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Endeavour’s Fall #32: Place of Origin

Jul 23, 2017





Home is where one starts from. As we grow older

The world becomes stranger, the pattern more complicated

Of dead and living. Not the intense moment

Isolated, with no before and after,

But a lifetime burning in every moment

And not the lifetime of one man only

But of old stones that cannot be deciphered.

 -Tom S. Eliot


There was no smoke coming from the Mack engine.  Sam saw that it stood upright again in its place on its tracks. Its black side was still crumpled with sharp and shiny metal edges showing, like Sam remembered from the last time he had seen it. The kitchen car had been righted as well, but all of its glass was still broken.

 Sam saw his steamshovel stowed up on its car. He couldn’t remember exactly what his diggings had looked like when he left, but it seemed like nothing had been done since. His hole was filled with weeds and leaves. There were even bits of debris charred by the explosion lying in the mud.

 Sam approached the kitchen car and banged on the bottom of the door. He climbed up the step and slid it open.

 “Ma? Pa?” he shouted.

 The floor was swept of broken glass, but the car still looked deserted. Rain or snow had come through a broken window and wet leaves covered the table. Ma would not let any of this happen in her kitchen.

 Sam searched the kitchen car, then the next car and the engine, for any sign of life. Giving up on the train cars, he searched the diggings and campsite outside.  There were no signs of anyone.  He couldn’t find the jigger either.

Sam turned back to the kitchen car.  He climbed the step and pulled a chair over to the worn and dirty table.  With a deep breath, Sam sat down at the kitchen table and buried his head in his hands. He had worried so many nights of coming home to bad news, to news of death even.  He never anticipated coming home to nothing at all.

 He sat and thought for some time. Emma might know something. He wouldn’t mind seeing her anyway. Sam had thought a lot about Emma lately, and the night she had disappeared in Switch. It was not in his nature to be suspicious, and he couldn’t help worrying about her.

 Sam decided to head down to Switch.  He followed the Mack spur to the main line, and had just followed the main line across a small canyon stream when he heard an engine approaching. He climbed off the raised track down into the muddy embankment and leaned back against a rocky canyon wall to get out of the way.

 It looked like a cargo train was puffing up the canyon past the Mack claim, probably running supplies to Burlington. Sam sat back and enjoyed the shade as it rushed past. Then he turned downhill again and started trudging through the rough stones. Suddenly, he heard a voice behind him, back towards the spur. He spun around.

 “Sam!” Emma cried.

 She ran down the tracks.

 Sam started running back towards her as well.  They collided and embraced.

 “You’re alive!” said Emma, breathless.

 “I am,” said Sam.  He stepped back.

 “You are taller than I remember,” he said.

 Emma laughed. “I saw an airship dropping low up here by your old claim. I thought I’d catch a ride up to see what was going on. You didn’t see me go by?”

 Sam shook his head. “I didn’t think to look for anyone.”

 “How long have you been up here?”

 “I was on the airship. It’s… it’s a long story,” said Sam.

 “Well, you’ll have to tell me about it,” said Emma. I don’t think another train is heading to Switch on this line until late tonight. We might as well walk and catch up. I can’t believe you’re back!”

 “I can’t believe it either,” said Sam. “Do you know… do you know what happened to my family?” He nodded up towards the abandoned claim.

 “Of course. How stupid of me,” said Emma. “Your family lives down in Switch now.”

 “And my Pa?” asked Sam.

 “What do you mean?”

 “He’s alright?” asked Sam.

 “Oh, well last I heard he’s fine. I think I saw him yesterday,” said Emma.

 “He was hurt when I left,” said Sam. “I never knew if…” Something caught in Sam’s throat. Tears welled up and overpowered him. He stopped and covered his face with his hands.

 “Oh, Sam, I forgot.” Emma put an arm around Sam’s shoulder. “You have been gone so long.” Emma didn’t say anything for a while.

 When Sam was ready to walk again, he wiped his face and gave Emma a tired smile. “Thank you.”

 “I’m just glad you’re back, Sam,” said Emma. “I guess we have some catching up to do.”

 “Tell me about my family first,” said Sam.

 “They are all fine,” said Emma. “Your father is working in a Company mine in Switch. Both of your brothers work there too. I think your mother is working at the laundry. I see them a lot more often now that they’re in town.”

 “I’m surprised to hear they are in town,” said Sam.

 “It was hard for them,” said Emma. “The Deacon helped them find work.”

 “Wow, things must have really changed. I never thought they would accept anything from him,” said Sam.

 “I have been surprised a lot by your parents lately,” said Emma. “They seem to be getting along with the Deacon a lot better lately. Ever since the Inquisitors came, things have been different between them.”

 “So, what happened to you? That night with the train, you never came back.”

 “Well, you don’t get to have all the fun,” said Emma. “Let’s see.  The last time I saw you, I went out to slide over a switch, and Reverend Dimsdale was there, in the switch yard.  He grabbed me and took me back to the house. It was horrible. I have never seen the Deacon so angry.”

 “Oh. I didn’t know,” said Sam.

 The two walked along for a while in silence.

 “What happened?” asked Sam.

 “To me? Nothing, really. All of the Inquisitors ran out of the house after the Deacon’s train. They just dropped me. The Deacon fussed over me all night while we waited for them to come back.”

 Sam remembered that dark night and the race down the canyon. “They chased me down to Albany,” he said.

 “Did you see them?” asked Emma. “When the Deacon’s engine was found in Albany we figured you’d made it fine. The Inquisitors derailed, you know.”

 “Oh?” asked Sam.

 “Yes, it stopped up rail traffic to Switch for days,” said Emma. “The Deacon said it was an answered prayer that the Inquisitors didn’t come back.”

 “They didn’t come back at all?” asked Sam.

 “No, it was horrible really,” said Emma. “I heard that only one of them survived. But we haven’t seen them again in Switch.”

 “That’s good,” said Sam.

 “So what happened to you in Albany?” asked Emma.

“I was conscripted into the Airship Navy,” said Sam.

 “That sounds exciting,” said Emma.

 “It really wasn’t,” said Sam. “I mostly just missed home.”

 “So, the Navy just dropped you off at home again, after all this time?”

 “I guess you could say that,” said Sam. “Like I said, it’s a long story.”

 “Well, I have to say, this is such a surprise. We were all so worried about you, and turns out you were off on an adventure in the Airship Navy!” Emma said. She crossed her arms. “I don’t think I like it.”

 “Are you mad at me?” asked Sam. “It’s not like I could write a postcard. I was practically a prisoner on board.”

 Emma walked along for a while. “I guess I can see that. But it certainly sounds better than some of the awful things we’d imagined.”

 “It was awful enough, in its own way,” said Sam. “But in the end, I may have made some friends.”

 “Well, that’s always a good thing,” said Emma. 

 © J. O. Evans 2017. All Rights Reserved.