My town is small and dusty. Some of the streets muddy my pants whenever it rains. The tar on other streets colors my bare feet during the summer. There is nothing much to do around here most days.
Except for Saturdays.
On Saturday, the love train comes through town, with its clickety-clacking wheels and cheery toot-toot of its whistle as it slowly crosses Berry Junction before disappearing around the next bend.
Sneaking away from chores, I sit on the hill near the crossroads, biting into the sweet apple I snatch from Mr. Cramer’s yard, and watch the happy faces pass me by.
And for a moment I get to dream.
Maybe today’s smiling faces will make memories at the beach, drawing sand angels and hunting for seashells hidden among the waves.
Or maybe those happy faces are going to grandma’s house for the holidays. Gifts peeking out from under seats as they sing Christmas carols to pass the time.
But one Saturday last fall everything was different.
The love train was different.
The happy clickety-clacking wheels were silent. Instead, I heard the slow thumping of steel hitting rails as it cautiously approached the junction. Even the faces looked sad, all framed in black as a flutter of white wiped at a few tear-stained cheeks.
A long, mournful whistle blew and I was surprised to see the love train slowly stop in front of me. Before, It always passed me by on its journey to some happier place.
What made it stop today?
Why the tears?
Why all the black?
I stared in confusion as several large boxes covered in flags were lifted down from inside, watched over by someone in a dark uniform and white gloves.
Suddenly my cousin called out to me, running up the hill to fetch me home. One more glance at my love train and I followed him back to more sad faces shrouded in black and bits of white.
It isn’t until much later when I finally make it back to Berry’s Junction. I don’t go by Mr. Cramer’s yard today. It’s been ten years since Momma’s brother came home for a visit. Now I stop to brush the snow from my uncle’s grave before climbing the hill. Silently I watch long puffs of smoke cling to bare branches as the love train rolls closer.
The return of the happy clickety-clacking and cheery toot-toot almost makes me smile.
No stops today and for the first time in weeks, I begin to dream again.
I think love fills that train, carrying some to faraway places and new adventures.
But, sometimes, like one day last fall, I think the train simply brought a loved one home.
International best selling, award-winning author, Donna L Martin, has been writing since she was eight years old. She is a 4th Degree Black Belt in TaeKwonDo by day and a ‘ninja’ writer of children’s picture books, chapter books, young adult novels and inspirational essays by night. Donna is a BOOK NOOK REVIEWS host providing the latest book reviews on all genres of children’s books, and the host of WRITERLY WISDOM, a resource series for writers. Donna is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators and Children’s Book Insider. She is a lover of dark chocolate, going to the beach and adding to her growing book collection. Donna’s latest book, LUNADAR: Homeward Bound (a YA fantasy), is now available in eBook and print form from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books A Million, and other online retailers.