(excerpt 8. If you missed the previous installment, scroll down the blog to catch up)
“Where are we?” she asked through sleepy eyes.
“New York City. Listen, why don't you come to Alaska with me?”
“I would love to, Parker, but I can't. I've wanted this job for a long, long time.”
“Maybe I'll come visit you in New York sometime.”
“That would be fantastic. I'm going to miss you, Parker.”
There was a knock on the door. The conductor poked his head in the doorway. “Next stop, Penn Station,” he said in a sing-song voice as if he were performing a rock ballad.
“Thank you, sir,” I said. He left. “That was strange,” I said to Janelle.
“What?” she asked.
“The conductor: he looked familiar.” I was struck by his long hair, full belly, and piercing eyes.
“Well, this is my stop,” she said. “Why don't you come to New York with me?”
“I can't,” I replied without a reason.
She stood and looked at me with sad eyes. Rising, I took her hands in mine. “Good-bye, Janelle.”
She gave me a peck on the cheek before disappearing down the corridor. I returned to my seat and looked out the window, and as the train jerked into motion and pulled away from the station I saw Janelle standing on the platform waving good-bye. I leaned back against the cushioned seat and reflected on my chance encounter with the blonde enchantress. Will I ever see her again? If I visit her will she even remember me? Would she be any different than the others who had broken my heart?
In the window I saw the reflection of a short man, his eyes hidden by his hat, standing in the doorway to my chamber. By the time I turned around to confront the mystery man he was gone.
The hypnotic wobble of the carriage and the pitter-patter of the rain against the window lulled me to sleep. The locomotive slipped through small towns, across rolling farm fields, and through snow-covered mountain passes. The train slowed as it climbed to the top of one pass where an enormous cave opening, the size of a football stadium, provided entrance to another dimension. Blinding light emanated from the cavern as people of all races and ages streamed down the slope into the earth. Their faces were relaxed and bore smiles and bright eyes. The aurora borealis flickered overhead: a wavy electronic curtain displaying the colors of the rainbow.
As the train rolled down the western slope toward
, the radiance behind faded to the soft light of a
full moon up ahead. Moose and Elk, skis strapped to their hooves, schussed down
mountain slopes through deep champagne powder, carving turns like seasoned
Olympic champions. Alaska
The Alaska Peninsula stuck out like a long, bony white finger across the Gulf of Alaska. Killer whales rolled and leaped out of the water, performing in the moonlight for the throngs of captivated passengers that leaned against the railing of their cruise ship.
The train rolled to a stop and the change of motion awakened me. The portly, long haired conductor poked his head in the compartment. “Anchorage, Alaska,” he informed me.
I stood up and stretched my arms and then mindlessly put my hand in the pocket of my jacket. What's this, I wondered as I pulled out the note that was not there when I fell asleep.
Meet me at Trader Jack's, nine PM, Saturday night.