Train Town

A story a day until there’s a sleigh! This holiday season, I’m sharing a new flash fiction piece inspired by a holiday song every day of December until Christmas. Today’s story is inspired by Believe.

There was a time before this–you would have known, you would have heard about it–when riding a train was your best option for traveling across the country. It was how you traveled to new towns just forming. Maggie lived in one of those towns–a train town.

The first to arrive in a train town are the industrious single types, typically men, who are willing to lay tracks, manufacture lumber, haul goods, tunnel mines, and pan for gold.

Once it’s clear there’s money to be made, the family men move in–the upstanding gentlemen, the breadwinners, the moral and the faithful.

The former group, the first arrivals, build saloons for fellowship–the latter churches and schools. Undoubtedly, everything comes to a head eventually.

“You need to quiet down now,” Maggie called out to the drunk. “The children here are asleep.”

“What are you yelling at me for?” Where’s your man?” the drunk called back.

Her man was dead two months–buried before the first frost–and Maggie had not yet managed to scrounge the funds to buy passage for her and her children back East.

A voice came from across the street, “Is this sot troubling you?”

Through the dark night, Maggie saw Tom Blair standing on his front stoop rifle in hand. Between them lay a dirt road regularly traversed by wagons and carriages.

“I came to sing the children some carols,” the drunk said as he stumbled toward them.

“I was just asking him to leave,” Maggie said to Tom.

“Silent Night,” the drunk belted. “Holy Night.”

Tom fired a warning shot. “The lady asked you to leave.”

“I’m just trying to spread some Christmas cheer.”

Tom stepped off his stoop, closing in on the drunk. “Church services are tomorrow morning at nine. Until then, I suggest you see yourself home to bed.”

“No bed to go to,” the drunk said, and he then turned toward Maggie. “Unless this fine lady is willing to share hers.”

Before Maggie could offer any response, Tom had smacked the drunk across the head with the butt of the rifle. He moaned in pain and dropped to the ground landing in a pile of horse dung.

Behind her, Maggie heard the door creak open. John Jr. stood in the doorway.

“Ma, is Santa Claus out there?” the boy asked.

Maggie looked out to the street where the drunk was lying in the road, Tom hovering above him.

“Yes,” she said to John Jr. “But if he catches you out of bed, all you’re going to get is a lump of coal.”

She hurried John Jr. back inside and fastened the door tight behind him. If she couldn’t have her man back with her for Christmas, she wanted the next best thing: a ticket out of this godforsaken train town.

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