Some will do anything just to belong. Flash Fiction.
|*This story was inspired by a true event that I heard from my brother-in-law who is a signals supervisor for the railroad.
"Nervous?" Glen asked Joe with a grin.
"A little," Joe answered. And he was, but not nearly as much as he'd expected.
"The train'll be along in about ten minutes. Do just as we told ya and you'll be just fine," Glen said while his breath emanated ghostly vapors in the chill air.
Joe nodded, then kicked at one of the rails in the moonlight. Billy and Jackson smiled at Glen.
Joe had walked these tracks about a million times and never thought about doing what he was about to. Though he thought about laying across them a couple times after his mom up and left him three years before when he was 12 years-old; for then the weekly beatings from his father began. This was almost as crazy...but after it was over, he would finally be part of the group.
The four boys were uncharacteristically silent for a couple minutes.
“Gonna take Mary to watch that new picture in town tomorrow?” Billy asked Glen in an obvious attempt to break the tension.
“Gonna take her to it. Not sure how much we’ll actually watch it.” Three boys laughed while Joe stared up at the sky; the stars were brighter than he ever remembered.
Billy, Jackson and Glen continued to make predictions as to what would happen on Glen’s date. Joe heard the train first through their laughter, but said nothing.
“Hold on,” Glen held out his palm and shushed his two friends. He looked down the tracks as the light rounded the corner of the woods. “This is it,” he said. “Alright, Joe, get on in there.”
Three boys stepped back while Joe stepped in the center of the tracks and faced the oncoming headlight. He felt the ground tremble under his feet; it was then the panic grabbed him. Was the friendship of three boys worth risking his life? What the hell was he thinking? The train cruised the tracks far quicker than he expected. Jump off or lay down? He had only seconds to decide. Suddenly, the train whistle screamed like a thousand angry tea kettles.
"Christ Almighty, Joe! Lay down!" Glen yelled.
Joe’s brain followed the command on its own accord, and forced him down across the wooden ties with only seconds to spare. Gravity seemed to sense his danger and pushed his head and back painfully against the gravel and ties.
Though the whistle, heavy clanging of metal on metal, and the screeching of the brakes attacked his ears like fire ants, he dared not reach for his ears. His black hair flew about wildly. He could feel his organs reverberate as the train rumbled within inches of his body.
As the train finished its trek, Joe heard the three boys on the edge of the woods cheer, “Joe, you crazy son of a bitch!” He jumped off the tracks as the train came to a halt 100 yards behind him.
"Hey! Don't move! Get over here!" said a shadowy figure as it emerged from the side of the train engine.
“Come on, Joe! We gotta get out of here!” came Glen’s voice.
Joe smiled and his heart leapt as the boys slapped him on the back in triumph while they ran back through the path in the woods. He was a part of something now, not of something good necessarily, but something; and for now, that suit him just fine.