” . . . and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” (Matthew 28:20b KJV)
She startled awake. In her dream, Laverne and Shirley were singing the opening song to their show and doing their shlemiel and schlemazel dance, circling around her as she tried to take each step on the tracks. And then she joined them on the verse,
Nothin’s gonna turn us back now
Straight ahead and on the track now
We’re gonna make our dreams come true
Doin’ it our way
After that she remembered, Archie Bunker hollering to Edith, “God don’t make no mistakes, that’s how He got to be God.” Just before she woke, the last thing she remembered was Archie frowning at her across the kitchen table, while Edith cajoled her into eating some Lucky Charms cereal.
She stretched her limbs, pushed herself up from the pile of leaves, her makeshift bedding, to start her day. Her saltines and water only lasted through the first day. Thankfully, she brought a can of sardines from the pantry, but they made her thirsty. On the second day, she was on the lookout for a creek or a farm where she could fill her canteen. She still had the money, but she hadn’t even come across a town or village yet.
It was the third day, and she was still hoping for a train. She wondered if some big catastrophe stopped all the train traffic along this route. She chewed on a piece of damp grass to keep her mind off the hunger and thirst. She knew she could eat dandelion leaves, but it was early November. Dandelions were scarce. She didn’t even look for mushrooms, because she was afraid she’d choose the poisonous ones. And anyways, she couldn’t stray too far from the tracks, and miss her opportunity. She walked outside the tracks for some variety.
A twig snapped under her foot. And then she heard a faint wa-waaa sound behind her. It repeated and seemed to be getting closer. Could it truly be her train? She looked back down the track to the west, and the beam of the engine light out shined the early morning haze just enough to confirm her hopes. It seemed like it was at least a half mile away, so she had time to search for a good spot to jump on.
It was fairly flat, with a shallow ditch parallel to the tracks. She would crouch down in the ditch and then run toward one of the boxcars after the engine and several cars passed her.
WA-WAAAA! Her breath caught in her throat. She hummed the chorus from Laverne and Shirley, and imagined them crouched there with her. The engine passed. Her heart beat faster. One, two, three, four cars shwoosed past. Five, six, seven, eight tankers blurred her vision. Nine, ten, eleven, twelve boxcars, but she couldn’t move her feet. She thought she heard Laverne yell, “Run!” And so she leapt up and started toward the fifteenth boxcar, when she realized what her eye had already witnessed, the doors of each boxcar were shut tight, not open like she had expected.
Stunned, she lost count. She just stood watching car after car rumble on. After the last string of tankers, she sunk to the ground. And not even a caboose to hop on at the end.