When You Hear the Train

Logan Jones

“When you hear the train, you start runnin’. That’s what momma said.

“There’s somethin’ sinister about that storm. I’m sure you’ve heard of it. Seen the photos. A charcoal cloud like distant ashes comes rollin’ in. You can hear the wind whistle like a train. Almost seem foreign, don’t it? You’d of thought it was the end of times, like the bowls of incense spilled onto the land. The lambs come runnin’ home. The dog’s got his tail tucked between his legs. The cows huddle up. Your momma tells you to get inside before the four horsemen snatch you up.

“You’d think it was the end of times. Until it wasn’t. Then you’d be sittin’ there, your heart a-poundin’, your child cryin’, your sibling sobbing, your house creakin’ and groanin’. Minutes feel like hours- or maybe they are. It’s no generic tornado. Some people saw it, saw it tear down their walls, and they saw that void starin’ right back at them. The worst part is you get to live it all over again. Shock wasn’t an option. You had to batten down the hatches.

“We started callin’ them “black blizzards”. Plumes obscured everything. It coated ships, prairie grasses, flesh, and lungs. Livestock became sacks of sand. Sometimes you’d find a herd of carcasses. Sometimes their eyes were gritty and glazed. Darkness swallowed them before their hearts stilled. Maybe you felt pity. Maybe you felt jealousy. Maybe you didn’t have time to feel anything before you caught “dust pneumonia”.

“If you had to leave the house, you best tie a rope to your waist so you can find your way. If you were lucky, you had a house left. Some people were forced to live in shanty Sunnyside slack piles. Also known as Hoovervilles. Imagine polarization at a time like that.

“You do what you can. We draped wet sheets over windows. We shoveled dust out of homes. We wore respiratory masks. We savored our cornmeal mush. We sought for signs that the Statue of Liberty was no longer reminiscent of an underexposed photo. We pleaded, prayed, waited for rain. We listened for the train.

“It didn’t stop there, but we survived. People linger much longer.

“Now, buddy, can you spare a dime? Don’t leave me hangin’. If you’ve got nothin’ in your pockets, at least tell me your story. What happened to you?”