“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…
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.
249 words. Inspired by this Storybook Corner prompt:
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.