Little Boy in the Railyard
Eddie was walking through the rail yards at night. He was only a child and his over-active imagination was torturing him with terror in this fearful place. The moon was high and full, bathing everything with a pale glow. Fast-moving clouds raced across the sky, projecting rapid shifting cloud cut-outs on the ground -- the cloud-shadows danced over the derelict boxcars and dark, snaking rail-lines in an indescribably sinister way.
Eddie was looking for his father, Stanley. His father would get like this sometimes, when he was drunk. He'd start yelling about things Eddie didn't understand, then he'd run off into the night, making Eddie's mother cry. Eddie desperately wanted to find him, so that he could return him home and make his mother stop crying. Eddie knew from experience, that his father would sometimes run here, to the rail-yard, when he got like this.
Eddie tried to step lightly, and keep to the shadows, for he could not always tell if the movement he saw, out of the corner of his eye, was his father, the shadow of a cloud, or a stranger, lurking in the night -- lying in wait to attack defenseless children.
Eddie was wracked with sorrow. His mother was crying; his father was acting strangely again, yelling and crying; running off once more, to get lost in the night. Eddie's heart couldn't take another one of these family incidents. He would fix it, this time. So he'd plucked up all his courage and ran in pursuit of his father. But he'd never expected such formidable terrors -- such a dark and forbidding rail yard. He whimpered softly, as his fledgling courage struggled to prove itself equal to these new heights of horror.
One of the shadows took on the form of a man, and Eddie froze in his tracks. He hid in the shadow of a boxcar, as he watched the silhouette move. The figure pulled out a sinister object and held it in his hand like a weapon. Eddie, giving himself over to his fears, fell to his hands and knees and crawled under the rail car. He let out a whimper of fear as he heard the sound of footsteps. The man had clearly spotted him and was running towards him, yelling out loud.
"You've come back! Come out! Please! I've been waiting!"
"Dad?" Eddie whispered, recognizing his voice. The man fell to his stomach, peering under the boxcar. Eddie could see his father's face, squinting against the darkness -- it was ravaged; his eyes red and desperate; his brown hair long and stringy; his unkempt beard pressed against the mud. A wave of recognition swept over Stanley's face and he was clearly disappointed. He appear to be almost devastated to learn it was only his son.
"Oh. Eddie. It's you. Come out of there, son."
Eddie climbed out from under the boxcar. His father was sitting cross-legged in the mud, a look of resignation and misery on his face. Eddie sat next to his father, in the moonlight.
"Dad. I was looking for you. Come back home. You're making Mom cry and I came to bring you back... what are you doing here?"
Stanley looked at his son with sorrowful eyes. He looked as if he were uncertain whether he could trust him. Eddie and his father didn't speak very often. Their relationship consisted of Stanley telling his son how to behave and how not to behave. Eddie was confused by the emotional, tactile expression on his father's face.
"What did you mean... you were waiting for me?"
Stanley grimaced in anguish and he held one hand up to the moonlight. In his hand was a strange object, a toy train, the same object Eddie had mistaken for a weapon.
"What's that?" whispered Eddie.
"Oh, come get me!" Stanley screamed, suddenly, making Eddie jump to his feet. Stanley's voice sounded tortured and desperate, like a child who had been abandoned by his parents in a train station.
"What do you mean?" shrieked Eddie, worried by his father's odd behavior, "I came here to come get you! I'm here -- so now let's go home!"
"No, not you..." Stanley snapped. He lowered his head against his chest in a sudden bout of drunken exhaustion, and then he looked up at his son, examining him minutely. Eddie didn't know what to do.
"Eddie," Stanley began, holding up the rusted toy train, "you see this train? I found it when I was a kid. Here, in this rail-yard. In the dirt. And I'll tell you a big secret, son... if you promise not to tell anyone. Not Mom, not your sister. No one."
Eddie nodded his head enthusiastically. Stanley approached his son and put an arm around him. He pointed out into the moonlight.
"After I found this train... I looked up and I saw something. I saw a boy. He was standing right there. A little boy like me -- looking right at me. He tried to say something but no words came out of his mouth... and then, then right in front of my eyes, he disappeared. Right into thin air. That little boy was a ghost."
Stanley and Eddie stared at the starkly lit rail yard for a minute, as the shadows danced across it. They both expected to see the ghost appear, as if on cue. But there were no ghosts in sight. Stanley let go of his son and fell back into a sitting position.
"I came here every day, almost, after that. I wanted the boy to come back. I wanted to see the ghost again. My whole life I came, and he never came again. I guess sometimes when I have too much to drink -- like now -- I wish he'd come back to me even more. And I take this toy train, and I scream for him to come back."
"Why?" asked Eddie.
"Because..." replied Stanley, "Because, son, I know there's more to life than this. I know there's more to just living, day in and day out, working nine to five until you die and get shoveled into a grave. Then you're dead forever. I know there's something more. Some reason, some greater purpose... there's something! Something beautiful. Something that'll take all this crap I live with every day and just make it okay! He was going to tell me some kind of secret... that boy! The secret I need. Don't you think there's more to this, son? Something more important?"
"What about me and Mom and Emily... aren't we important?"
"Yeah, sure, sure... I mean, I love you all... but, no you can't see what I mean... you don't understand. Your mother doesn't see what I mean, either. She doesn't understand. No one sees it. Nobody but me. No one understands what I'm looking for."
Stanley's tired head pressed against his chest again and he began to snore, until Eddie began to worry he had passed out.
"Daddy. Please come home." whispered Eddie.
"Home!" Stanley shrieked, as he stumbled to his feet, sending mud flying, "Come back! Take me away from this place! Take me home!" Stanley bellowed into the night, running through the mud like a madman and calling out for the ghost boy to appear to him again -- to take him away from the world.
Eddie burst into tears. He didn't understand what was wrong with his father and his alarm and frustration was excruciating. His heart broke to see his father this way and to imagine his mother, crying, back home and waiting for them to come back. Eddie chased his father through the pale, moonlit yard.
"Come home, Daddy! Oh, please, come back home with me!"