Holiday in Brownsville, Jesse Power
From Vol. 1 No. 5
Telling this story will probably make the whole thing sound a lot greater than it actually was. I have told it far too many times already and every time I regurgitate it, bits of truth fall away and are forever lost in the cluttered black hole-jungle located at the top of my spinal cord in the back of my skull. In this space I am at peace with the world and myself in a state of continual germination, but I must no longer think of this because I am aware that I am disrupting the balance of this fragile ecosystem, attacking it with back-hoes and radioactive waste.
Boredom can have that kind of effect on the human mind. It destroys all that it can find, and when there is nothing left, it turns upon itself. Perhaps this is what was happening to Francois and me when we decided that hopping trains in January was a good idea.
I met him that evening. He was returning from a frantic day of work as a bus-boy for “Le Casa du Spaghetti.” Francois told me his boss was a greedy prick that pushed him too hard, but not having a high school diploma and being too stubborn, at the time, to apply for welfare, he didn’t have much choice.
In his Sher”Bronx” apartment (the Sherbrooke equivalent to the Bronx), we realized that again, there was nothing to do. The idea had been lingering in our minds for ages, but the time had never been right.
We arrived in the freight yard disguised as Michelin men wearing double toques, extra long johns, neck warmers, and about a thousand layers of dirty laundry. In our one bag we had more clothes, some carrots and celery, matches, a compass, and a vegetable knife. We had about fifteen dollars between the two of us. We hid in a snow-filled ditch to hide from a C.N. worker in his pick-up truck, and when the coast was clear we hurled ourselves onto the station train. The car we had picked contained some kind of chemical. I crawled through a two foot wide holw into another little hole and then into a small metal compartment just big enough to sit down in. Francois did the same in another metal room parallel to mine, and at that moment the train took off.
“Holy Shit!” I hollered above the clanking of the iron wheels, now gaining momentum, “We are doing it!”
Francois yelled back laughing, “Are we stupid or are we stupid?”
We were stupid. Time barrelled on into darkness, and our joy was slowly replaced by a bewildered schizophrenic fear. We plunged forward, into the unknown at rocket speed.
Peering out of my hole, I could see that we were passing through a town. A semi-trailer read “Megantic,” and so did a factory sign. This meant we were headed north.
The noise had now become incredible, like ten thousand screaming voices, or police sirens. It was freezing cold. My clothes now stuck to the metal walls. I realized there was no turning back. There wasn’t any light except for a small rusted-out hole underneath me where I could see sparks flying off the blurred tracks and steel spinning underneath me like a saw blade. It screamed. Several times I thought I heard Francois calling my name, but it was all in my head. I started to dream. I wished for anything familiar. I cried for my old life, family and friends who, I truly believed, I would never see again. There was no feeling in my feet anymore, it was all pins and needles.
Taking the only way out I could find, I fell asleep, only to wake up to discover that my nightmare was real. The cold had reached my heart. I crawled out of my hole and met Francois on the small balcony. The wind blew right through me. He seemed remarkably cool. We figured out that we had been on the train now for exactly three hours. We sped through boreal forests covered in snow. I felt the power of the train. It was unstoppable. It was in control and we were being taken with it. It alone knew our fate. It was our fate.
In the middle of arctic-nowhere, the train stopped and we returned to our hiding places. There was nothing but silence and falling snow. “What if they leave us here?” we whispered to one another in the dark. We could hear the clanking of a brake-man disconnecting a car. We waited in silence. Our car slowly began to move, and we were back on the road.