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Last Train Home

Fog rolled across the bay as the Screaming Hatchet pulled to a stop at the Wyatt Street junction.

Jim Preston set the break and swung out of the engine, drinking in the thick, cool ocean air. He could almost feel the salt settling into his scalp, and it made his heart pound. He was half convinced he missed his calling as a ship’s captain.

Then he saw the throng of people moving out from under a grove of blue gum eucalyptus, and he remembered why he was an engineer.

The Wyatt station served mills and factories, meant only as a place to exchange products — raw materials came from the logging and mining camps up on Wolf Ridge and beyond, and finished goods went back north to keep the men working.

There wasn’t a passenger car to be found on the Screaming Hatchet.

So, why were all these folks lining up to greet a dirty freight train?

It was a question Jim would have to answer soon enough if his boss, Mr. Durham, ever caught wind.

For now, Jim was just happy to deliver his most precious cargo once again. Why should families be kept apart for months at a time when he made the trip back and forth every day?

No reason he could think of. He waved to the gathering crowd and walked to the center car. It was no great shakes, but he’d added some padding and canteens over the years, and his “customers” didn’t seem to mind.

Jim slid open the heavy metal door on the box, and thirty men streamed out, running for the open arms of home.

Published inFlash Fiction

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