Cannonball

“You kids be quiet,” Old Tom scowled at us, “Hush up and listen.”

We were on the sideslope on a stretch of the B&O Railroad, waiting for the train Old Tom promised us tonight.

My little brother kept fidgetin’. I slugged him and listened.

Maury died last night, Old Tom had told us. The Grand Patriarch of the Hobo Nation. When Old Tom talked about Maury, it was in hushed and respectful tones. Reading us the obituary earlier, Tom’s eyes filled up with tears. He told us Maury was the last true hobo alive, and what passed today was the final chapter of an entire way of life.

“Listen,” Old Tom whispered.

We heard it. Excitement built in me with the distant steam whistle. I smacked Jimmy to remind him stay still.

Rumbling, growing in volume. Huffing and chuffing, steady earthquake beneath us growing and growing. And the squeal of iron on the rail.

I glanced at Old Tom. She was coming to a stop. The majestic engine swept past us. And the coal cars, passenger cars— The sharp squeal of brakes, the rattle of boxcars beginning to crawl past us one by…

She stopped.

The boxcar door rolled back, and inside was Maury. Leaning out and offering a hand.

“Come on Tom,” said the ghost of Maury, “I reckon there’s room for one more. Come to Glory.”

Old Tom died happy, and just in time to hitch a ride on the final run of the Wabash Cannonball.

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249 words. Inspired by this Storybook Corner prompt:

adamickes.com – The Old Train

And my Dad, he was fond of the (Roy Acuff? I think) version of the song, back in the day.

I suppose the story makes more sense if you know the mythology of the Wabash Cannonball. But it’s not required.

And all free today

Warming my feet by the fire, I pour another cognac for my guest.

“Oh yes, I’m always been quite interested in your work, particularly how long you’ve managed to evade the authorities. You see, I believe that I have an entire fertile new ground that could require your services, sir.”

Mr. Greely didn’t say anything. But he smiled as his long fingers swirled brandy inside the snifter and he inhaled deeply of it.

“There are certain establishments, you see. And the children are known to run wild within them, delinquents uncontrolled by their criminally negligent parents. Terrible mischief sir, quite terrible. Running, screaming, wanton destruction of property.”

Greely’s eyes sparkled beneath the brim of his battered silk top-hat.

“Something really must be done sir. I’m lead to believe that such is your business, is it not? Perhaps a visit from a certain wagon might be arranged?”

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Come on, Kiddy Winkies

What person whom you don’t know very well in real life — it could be a blogger whose writing you enjoy, a friend you just recently made, etc. — would you like to have over for a long chat in which they tell you their life story?