Pynesapp Home | jack-red | Chapter-24

The Adventures of Jack and Red.

This is the twenty-fourth in a series of blogs chronicling an expedition into 'space' with Jack Pynesapp and his granddaughter Red. To read the entire story (with notes) please see the JackPynesapp web site: [ click here ]


The Bridge


"Billy, this is my Granddaughter Red"

Red smiled and reached out to shake Billy's hand. "I've heard a lot about you."; she said.

[No, Billy doesn't say; "I hope it was all good." ]

"Are you JJ's Daughter." Billy asked as he took her hand.

'Yup, that's me."

Billy looked studied her for a minute and then sighed; "Wow, I guess it's been a long time. How is your Dad these days?"

"He's fine. You guys haven't seen each other since high school?"

"No."

"So Billy, " Jack interrupted, "what brings you out here after all these years and why haven't you stopped in to see us?"

"Well, I didn't know if you'd want to see me."

"Why not?"

[This is boring. Let's move on.  Let's see where this goes and that will tell me how much needs to be added here.]

"Mr. P,  let me show you guys something. Come over to the bridge for a minute."

Billy motioned to follow him as he turned and started walking to the bridge. Red gave Grandpa a 'what's going on' look. Grandpa just shrugged and starting to follow after Billy.  "Let's see." He whispered.

The old 'iron' bridge was built for the railroad and was still in use for the new trail. It crosses over a valley that holds a small creek. At least it's a creek at this time of the year. In the spring and early summer it's a full-fledged river and gets to be nearly 100 feet wide in places. Back in the railroad days there were only railroad ties on the bridge bed to hold the rails on top of the steel girders. When they removed the rails they replaced the ties with a solid wood decking. The steel girders criss-crossed  up the sides and over the top to form a sort of open-air tunnel. The whole thing had been painted grey at some point but now the paint had peeled or chipped away and it was mostly brown colored from the rust.

"They haven't kept this up very well." Billy said as he reached the bridge. He passed his hand over the girder next to him and pulled off a small piece of peeling paint.

"They don't have a large budget." Grandpa said.

"They must figure it's still got plenty of strength for  a bike path." Red added.

"So, " Billy said., "I wanted you to see this close up. And then I wanted to show you this."

He took out his phone and after a few strokes of his finger he handed it to Grandpa. "Look at this."

Grandpa looked at the picture on the screen. "It's a picture of the bridge. " He handed it to Red. "So?"

"Were did you get this picture?" Red said as she looked at it. "It looks brand new."

Billy smiled and nodded. "I took it right here, last week."

"What?" Grandpa said. "Let me see that again."

Grandpa looked at the screen again. "That's pretty weird, Billy. Red's right, it does look new."

"Come on Billy," Red said, "you photoshoped this or something, right."

"No. Honest, I didn't do a thing. That's a real picture and that's how the bridge really looked - last week."

Billy smiled. He was loving this. He always did have a love for the dramatic. And he was milking this for all it was worth.

"Okay, " Red said. "what's the deal? Why was the bridge suddenly new when you were here and why isn't it new now?"

"I don't know." Billy laughed. "That's what I'm trying to figure out, you know."

"No, we don't know." Grandpa said - getting a little annoyed. "I think you'd better explain."

"Okay." Billy sat down on the railing and cleared his throat. "This may take a while." He motioned for Red and Grandpa to sit and he leaned back against one of the girders.

"This past spring I found myself 'between jobs', again, and I thought I should come back here and see if I could learn any more about the train, you know. I live in the city now but it's only a half-hour drive out here."

"This is the first time you've been back since you moved away?"

"I've been busy Mr. P, you know, and one thing's led to another and before you know it all these years have passed." He looked at Red as he said this.

"I know how that happens." Grandpa nodded.

"Well, so I came back here and walked the trail all the way from here to Oakwood, you know, retracing that part of my trip on the train, you know. I don't know why but I thought that something might happen, I guess. You know."

