The Glory Train by Robert Williams

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The day after I turned twelve, my Momma gave me a bundle of clean clothes, a piece of bread and a kiss goodbye. Then my Daddy took me aside and said it wasn't that they didn't love me, they just couldn't afford to keep me, not with that bank up in Kansas City about to foreclose on the farm and the baby near starving to death.

"Twelve is much too young for a boy to be on his own," he said, "but they're calling this a Depression, and I don't have any choice." When he gave me his old pocketknife, the one his daddy gave him, I threw my arms around his neck, started cryin' and said, "Please don't make me go, Daddy!"

I don't want to talk about that anymore.

After all was said I started along the railroad tracks, watching the sunrise as I walked. Didn't matter which way I went, ‘cause I had nowhere to go. But the sunrise was pretty and the spring leaves were out on the trees all nice and green, which gave me something to think about other than how Momma and Daddy couldn't afford to keep me no more.

I kept going east, keeping to the tracks, sleeping under bridges, taking work where I could get it and leaving places that didn't feel right in a hurry. I guess I could've gone all the way to St. Louis if I hadn't wandered into the path of the Glory Train.

It came gliding up behind me from out of the sunset one evening, the big headlight in front of it glaring like the sun had to decided to come back for one last peek at the land before settling down for the night. That headlight likely saved my skin, ‘cause I never heard the Glory Train coming. That's how I knew this wasn't no ordinary train. The Glory Train never made a sound. It ran as silent as the night the Lord was born.

I hopped off the tracks and the train came to a stop beside me just as smooth and sleek as you please. Now anyone with a lick of sense would have took off running the minute they saw a train that ran silent stop right in front of them like some kind of ghost train come to haul your screaming soul off to Hell. But I didn't, no sir, and it wasn't just because that train was the darnedest thing I'd ever seen. It didn't have no big blocky engine up front with a cowcatcher, smokestack and all that. This train looked like the biggest bullet you ever saw, smooth and round and sleek from its nose to its tail end. It had paintings all down its sides too, like stuff you'd see on the side of a carnival tent, with prancing elephants, bulls and bears, and princesses in carriages pulled by teams of donkeys. But that didn't freeze me to the spot and make me have to fight not to wet my overalls.

What got me was that the train was floating. That train floated in the air a good half-foot above the tracks and never touched the rails once. I'll swear it on a Bible dipped in holy water.

While I stood there gawking, a door in the side of the train opened, and a man in a top hat and tails stepped out.

"Well it's a wandering boy!" said the man. "As well as a boy wandering well!" Then he threw back his head and laughed to beat the band.

I tried to answer him, but this whole thing was just so peculiar that I was dumb with amazement.

The man leaned down, pointed his finger at me and said, "Say there, wandering boy, how would you like to take a ride on the Glory Train? I can tell you you'd like it very much, for the Glory Train is a train of glories, and a ride on it is the ride of all rides!"

I didn't know what to say.

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