by Hugh Wesley
Real or imagined, they can be supremely annoying.
|“Magnificent machine, this.”
Seth bent down a corner of his newspaper and peered across the train car, met a pair of mischievous eyes.
“I suppose,” Seth said, and went back to reading.
“Supremely powerful,” the portly man went on. “Unstoppable, they say.”
Seth cleared his throat. He hoped the stranger had said his peace.
“Why, I’ll bet even on a night like this, with a bright full moon …”
So much for peace, Seth thought. He peeked over his paper again.
The man went on.
” … I’ll bet even then, that the engineer couldn’t stop this train in the span of a mile if a lonely cow wandered out there on the track. In full sight!”
“Maybe,” Seth said.
“In fact,” the chatterbox went on, “they say it was a full moon the night Thomas Franks … well, you know.”
“Can’t say I do.” Seth winced at his misstep.
“Ah, you don’t know Franks?!” the fat man exclaimed. “Well, story goes he was a wealthy mine owner who lost everything when a shaft collapsed. Sneaked out of bed the next night, kissed his wife goodbye, and went to the Hampton station. Lay down across the tracks and waited.”
Seth glanced at the man again, fascinated in spite of himself.
The man’s voice grew playful again. “They say, that on nights like this, Franks’ ghost hitches a ride on this very train.”
The car door opened behind Seth, and he turned to find a blushing young man, hat in hand.
“I’m sorry, sir,” the newcomer said. “Apparently, I sat in the wrong car. The conductor asked me to move back here.”
The young fellow shuffled in … and sat in the empty seat across from Seth.
The stranger grinned. “Say, I think the next station is Hampton. You ever hear of Thomas Franks?”