Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Coast Starlight, 6 a.m.

"I've been everywhere man," the young man with ratty blond hair said. "North and south, side to side, across America on these rails more times than I've got fingers."

"Not missing any, right?" I asked.

"Any what?"

"Never mind."

The Coast Starlight's observation car was half-full. Mostly it was people like me, people who don't sleep on trains, who don't change their clothes overnight.

"Want a beer?" the man asked.

"Concession's closed," I said. "Have to wait a few hours."

"Thought of that." He tapped his nose and grinned. "Got a few extra last night."


He pulled out a couple Heinekens from his backpack and handed one to me. I popped the top and took a sip. It was warm and tasted sweet, almost rotten.

"Thanks," I said.

"Man, it's a pleasure."

We drank and watched the sun rise over the eastern hills. Everything was red. The sky was red, bleeding up from the ground. The bark on stripped trees was red. The dirt was red, rich with iron. Dried shrubs were red, stained by the dirt.

"This is the life, huh?" He pushed his bare feet up against the window.

"Yup." I leaned forward and pressed my forehead against the glass. "Sure is."

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