Coffee from Wawa, two packs of Marlboros and 83.50 in my pocket. Looking for a hop going west or south and there’s nothing; found a plastic tarp which is keeping me dry but not very warm in this rain and wind; I’m kind of hungry but it’s late and dark and not in a mood to move for the sake of hot food somewhere.
Gravel banked against the side of the tracks; lonesome wooden spools which once held wire; mud puddles and rusted rails, chunks of broken up concrete here and there. Streetlamps shine in the distance; and signals which show steady green or red above.
Everywhere I go, I see poverty; I see it in the faces of mothers at McD’s, in tents cropped up here and there; under highway overpasses, on public streets; met a lady who lives in her van.
Oh, it’s not too terrible she says, but it’s lonely; late at night, she says she is scared to be alone. Parked at the far end of a Walmart lot; that’s where she sleeps.
There’s a shanty nearby that might allow me to get out of this rain but the door is locked; I tried it. Not willing to break a window but lord this wind is fierce. Tarp blows around and I try to hold it around me with both hands. Coffee long since gone; have two cold cheeseburgers, paid a buck each and what’s left of an apple pie and that’s supper. I chew on it in silence; the burgers are dry and there’s nothing to wash them down with.
My mind drifts and I remember life in the barracks long ago when I was in the military, how we complained about life with no idea what we might come to; for example, I have come to this; dream of the days of walking to the chow hall; hot breakfast; waffles, biscuits and gravy, any kind of omelet you wanted and they always had hot coffee, cereal, fruit, chocolate milk; slept in a bunk bed with a roomie in an age-old room with a pitched ceiling and free electric; gone are the days.
I recall when we fired at the range; prone position, weapon supported on sandbags; how to take apart the rifle, put it back together, sight it, fire it, and an hour to clean and store it. They had an old school bus take us out and drive us back at the end of the day; once a month we fired in those days; I used to nap on the ride back to the barracks.
An owl hoots somewhere nearby and brings me back to reality. You have to be careful in these rail yards; security (the hobos call them ‘bulls’) might be around at any time; they walk the yard, they have vehicles can pull up too; shine lights in your face, order you up; sometimes they call the cops, sometimes they warn you off; I’ve heard of an occasional beating but that’s never happened to me; I have been run off though.
There’s always a lay-up; flat cars, grainers, tankers; box cars; I never try to sleep in a box car; for one thing you never know who else you might find in it; or who might show up; for another, the door somehow slides shut and you are locked in with no hope of getting out; could freeze, could starve, could be there days before someone showed up; and you pounding on the insides of it hoping someone hears; dark too; when that door is slid shut, it’s pitch black in a boxcar; so boxcars are out.
Have rode the rails for some time; been thru Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, down to Tennessee; avoid the northeast, especially avoid it in winter; you get down in a cubbie hole in one of those grainers, it keeps you out of sight and out the weather; always got to face the rear of the train, keep the wind out; that’s what they told me and that’s what I do. Get off the train in the morning wherever it pulls in at; walk off to find a McD’s mostly; that’s where I eat, use the rest room.
In confession; I tell what I have not done; each night in prayer. I’ve not victimized widows and orphans; not defrauded anyone of money; did not rob; did not steal. Have always used honest weights and measures; lived in peace with my neighbors; did not victimize anyone with violence; nor did I consult astrologers, consort with wizards or practiced sorcery; did not have other gods before me; did not bear false witness; did not kill.
Of other things I admit my free share of guilt.
A consist, kind of long, pulls in and stops on the siding; I think this is going south; look for a place to hop on; empty grainer has two cubbyholes, you squeeze in and there’s almost room to lay out. Not enough to stand up in; that’s okay; out of the wind and rain. He pulls out slow at around 8:05; slight bend in the tracks makes the wheels squeal a bit; it’ll quiet down once the tracks straighten out. So here I am at peace; I unwind the cellophane off a pack of the Marlboros; I can smoke here it’s fine; I’ll lay against my backpack for a pillow, bend my knees and eventually the train will rock me to sleep.