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The 5:20 From Charles City to Olympia: The Short Story Continues

Updated on January 1, 2016

A Mistake to Note

Thanks to my friend Linda, a mistake was pointed out that I need to address. In the next-to-last installment of this short story, Sarah with an “h” informed William that a baby was due in March. Somehow I glossed right over that fact in the next chapter of the story, and it was Christmas and not a word about the baby.

That’s what happens when I’m in a hurry and trying to do too much.

So thank you Linda. I think I’ll just carry on where I left off and pretend I didn’t make that mistake. It’s January 3rd and William and Sara are boarding the train for Olympia, Washington, where they hope to learn how to diversify a farm in order to save theirs…..and yes, Sarah is pregnant and due March 20th.

Now let’s find out what transpires.

All aboard
All aboard | Source

All Aboard

We took the Christmas decorations down after the football games on New Years Day. We packed and took care of some last-minute chores and errands on the 2nd and we boarded the train for Olympia before the first sliver of gray formed in the east on the 3rd. Ma and my sister Jeannie waved and cried as the wheels turned and rattled the train through a tunnel of darkness towards Chicago. From there we would go to Los Angeles and then up the coast to Olympia, a total of seventy-one hours on the iron horse, a long trip for sure. We could have flown and been there in six hours from doorstep to doorstep, but it would have cost more. Besides, the train gave Sarah and I a chance to spend some quality time together and relax a bit before our lives changed forever.

Sarah was tired. She was heavy with child, due on March 20th, so she wasted no time finding our cabin and plopping herself down for a short nap.

“Snuggle with me, Sugar. Spoon me, please, and remind me that our child is going to be healthy and happy.”

I did as the lady requested and buried my face in her hair, inhaled her scent, rejoiced in her contours and reminded myself just how lucky I am.

“Sarah, you know as well as I do that little Heather will be deliriously happy because, darling, she will be loved. And she will be a beauty like her mother, with her mother’s eyes, her mother’s smile and her mother’s ability to drive men crazy. Now shush for awhile and get some rest. There will be more than enough time on this trip to discuss life and love.”

Crossing the Sierra Nevadas
Crossing the Sierra Nevadas | Source

Chasing the Sun

From Chicago we crossed the Great Plains diagonally, passing hundreds of farmhouses and barns, some new, some faded as old photographs. Towns rose up from the barren landscape then disappeared from view, large cities and Saturday Evening Post towns, tons of glimmering steel and glass reaching for the gods of commerce and brick storefronts barely making enough to pay the lease. We crossed trickling streams and wide rivers, some active, some locked in ice, and everywhere we looked smoke rose from chimneys as our fellow Americans hunched inside awaiting the first crocuses and the promise of moderation.

The farms changed to ranches. The vegetation lessened, turned brown then faded from view as we gradually, so gradually as to be unnoticed, increased elevation and surged towards the granite sentinels hindering our approach to the Pacific Ocean.

The forty-seventh hour found us following historical pilgrims into the Sierra Nevadas. Beside me Sarah gasped at their beauty.

“William Dale I swear, sometimes I’m just overwhelmed by the sheer beauty of this land.”

“In that case, Sarah, you now know how I feel being with you.”

“Oh, Sugar, if I wasn’t about to pop a bun out of the oven, I’d attack your bones right here, right now.”

God she was beautiful. God I was lucky!

Change Trains

The urban sprawl of the City of Angels greeted us, sans the heavenly hosts, and we traded one train for another and the last leg of our journey. The calendar insisted it was early January but the temperature was seventy glorious degrees and the sun shone on our unborn child as Sarah told me Heather was quite active.

“I think she feels the sun’s warmth, Sugar. Or maybe she’s as restless as her mother and she wants the hell off this train. I’m beginning to realize what a sardine feels like. Any chance of us flying home after this fact-finding trip? I know it will cost more money but honey, I’m going to be a raving bitch if I have to do this again.”

“When you put it that way, I think it will be money well-spent.”

She laughed. Her laughter played the strings of my heart and a beautiful melody was born. Sarah is not a classic beauty. There are too many mismatched parts to call her classically beautiful but to me, her imperfections were perfect. I looked at her and smiled my goofy-ass smile.

“I love your smile, Sugar, especially when it’s aimed at me, but knock it off before we get arrested for lewd behavior on the train. Speaking of lewd behavior, did your sister tell you we’re meeting this mystery man of hers when we get home?”