"That sounds familiar." Red smiled.

"When I was in Oakwood, I stopped at that house where I called you after I got off the train, you know."

"Yeah, the old farm house. I think that lady still lives there, doesn't she."

[Have I named this place yet? Or the lady? I don't think so.]

"Yes. Mrs. Llyons." Billy said. "A nice lady. She was there and we had a long talk. She must be in her nineties now and she was so glad to have someone stop in for a visit."

"I'll bet." Red said; "But that does this have to do with the bridge?"

"Patience, young Ms. P, "Billy laughed, "I'll get to that. "

He continued; "Well, she remembered me - very well - and she remembered you and JJ. I can't believe you guys haven't been back to see her."

Grandpa smiled. "Why would we?" he asked.

Billy continued; "Well I did, and you know that day she said that she'd heard a truck that sounded like a train. She remembered that you thought that was interesting, you know. And JJ must have asked her about a whistle because she said that after that, she has heard the truck AND a whistle - like a train whistle - quite a few times since then."

"Has she ever seen anything?" Red asked.

"No. "

"How does she know that it's not a truck?"

"She doesn't, you know. She still thinks it's a truck but she can't figure out the whistle. And before you guys were there she was sure it was just a truck but when you asked about a train it kind of put it in here head."

"Sounds like it really did. You know the power of suggestion." Grandpa said.

"Grandpa, you're starting to sound like Jimmy." Red laughed.

"Who?"

"Just a kid we know." Red looked at Grandpa and smiled.

"Sorry, " Grandpa said, "Go on Billy. What does this have to do with the bridge - again."

"Well, this was last spring, you know, and I gave her my phone number and asked her to call me whenever she hears the 'truck'. Anytime, day or night, you know like leave me a message if I don't answer."

"And did she call?"

"Yeah, like at least once a week and sometimes twice a day. I kept track and it seemed that they were pretty much the same time of day each time. You know early morning or later in the afternoon."

"Your kidding."

"No."

"And it never crossed her mind - after all these years - that this was kind of strange."

"I know, right. But 'no' she just thought it was -- well I don't know what she thought. I guess she just accepted it and didn't really think about it. After all, it couldn't be a train, you know. There aren't even any tracks any more, you know. She kept saying this. "

"So what did you do then?"

"Well, I came back here, you know. I came back here at around the time of day that she'd heard the sound, you know, and waited."

"And..."

"And nothing." Billy sighed. "But I didn't give up, you know. What else did I have to do now that I was between jobs. So I came back here again and again."

"Why didn't you stop in and see me - or JJ?"

"Well, I didn't know if you'd want to see me after what happened, you know."

"After what happened?" Red asked. "The train?"

"No, not the train." Billy said. "I thought JJ would be mad a me for telling the story to everyone after we'd agreed to keep it quiet, you know."

"You're right, we were. For a while. But when you moved - without saying anything to anybody - we got concerned and then I guess we got over it. At least I did. You'll have to ask JJ yourself."

"Why did you move away?" Red asked.

"Well, there's something I never told anyone about that day. You know. Not even you guys."

"What's that?"

"It's pretty weird." Billy said.

"Weirder that the Hogwarts Express?" Red asked.

"The what?"

"Oh, that's just what Jimmy calls it." Red said.

"I should meet this Jimmy sometime. He sounds like  hoot."

"No, he sounds like a pig-headed jerk." Red said. "He thinks this whole 'train' thing is just the rantings of a crazy person."

"He's not alone around here. Trust me."

"So why did you leave?" Red persisted.

"Well, it's not true that I didn't tell anyone what really happened." Billy confessed. "I told my Mom."

"So?" Grandpa asked.

"So, you know how I said that I didn't really talk to anyone on the train while I was riding?"

"Yeah, why not, " Red asked, "if that would've happened to me, I'd have been asking questions all over the place. I'd have tried to find out what was going on. This was so weird, how could you stand to just ride along?"

