was falling apart it was so old and yellowed. Once she got to someplace that sold new paperbacks this one was getting tossed she told herself.
Once the landscape started getting green again and showed signs of life Molly started looking for train tracks and train stations. At one town she found out that the nearest passenger train was in the next state north and she changed buses to get herself in the right direction. To Molly’s surprise it had worked. There was a train at the station as she got off the bus.
Molly hopped on the train just in time. She wasn’t even sure what direction she was heading in, but she paid for her ticket and just sank into her seat, sighing all the weight of the last few months away. She closed here eyes and absorbed it all into the space where the tension had been inside or her. Molly filled herself up with the smell, feeling and sounds of the train. For the first time in years she felt the feeling of home. Everything else that had once been her life was left behind at the station.
Happy for the first time in a long time Molly set about making herself comfortable for the duration. She changed her clothes and headed for the dinning car. She hadn’t eaten a good meal since the flood and she was finally hungry.
On the way through the cars she smiled and nodded at the other passengers that looked her way. She found the dinning car and ordered her first meal by train. While waiting for her food to be prepared she pulled out the old book again but another couple started asking her about herself and her destination. After she told them she wasn’t sure where she was going they moved over to her table to talk better with her.
They made helpful suggestions and told her that they hoped to see her again in the days to come as they traveled and they left her to eat her meal in peace, but not before Jacky told her that the book she was reading was one of his favorites. “Some day I’ll get myself a dog and name him Rufus too.” he said.
Molly slept so well in her folded down train bed that she felt like she had never known what real sleep was before this.
The next day she looked around for her new friends but the conductor wasn’t sure just who she was talking about when she asked about them. Finally she saw them in the observation car. Helen and Jacky were sitting looking at where they had been instead of where they were headed. Helen shrugged and said, “Just looking for another perspective.”
Jacky asked Molly if she had thought about what they had told her about good towns to get started over in along the way.
Molly told them both ‘yes’ and she asked a lot of other questions to try to narrow the list down to a reasonable few. They chatted most of the afternoon away before leaving her to watch the sunset colors forming in the sky by herself.
Molly sat wondering about them, Helen and Jacky. Did she like them because they were friendly and helpful or because their names were so much like her parents? Hellene and Johnny. They looked a lot like her parents too, but most people of that age did to her. She didn’t remember them much at all only the picture. She was too young when they died, only two. They of course were too young to be her parents. They were almost Molly’s age, just a little older she guessed. But you couldn’t miss their enthusiasm about trains.
They knew the whole line. Every suburb and hallow, town and city, burg and watering hole. She was impressed and a little confused by it all. She couldn’t remember where they said they lived. But that didn’t really matter since they also said that they spent most all their free time riding on the train. Most of the places on the line didn’t interest her much at all. She needed to get a job and find a place to live first. But Molly couldn’t help hoping to be able to hear the train go by at night wherever she found to call home.
On the third day she was nearing the end of the line. Molly had decided with the help of her new friends to start at one end and work her way up the line until she found a place that worked best for her. She went to bed early to rest up for the new world she would be finding waiting for her in the morning and her stop was coming early in the day.
The clickity clacking of the wheels under her and the soft swaying of the train car lulled her into another deep sleep despite her nerves. When she woke in the morning she was surprised to find herself sleeping in her clothing on the ground between the tracks. The tracks themselves were rusty and obviously unused. Brush and grasses grew and died there undisturbed. Nothing she could think of was missing from her belongings when she looked at them.
She collected her bags and walked into the nearest town. It was where she wanted to be but according to he people she asked not one train came through town for many years but a number of them had heard a train early this morning.
Molly got a newspaper to find a job and a place to live only to discover that the date was three days earlier. The day after she had stepped onto the train in fact. June 21st. Somehow she had traveled hundreds of miles on a train that didn’t exist any longer in one night. She knew things about the town and the people here that she shouldn’t have known if her train ride and the people on it weren’t real. Molly knew where most everyone lived and where most everything was in town from what Helen and Jacky had told her.
Molly started to work in the video store because the owner’s son had just decided to take off on his motorcycle to see the world the day before. Soon she was the night manager. She liked her new apartment and made friend easily so she stayed. There was a stray dog that had adopted her and walked her home from the video store each night. Molly named him Rufus like in the book and felt safe here in her new home town.
A year later while walking the dog in the early morning Molly heard a train for the first time since the day she arrived. She followed the sound until it stopped and she found herself on the tracks further down from the spot on the day she arrived. The dog pulled her along until she was off the tracks again and into some over grown bushes.
The dog stopped when he got his leash tangled around a broken stone pillar. By the time she got the dog untangled she had to flip the broken part of the stone over. The writing carved into it said. ‘Hellene and John Ferguson died on this spot in the train wreck of 1992. Helen and Jacky loved their daughter Molly and the cross country train she was born on. May they rest in peace. June 21, 1992’ Now Molly understood all of what had happened to her in the last year. Molly’s parents had helped her find her way back to them. On the anniversary of their death Molly’s train had brought her home.