Sunday, December 14, 2008

V II Declassified -- Item 3: Crescent Run I

There is a track of railroad that heads east out of New Orleans, travels through the sweaty hairline of the South, turning north to follow along the East Coast until it finally terminates in New York City. While the official name of the line that travels it has changed as regularly as ownership has passed from hand to hand, the farmers and locals of the regions it passes through have always called it The Crescent Run. From The Big Easy to The Big Apple is a thirty-three hour ride departing at seven A.M. and arriving the next day at  five P.M.. The train crosses into North Carolina at Midnite, which is of little consequence to this story, but it's the kind of occurrence a person awake at that hour might notice.

<a href="">Crescent Run I / The Big Dogs' Day is Done by Hosey</a>

It is precisely the sort of thing Jillian Hood spends time noticing. In fact, she's in the dining car noticing it right now as it occurs. Jillian is the middle daughter of a wealthy family from Laurel in Mississippi. She has  a younger sister, whom she gets along with but finds a little boring. Her oldest brother is a Marine deployed in the Pacific Theatre of The War. Her sibling closest in age is her brother Sterling, and not coincidentally, the family member she is most at ease with. He's a ballplayer in Boston, but like many in his field, he enlisted as the U.S. entered The War. From a young age, Jillian exhibited a blossoming imagination and perceptive wit, but was never encouraged artistically by anyone except Sterling. "You're good at this stuff!" he would say of her pictures and poems, hands over his head, fleeing the room in between swats from the journals she secretly left open for him to find. Jillian and Sterling spent a lot of time in their youth playing baseball with the kids in the neighborhood; silly as it was, she secretly harbored a wish to play the game for a living. She loved to get dirty, she always thought she would be the best at third base.

This half-asleep line of thought is shaken loose by the howl of the train whistle. Jillian has often listened to the bellows of passing trains from her bedroom window. Every night like clockwork, one at a quarter past Midnite and another at four A.M.. Tonight, on The Crescent Run, she stares out the car's window into the impenetrable blackness of the hour, looking into the eyes of her own soft reflection and wonders who out there in the North Carolina night is hearing this whistle blow?

Eventually, Jillian's boyfriend, who she is sometimes fond of, is drafted for service in The War. With her two sources of male companionship gone, she became increasingly restless and depressed. In an attempt to cheer her spirits, her parents arrange for her to stay with an aunt in New York City for the Summer and early Fall. Jillian's excited for a change of scenery, "...and besides, when the rockets come screaming down on us, I might as well have a good seat in a decent bar with a stiff drink in my hand."

Late in the night on June fourth, she packed her bags, swiped a bottle of her mother's codeine, and the next morning she headed for the train station.

Originally Posted Sunday December 14th, 2008