"That's just it. "Billy said, "It wasn't weird to me. You know it was the most normal thing in the world to jump on that train and ride it to the city." 

"What do you mean?" exclaimed Grandpa, "Of course it was weird. You'd never been on a train in your life."

"Hadn't I?" Billy asked - all mystical and all. "So had you, Mr. P. ," he continued, "So had JJ. In fact, I was shocked that you guys didn't come along with me - at least JJ. We used to do that all the time, you know."

"Grandpa, " Red interrupted, "I thought you said the trains weren't running any more."

"They weren't." Grandpa insisted. "They hadn't run since I was a little boy and certainly not since Billy or JJ were born."

"That's true;" Billy agreed; "now."

"What do you mean? Now? " Red asked.

"You see, that train changed everything." Billy said, as he looked up the trail in the direction that the train had come; "Somehow that train changed things from the way they were to the way that they are, you know?"

"No Billy I can't imagine." Grandpa said, he was becoming exasperated.

"You see, when I got on the train that day the world was one way - you know the way it was then; with trains running every day and picking up milk and taking people and freight back and forth to the city and to the towns and farms and all that. But then when I got off the train in Oakwood (there wasn't even an Oakwood when I got on the train by the way - just that farm where Mrs. LLyon's house is now) .."

"And when I got off the train .. " Billy looked at Jack and Red and he continued; ".. when I got off the train in Oakwood the world was the way it is now, you know. Or," he laughed, "the way it was then, you know, when I got off the train - the way it was then but like, completely different, you know from the way it was when I got on the train. And that's why I was so confused when you picked me up that day. It was like I'd stepped out of one world and into another. You know? But not really different over all - like the same people and places and all - and pretty much the same history (I didn't know much about history at the time since I hadn't paid much attention in school)." Billy blushed a little and smiled.

"Okay, you say everything changed for your when you got off the train." Red said as she looked over at Grandpa. "But what about everyone else? Grandpa, and JJ and all?"

"Yeah, what about us?" Grandpa asked "That train just suddenly appeared out of nowhere that day and then it disappeared the same way. I mean literally disappeared. With all traces that it had ever been there. "

"I know that's what you think happened." Billy continued. "You see, the world changed and everyone changed along with it; including you. That is - everyone except for me.

"Nothing changed. " Grandpa insisted. "The train came and the train went again.  Yes, things changed when the train was there but they went back to the way they were when the train left. Nothing changed permanently."

"Look Mr. P, " Billy continued quietly - slowly, "I know this is hard to understand. Believe me, I've struggled with it for all these years and I don't understand it. But I know that this is how it happened. I know it's weird and it's even weirder that for some reason I didn't change. Why is that?  I don't know. Maybe it's because I was on the train. But I didn't even change when I got off the train in Oakwood. How weird is that?  I don't know why but nothing changed for me like it did for everyone else. I still remembered the way it was before the train. I remembered and nobody else did." Billy's voice trailed off and he looked down at his shoes.

"Grandpa?" Red said quietly as she turned her face away from Billy and towards her grandpa with a look like 'let's get out of here'. She was getting a little scared.

Grandpa smiled uneasily and gave Red a little nod. He was getting a little scared as well and was starting to wonder if there wasn't a more sinister reason behind Billy's sudden departure all those years ago. If he had really told his Mom this story, what would her reaction have been?

"Hey, guys." Billy said with a laugh. "I know what you're thinking. I'm crazy right? Yeah, that's what my Mom thought too, you know. That's why we moved. She thought it would do me good to get away from here and have a change of scenery and all. And that's why I haven't told anyone else about this - until now."

"So Billy, " Grandpa said,  "why now? Why are you telling us?"

"And why do you think we'll believe you." Red added. "Even you said it sounds crazy, right."

Billy lifted his head, looked Red in the eye, and said very deliberately; "Because, I've found out how to bring the train back." He shifted his gaze to Grandpa and added; "But I need your help Mr. P."

[ Click here to continue to part XXV ]