An excerpt from ON THE TRAIN–a work in progress

Beggar’s Hole

Zachariah Vaughn blew out a long breath as he stepped back from the dismantled machine.  He had been working on this old tractor for three hours and was no closer to correcting the problem than he was three hours before.  The old man wiped his forehead with the tattered red kerchief he pulled from the pocket of his overalls.  He was getting too old for this work.  His daughter, Patsy, had taken to urging him to retire and come live with her in the city.  What in the world would an old farmer like him do in the city?

Zach sat a moment staring at the tractor parts and finally pulled himself up from the stool and made his way toward the house.  In his heart, he knew the tractor would never be repaired.  The thing was 22 years old, after all. He had been repairing and replacing every part on the thing for the past 20 years. 

Zach was just a farmer. He once had 85 acres that his son, Matthew, had helped with.  But Matthew had gone to war and never returned.  Zach thought of his son every day.  Matthew had been so many things Zach had never been as a young man.  Zach had been proud of his son for all his ambition and drive as well as his deep thinking and problem solving talents.  Zach had been certain that he and Matthew would build the farm to something impressive. But Matthew was gone now.  Patsy had married at the age of 19 and moved to the city.  Her husband, Morris, had also gone to war.  He had come home after but had died as a result of pneumonia some months later.  Morris had been successful and left Patsy well off so that she didn’t need to worry. 

Zach knew he probably should go to live with Patsy but he had been a farmer his entire life. He had begun helping his own father on the farm when he was old enough to carry the bucket of grain for the chickens.  He had helped with every part of the farm and when his father passed away at the age of 74, Zach had taken over.   The farm, and the country, was a part of him. It was in his blood. 

Zach made it as far as his porch before the slight ache struck him.  He frowned at the mild ache in his chest.  Zach moved to the swing and sat down, rubbing his left arm.  He decided at that moment that he had put off his doctor’s appointment long enough. 

After he washed up, Zach slid into his old blue pick-up truck and drove to town.  He parked in front of the doctor’s office and went in for a chat.   When he came out about an hour later, his mind was made up.  He could no longer keep up the farm.   His heart was breaking. 

Zach drove to the far edge of what had once been his farm, but had long since been sold to someone else.  He put his truck in park and sat quietly for a long while. 

Zach was pulled from his thoughts when a car pulled up beside him.  He turned to see Jessie Turner, the local sheriff, smiling at him.

“You o.k., Zach?”  He called through the open window of his car.

“oh yes.  I was just wool gatherin’.  It happens when you get to be my age, you know.”  Zach forced a grin.

“How’s that daughter of yours?” Jessie asked. He had always had a soft spot for Patsy.

“She’s doin’ fine.  I’m thinking of going to see her sometime soon.”

“Sounds like a fine idea.  You tell her I asked after her, will ya?”  Jessie urged.

“Will do. You take care.”  Zach dismissed the man and put his truck in gear.

Slowly, the old man made his way back home.  Once there, he phoned Patsy.

“I know you have been wanting me to move there with you.  I guess it’s probably time.”  He told her in a low voice.

“Daddy, I am so pleased! I want you to know that you will have your own place here.  There is plenty of space in the back for you to put in a large garden if you want to.  I just want you to be happy.” 

“I know you do, Honey.  A garden sounds like a good idea.  I will look into taking care of things here and let you know.”

They hung up and Zach was caught between feeling relieved and feeling sad at the loss he knew he would feel when he left this home.

Over the next month, Zach found a buyer for his home and farm and made arrangements for his things to be sent to Patsy’s place.  On the last day before he left, the old man stood in the barn and stared at the old tractor.  It was like an old friend to him.  He knew no one else would understand, but it was.  Slowly, he leaned over and picked up the key from his old friend and slipped it into his pocket.

Zach turned and left the barn for the last time.  He climbed into his old pick-up and drove to the train station. 

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