Copyright 2016 Mario V. Farina
Shakespir Edition, License Notes
All Rights Reserved
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Correspondence may be directed to:
Mario V. Farina
Email: [email protected]
“I’ll be out in a minute, Linda,” came the voice from inside the stall in the women’s restroom. “Stay where you are. Keep talking to me.”
Little Linda, swathed in a heavy, brown coat, yellow scarf, blue mittens, and red wool cap, started to shout something back, but her tiny voice was obliterated by the loudspeaker. “Passengers are reminded, there are two trains waiting. Those headed for New York City will be boarding first; then those going to Buffalo. Wait until your train is called. All aboard now for Hudson, Poughkeepsie, and New York City. For those who are westward bound, boarding will be announced in five minutes.”
Disobeying her mother’s bidding, Linda stepped into the waiting room at the same time that a sudden rush began for the exit doors. She was unwittingly swept into the melee. “Mommy! Mommy!” she called out. “Hurry!”
It was early in the morning on a bitterly cold December 31. There had been no snow so far this season and many were hoping this would continue, at least, until sometime after New Year’s. But if the weather reports were to be believed, those hopes would be dashed around noon today when a heavy snowfall would began. Already, the skies were turning an ominous gray.
Linda’s brown eyes opened wide as she caught sight of the train. The cold air stung her face like shards of ice and tears started in her eyes. The passenger cars outside the waiting room loomed massive as dinosaurs. There was a footstool on the blacktop and people were treading on it, then scrambling up the short flight of steps that led to the inside of the car. Linda was too small to climb. She tried but failed. She stared upward and began sobbing. A stout woman, in a black fur coat that doubled her girth, impatient to clamor aboard, placed her hands under Linda’s elbows and lifted her bodily nearly to the top of the steps. “Your father should be doing this,” she groused. “Where is she anyway?” The woman’s body, acting as a battering ram, drove the little girl up the remaining steps until she was inside. But Linda’s involuntary actions did not end there. From the pressure of others behind her, she was propelled forward. Staggering, she managed to stay upright for a few steps, then suddenly toppled into an empty seat. The train began to move almost immediately.
In the meantime, Arlene Linden was frantically exploring the waiting room. “Linda! Linda, where are you?” The public address system announced a call for the westward bound train and the rush for the doors resumed. Arlene drove her way fiercely to the front of the horde. “Linda, Linda!” She screamed, her eyes darting in every direction.
“Have you lost your little girl?” Asked a gray-haired woman. “Yes! Yes! Have you seen her, red Brown coat?” the frantic woman shouted. “She’s just ahead of you,” the woman responded. “I think she’s already on the train. A big woman was helping her on.” Arlene waited to hear no more; she scrambled up the steps. On board, she sprinted through the several cars of the train calling out, “Linda, Linda, where are you?” Her cries elicited no response. The train started to move. Now, while Linda was headed for Manhattan, Arlene, her mother, was on the way to Buffalo.
“Where is your mother, little girl?’ A kindly looking, blue-uniformed conductor was speaking. Linda pointed to the back of the train. “There,” she said. “Got separated, eh?” the conductor said. “Don’t be afraid, I’ll find your mother, and bring her to you. Wait right here!”
“Rensselaer, Rensselaer, next stop! Rensselaer in five minutes.” The train was beginning to slow. The aisles immediately filled with passengers working their way toward the exit. Instinctively, Linda joined them. Again, she found herself in an irresistible torrent. She was shoved forward several steps until she was suddenly pushed into an empty seat beside a young woman, engrossed in a magazine. Linda sat quietly while several passengers left and a few came on board.
“Tickets please,” the same conductor was demanding. The woman beside the little girl handed a ticket to him, and he punched it ceremoniously. Linda made no move and the conductor went on to the next person taking a moment to smile broadly at her as if to say, “I see you found your mother.” The young woman turned to Linda and asked, “where are your parents, little girl?” For the first time, Linda looked closely at her accidental companion and was comforted by what she saw. The woman was slim, dark-haired, and pretty. She was wearing a charcoal-gray woolen coat with a white scarf wound loosely around her neck.
“Where are your parents?” The woman repeated. “My Mommy got losted,” Linda replied.
“You mean you got lost, don’t you? Is your mother on the train?”
“I don’ think so,” replied Linda.
“Where is your daddy?”
“Home taking care of Baby.”
“Where are you going?”
To see Gran’ma.”
“Well you certainly can’t get there alone! My name is Nancy Gordon. What is your name?”
“What’s your last name, Honey? Where do you live?”
“My name is Linda Marie Lyn’n an’ I live at 22 Main Street, Skin Your Neck T’day, New York,” she stated in the well rehearsed rhythm that she had been taught at home.
“That’s a funny name for a city,” said the young woman. How old are you, Linda?”
“Four an’ a half.”
“How did you get on the train, Dear?”
“A lady lifted me. My Mommy said to wait, but I couldn’t.”
“How long have you been on the train?”
“A long time!”
“You need to be with your parents, Linda. I’ll be getting off the train soon to meet my husband. I want to help you. Do you trust me?”
The next stop was Hudson. Nancy held Linda by the hand waiting in the car until it became obvious that Linda’s parents were not on board. Carrying a light bag over her shoulder, she helped the little girl to the pavement.
“Ooh, it’s cold!” Said the little one, shivering vigorously. “That’s OK, Honey,” Nancy replied. “Soon you’ll be comfy in that big truck over there.” She pointed to a huge tractor-trailer parked nearby, its engine running.
