“ALL ABOOAARRD!” I heard the conductor shout as I raced towards the car. It was
January, 1930, and I had just gotten the worst luck a man could receive. I had been fired, and my
bank had closed. I didn’t have enough money to pay the rent, and as such, I had been dumped
out on the streets. I was in a bad sort of shape. I was forced to sell everything I owned ‘cept the
clothes on my back, just to get enough money for a train ticket.
As I got to the car, and showed the conductor my ticket he punched it and said “Cuttin’ it
kind o’ close there, ain’t ya?” I grunted in response. I made my way to the first open seat I could
find, sat down, and took a look out the window.
I was leaving my entire life behind. My childhood home, it wasn’t much, only one story,
a few rooms, but it was where I grew up, and I knew I was going to miss it. I thought back and
remembered the park I used to play at. Me and the other school boys woulda’ chased each other
through the night if our parents had let us. I would even miss my old school, as much as I hated
it, looking back, it wasn’t that bad. I would miss it all.
The train lurched and I was jolted out o’ my daydreams. It was then that I realized
someone had sat down next to me. I didn’t really care to socialize, but I knew I had a long
journey ahead of me, and it was better than cryin’ over the past. This wasn’t my home anymore,
the world had seen to that.
I was about to ask his name when he spoke up, “You get hit by the depression to?”
I hadn’t expected him to speak, so it took me a little while to respond. “Yeah, who
“Who indeed? What’s yer’ name lad?” he asked me.
I hadn’t been called a lad for a few years, so I was caught off guard again. I managed to
stutter out “Neuman, Joel Neuman. What’s yours?”
“Fred Jordan,” he told me as he leaned back into the seat, “Used to work for Ford, now,
I’m as free as they get. Don’t got to work for nobody.”
Shocked, I blurted “You want to be unemployed?”
“Naa, ‘course not! But I don’t see why I can’t enjoy it while it lasts. Think about it, no
more working all hours of the day just to make a buck! No more tedious tasks that wear away at
a man’s sanity! But enough about me, what’s your story?”
I sat and thought a minute, “I’m not sure where to start. I don’t got no family, or at least,
not anymore. My pa died in the war, I heard he died a hero, saved a few lives. But that don’t put
food on the table. After he died, my ma raised me. She was able to for a while, but when I was
fourteen, she got sick, an’ we couldn’t afford the doc. I had to leave school and get a job just
to keep her livin’. She fought real hard, but eventually, the sickness got the better of her, that
was ‘round when I turned fifteen. I’ve been on my own ever since.
“I was able to keep a job or two, make a livin’. I was even able to keep a roof over my
head, that is, until black Tuesday. When the market crashed, I lost my job, an’ couldn’t find
another. So, I decided I’d leave this town behind, go somewhere new. I sold everythin’ I had,
bought a train ticket, and left.”
I must have gotten a look that said I didn’t want to talk, or maybe there just wasn’t
a response you could give my story. Either way, Fred didn’t respond, so I took a look out
the window. It was pretty dark out, so we must have been talking for longer than I thought. I
watched the forest rolling past for a while. The trees looked so peaceful, with their greens and
browns. I knew that somewhere in there, animals were sleeping soundly and safely in their
burrows, oblivious to the troubles that man was facing. I thought about how there were also
animals out there fighting for survival, hunters and prey, both after the same thing really.
As I looked out into the forest, I realized where my thoughts were taking me, inevitably
home. Home was too painful to think about.
After a while, I caught myself lookin’ at the stars, and wondering if they’d be the
same wherever I ended up. I wanted something I could remember home by, and I had to sell
everything else. But yet again, my thoughts were straying towards my old home. I was movin’
on, and I had to force myself to forget it.
I was movin’ on, but I still didn’t know where I was endin’ up. I just got the cheapest
ticket I could find, figured I’d just see where the train took me. After all, when you don’t have a
job or a home, where you are don’t matter much.
I was about to get up and explore the train when Fred startled me again by asking “You
missin’ your home, ain’t ya?”
I simply nodded.
“Seems to me,” he said, “Life isn’t about events and locations so much as it is about the
space between them. Life is about the journey. That town ‘ill always be your home, no changin’
that. Just cause you leave it now, doesn’t mean you can never go back. Things ‘ill get better, they
always do, and you can get another train ticket an’ go back.
“Right now though, you’re in between places, and you might as well make the most of
I merely grunted. How could I enjoy myself? The world had taken everything from me,
my home, my family, my job. It had forced me to abandon all of that and move on to a new
place. The world had been unfair to me, and I was angry. As I looked out the window, those
were the last thoughts I remember having before I fell asleep.
I don’t know exactly how long I slept, and the only dreams I remember didn’t make any
sense. I woke up around morning, feeling a lot better. As I woke up, I noticed that Fred had gone.
He had seemed like a nice enough guy, maybe a little too nice.
“Oh well, here seems as good a place as any to get off,” I mumbled to myself. I made
my way to the front of the car, and into my new home. As I got off the car, I was struck by the
amount of sunlight, and by how wonderful the weather was.
“You know? Maybe Fred was right. This ain’t so bad, maybe it is possible to just enjoy
the moment you’re in,” and with that statement, I set out to live my new life, knowing that it
wouldn’t be all bad.