Stories My Craft

Feeling Hungry on the Southwest Chief

He jumped on the Southwest Chief as it picked up speed at the Alvarado Transportation Center. The porter swung him into the car and waved to the engineer to aim the train to Los Angeles. He wandered past the seats, swiped a blanket from a baby carriage, and slid into an empty row. He pulled the blanket up to his neck and watched the mesquite trees out the window until he fell asleep.

When he woke it was dark and he didn’t know where he was for a second. He let his eyes adjust to the light and then felt a gnawing hunger. He looked behind to the commissary section. Seeing it was still open, he wandered back to find something to cure his empty stomach.

An Amtrak porter stood behind the small counter surrounded by stickers, pinwheel cakes, odd sodas, and a deli case filled with roast beef sandwiches, tuna fish, and White Castle hamburgers. He selected the tiny burgers, slipped them into the microwave, and grabbed an orange soda. The porter sat on a stool watching the television fade in and out.

“Will that be it?”

“This and those burgers in the microwave.”

“Tough dude on the news,” the porter said. “He’s scaring the passengers.”

He watched the television screen as a train pulled away, then a crime scene, and then the screen showed only snow. The microwave dinged. He took the burgers away avoiding the porter’s eyes.

“Do you want your change?”

He ignored the porter as he hurried to his seat. Once he sat down, he pulled the blanket over his head, ate the burgers in four bites, sloshed down some soda, and took a deep breath. He slowly peaked over the blanket. Everyone appeared asleep and no one saw him. He relaxed and stared at an old man sitting across the aisle.

He felt a new appetite grow and he wondered if he could kill the guy before the train reached Flagstaff.

© 2018, Michael Shawn Sommermeyer. All rights reserved.

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