The Chevy Malibu turned right onto Nickles road. Nancy, usually not much of a drinker, lost track of the number of glasses of champagne she had at 7. Sam was driving but by all rights shouldn't have been. He was only slightly more sober than Nancy. They made their way down the quiet two lane road. To the left, there was a nature preserve and on the right - the Chase river. This wasn't the shortest route from the reception hall back to their apartment. 'There are fewer cops on the backroads' thought Sam. He wasn't the only one with that in mind.
It was a few minutes past 11:30pm when they approached a railroad crossing. The lights started flashing as the gates lowered. Sam floored the Malibu but realized he wasn't going to make it. He slammed on the brakes - tires squealed. Nancy lurched toward the dash and shot Sam the 'who taught you how to drive ya moron?' look. He gave her his best sad puppy face. She tried her best to not let this trick work but it always did. Their conversation returned to the wedding and reception they had just come from.
Across the tracks, a white Mustang pulls up just as the 1st engine passes. A single silhouette is perched in the driver's seat. 'We're in the city so this could take a while' Sam thought to himself. 'The trains always run slower in town than they do in the country.'
"It was Steve right? His name was Steve?" Nancy asked.
"What? Ya. He was pretty crazy" he reflexively responded to Nancy's question. Sam fell into "Yes dear" mode. He settled back in his seat and stared at the box cars as they began to pass. His mind drifted back to a moment in his youth. Nancy's words were losing the battle of attention with his thoughts.
It was 15 years ago on a sweltering hot summer day in rural Ohio. Young Sam was in the back seat enjoying the breeze from the open window. He and his dad were making their way to the hardware store. The car and breeze came to a stop. Ahead, Sam saw the RR sign and recognized the train's familiar whistle. No gates at this stop. His dad put the car in park, turned and motioned Sam to the front seat with a wave and a smile. Sam couldn't climb over the seat fast enough! Sitting in the front seat was a rare gift his dad gave him. "Don't tell your mom I let you up here." chuckled his father.
The train lumbered to the crossing and started to sway. There was a spot of track that had become warped causing the cars to pitch back and forth like bottles in the ocean. To Sam this was great. Not only did he get a front row seat but some excitement too. Would a car fall of the tracks? If it did, would that take the whole train down? Then his dad said in an unfitting yet familiar high pitched voice "Do you see that Sam? Sam??" Suddenly, he realized it was Nancy trying to get his attention. The childhood wobbly day train vision was replaced by the darkness outside of his car.
Sam looked over at Nancy. Her eyes were fixed straight ahead and she was as pale as the moon. The train was still crawling in front of them but that wasn't what she was looking at. "What's up Nan?" It took a few seconds for what he was seeing beyond the train to register and even then he wasn't sure what to make of it. His heart instinctively started to race.