There was a tall, sandy haired, young man dressed in a heavy gray lumber jacket standing beside the shiny red cab. He smiled and waved as he spied Nancy walking toward him. His face took on a quizzical look when he saw that she was accompanied by a little girl.
“Hi Honey,” Nancy called out. “The new truck is beautiful! I love it!”
“Hello Sweetheart,” he called back. “Who’s that with you?”
Nancy waited to respond until after they had met and embraced briefly. “This is Linda, Tom. She kept telling me her last name on the train but I couldn’t understand it. Somehow she got on board accidentally. Her parents must be worried sick. They’re probably at home with a house full of people waiting for news. We need to take her home – wherever home is.”
“Why us?” Tom asked. “That’s what the police are for.”
“Tom, I think we can do it more quickly and with less stress on the child than anyone else. Her home can’t be far from here. We can retrace the route the train took. Were going in that direction anyway.”
“It’ll be a nuisance traveling without a radio, Sweetheart, but if this is what you want, this is what will do. I’ll have to break my appointment with Big Rigs. They were going to install the communications and navigation system this afternoon. He turned to their little companion and smiled. “What do you think, Linda, do you want to ride home in my new truck?”
Completely at ease, she smiled back. “I guess so. I’d like you!” she said.
Tom help the child climb the several steps of the ladder that led to the spacious interior of the cab. With the heat fully on, it was warm inside. Linda giggled with delight as she gazed at the myriad gauges on the dashboard and peered through the panoramic windshield. “Ooh, way high up!” She squealed
“She said she lives on Main Street in Skin Your Neck Today,” said Nancy. Where in the world would that be?”
“I have no idea,” Tom replied. “It would help if we had a radio in the rig. We could learn a lot from the other truckers. One thing we can do is get on the throughway and ask at the rest stops. Someone should know something.”
“Yes, I think so too,” exclaimed Nancy. “I think the first place we could try would be the Guilderland service area near Albany. We could have a bite to eat there too.”
“Great idea!” Said Tom
He made a quick call to Big Rigs, adjusted the heat in the cab, then put the truck in gear. There were a few spatters of moist snow on the windshield as he eased the truck from the parking lot and began weaving it through the narrow streets of downtown Hudson. He got on 9G, crosssed the Rip Van Winkle Bridge, then after a few minutes entered the New York State Thurway at Catskill. “There are a couple of inches of snow on the road already,” said Tom worriedly, as he navigated the enormous 28 wheeler cautiously on the superhighway. Sleepily, Linda sat between the two adults, her eyes focused on the growing red and green indicators on the control panel.
Within an hour, it was snowing hard and the wipers were racing furiously across the windshield barely keeping up with the snowfall. There were now several inches of moisture-laden slop on the highway, and a few vehicles ahead of them, their emergency lights blinking, had slowed to a crawl. Despite their slow speed, saturated snow splashed high from their wheels. It was nearing noontime and Nancy arranged the bed in the cubby behind the seats for Linda to lie down. Linda happily did this and was soon fast asleep
There was a roadblock, heavily populated with police, just past the Albany exit. Tom rolled down his window allowing the savage outdoor environment encroach upon the cabs comfortable interior. A red-faced police officer, in full winter regalia, approached the truck. “Hi, up there,” he called out, as the cascading wet snow slid down his face. A brisk wind partially drowned out his words. “I need to ask you some questions,” he yelled. There was a sudden look of recognition on his face. “Oh hello, Tom. Say, that’s a beautiful truck you got there. Is it brand-new?” “Yes, Pat,” replied Tom, recognizing an old friend. “I figured that if my new bride and I were going to travel long distances, we should do it in style.”
“I hate to trouble you,” the officer shouted. “There’s been a little girl lost or kidnapped. She’s between four and five. Her name is Linda Linden. Were hoping someone coming this way might have seen something.” The wind was picking up in intensity. “Never mind, Tom, the sergeant is calling. Carry-on! Drive carefully! This nor’easter is getting worse.” He departed, quickly disappearing into the murk.
“Whew, that was close,” murmured Tom as they resumed their trip.
“Why so? Said Nancy rhetorically. “When not doing anything wrong!”
“Some might have a different opinion,” retorted Tom. “Anyway, from what Pat said, we must be getting close. Tell me again where Linda said she lived.”
“22 Main Street Skin Your Neck Today.”
The rugged wipers made slapping noises as they struggle to keep the windshield clear.
“I’ve got it.” Tom suddenly declared. “We kids used to recite little jingles. Did you ever hear, ‘chicken in the car, the car can’t go; that’s the way to spell Chicago’? Linda must have heard something similar for her own town. What does Skin Your Neck Today sound like?”
An exit sign came into view on the side of the road. They stared at it and simultaneously began to laugh. “Schenectady, of course!” they called out in unison.
“Well, now we know the name of the city,” said Tom. “I’ve been there. I know where Main Street is! We’ll have her home in a few minutes. Then, depending on the weather, we should be home in Troy in about another hour.”
Because of the deepening darkness and the deluge of snow, Tom could barely see the road at the Schenectady exit. He slowed to barely a walking pace as he approached, then went through the EZ Pass Gate at the toll booth.
“Did you hear her say she likes me?”
“What’s there not to like? I like you, too.”
Tom maneuvered the unwieldy vehicle skillfully down Broadway Hill then made a wide sweeping left onto Main Street.
“Sweetheart, you know what I’d like?”
“I’d like our first child to be a girl! “
“That’s okay with me. But why do you suddenly bring that up?”
“Well, it’s New Year’s Eve,” he replied. “And this will be my first resolution for the new year!”