Here's what I did with 45 minutes while waiting for my daughter to finish a class. Just for fun!
I’m pretty sure that no one knew about my obsession with trains. That was what made it all the more dangerous. And it explains completely why I found myself lying on the railroad tracks at the junction of Amtrak’s Central Line and Ryetown’s 54th Blvd on April 8, 2011.
The sun was high in the sky, and beat down upon my bare arms. The iron tracks themselves were barely warm, as the spring thaw had only begun several weeks ago. A light wind blew, raising the hair on my arms and blowing my long brown hair into my face, obscuring my eyesight. I whipped my hair to the right and wrenching both handcuffed arms around to my left side, I strained to read the face on my Union Pacific collectable wristwatch. In only a few minutes the 12:54 would come barreling through the small town. I counted ahead from 12: 38.
I had come too early. Berating myself for being too eager, I glanced from side to side at the bare fields, just beginning to show sprouts of green barley waving in the breeze, hiding the keys I’d tossed as far away as I could hurl them on either side and then looked down the tracks to the north as far as I could.
For weeks now I had wanted to feel the thrill of being flat on my back, knowing that all ten tons of passenger cars would roll over that very spot. I had plenty of time to get up. Too much time in fact.
My stomach growled. The Captain Crunch I’d had for breakfast was long gone. The ripped up feeling in the roof of my mouth remained.
From far away I heard a whistle. Was it a whistle? Could 16 minutes have possibly have gone by, or was the train early?
I’d chosen the junction precisely because of the whistle. I wasn’t stupid. I needed plenty of warning to plan my escape just in the nick of time. The handcuffs, and leg shackles were purchased from Crescent Supply in Ryetown. The look on the clerk’s face was truly priceless. Getting them on by myself had been the real trick.
Another long pull on the horn. Good thing I’d practiced as many times as I did. The train was early. When does that happen?
A convoy of Semi’s blew by on the 54th. I lay as still as possible. Having some beer-bellied red-neck trying to play hero wasn’t in the plan.
Another whistle. It was time.
The squeaky wheels gave the kid away, though the second I saw his face, I knew he was trouble.
“Hey Lady, Whatcha doin’ on the railroad tracks? “
“Get outta here, kid!”
“Are you tryin’ to kill yerself?”
“Go on. Mind your own business!” I was hollering now, willing myself to concentrate, not lose focus. I had done this hundreds of times.
The sweat crept down my back and my wrists ached from the restraint of the cuffs, and having my arms in one position for so long.
“Are you making a movie?” The bike inched closer, momentarily shading my face from the noon sun.
The voice was an irritation, but nothing compared to the anger I felt at myself for the way my fuzzy brain was beginning to panic. Not the way I’d planned it.
I didn’t fancy being pulled off the tracks in shackles, but I mentally gave myself this out, and than just as instantly rejected the idea. The kid was six, maybe seven. He couldn’t have lifted me if he tried.
It was still plan A, but with distractions. I rehearsed a headline or two:
WOMAN AND CHILD DIE IN TRAGIC TRAIN ACCIDENT
And worse yet:
CHILD DIES WHILE RESCUING WOMAN FROM TRAIN
Rolling over the six inch rail with gravel on either side and limited mobility of hands and feet was painful, but I managed to get on top of the right side rail, without thinking I’d gone to the opposite side of the track of the child. Would he try to come running across the tracks to gape at my predicament, and…
Where was this kid’s mother? Why do people let their kids ride bikes near the railroad tracks? Foolish question.
I’d once hear that males crave a brush with death every day. Well, some females do too.
I could hear the engine, and the weight of the 12:54 as it raced at 85 miles per hour to a junction that seldom had any traffic at all. There wasn’t even moveable arm, just a white crossing sign.
The kid was looking up towards the north track, his eyes wide with terror. He was gripping the handle bars of his bike so tight I could see white knuckles.
One big push, and I’d be out of harm’s way. Or most of it. Three feet away was barely out of danger. The wind from the passing train could blow an average sized person under the carriage, especially on an already windy day.
I gathered all my strength just as a small voice cried out.
“You better get out of the way! You want me to push you?”
Everything went black and a deafening noise closed off all further sound.