“Yep, she did. Poor bastard. He doesn’t know what’s about to hit him. He’ll have to pass muster like a shaking private before a drill sergeant. It’s about damned time. Jeannie’s thirty-two and I want her happy. Whoever this guy is, he’d better treat her right, and he’d better know something about farming.”

And so it went as the train clattered its way northward, skirting the Pacific under blue skies before meandering to the interior of California, wine country, microchips everywhere, over hill and dale, snow-capped peaks to the east, clouds gathering as we passed into Oregon, farms, rivers raging, an inland sea of evergreens, the mighty Willamette River to the Columbia and into Washington as the skies unleashed the weather that state is known for. Mounts Adams then St. Helens and finally Rainier signaled the end of our journey as the conductor announced Olympia/Lacey Amtrak Station.

A damp cold seeped into our marrow as we found a taxi driver willing to take us to the Governor House Hotel in downtown Olympia, and thirty-two minutes later we were checking into our room followed closely by collapsing on the bed in each other’s arms at five in the evening Pacific Standard Time.

Arriving in Olympia
Arriving in Olympia | Source

Learning a New Way of Life

We slept through the night. Finally, the next morning, as the dark turned to gray and the rain turned to drizzle, we ate breakfast at the Spar Grill then rented a car one block down at Avis. Our destination was New World Farms on 76th Southeast, owned and operated by Sheila and Bill Hollis. The GPS unit took us right to the driveway we sought, a driveway flanked by poplars which led to a yellow two-story farmhouse with green trim. Our investigative skills had earlier told us that our hosts ran an urban farm of one-hundred and eighty-two acres and that New World Farms had been doing agritourism business for eight years.

As I shut off the engine of our Toyota Camry the front door of the farmhouse opened and our hosts appeared. The woman, who I correctly assumed was Sheila Hollis, was full-bodied with onyx hair flowing over her shoulders to the small of her back. Her smile was gentle kindness personified and as we got closer to them I noticed her eyes were jade in color, giving her the appearance of an Egyptian goddess. It was impossible to guess her age. She was one of those women who defied the natural aging process. The only hint at her age was garnered by looking at her husband, Bill Hollis, standing next to her and waving. His hair was gray, his eyes deep-set in a sea of laugh lines, and he appeared to be about my height at five-ten. His handshake was firm; hers was enfolding. They both were instantly likeable.

“Welcome to our farm,” Sheila said. “William, Sarah, we are blessed to have you among us. Come inside and join all of us for breakfast. Our family is your family. Our home is your home. While we eat and greet you can tell us all about your mother, your sister Jeannie, Maw Maw and of course, the new bundle of joy, Heather.”

I looked at Sarah. She looked at me. I felt her hand grip my forearm.

We had never mentioned Ma, Jeannie, Heather or Maw Maw to these folks.

What in the holy blazes was going on?

New ways of farming
New ways of farming | Source

To Be Continued

I’m having a little creative fun here, so bear with me. Sha and a few of my older friends know what’s going on, but I’m afraid I’ve confused some of you. My first novel, “The 12/59 Shuttle From Yesterday to Today” was about Sheila and Bill Hollis and in particular about Sheila’s unusual and spectacular “talents.”

That’s all I can tell you at this point.

See you next time.

2015 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)

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    • Janine Huldie profile image

      Janine Huldie 16 months ago from New York, New York

      Aw, love that you rectified the unspoken pregnancy, but makes sense with Christmas and the holidays. Now truly just want to wish you a very, Happy 2016!!! ;)

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 16 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      The warmth of the Hollis family brought a near tear to my eyes. And your peculiar twist at the end has me hankering for more. I have rode the train from coast to coast and was tired myself at the end of their journey.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 16 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Janine, Happy New Year to you and that wonderful family. May 2016 be the best year yet for all of you.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 16 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks Eric! It is one damn long train ride, for sure. Maybe when I was younger I would have loved it, but not now.

      The Hollis family is an interesting one...stay tuned. :)

      Happy New Year!

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 16 months ago from The Beautiful South

      Well I enjoyed the train ride! Never had one but always wanted one.

    • Venkatachari M profile image

      Venkatachari M 16 months ago from Hyderabad, India

      Awesome narration of the story. Your descriptions of nature and incidents and the warm welcome at the farmhouse are superb. Waiting for the next episode.

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 16 months ago from sunny Florida

      A tease this us...cannot wait to read more...and Happy first day of 2016

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Fuller 16 months ago from Southern Illinois

      I must be getting senile, I don't remember this story. I kept looking for Genna. I really liked the story. Genna and Sarah both pregnant. Genna is on the run and Sara is going home on a train. Help me out here, where do I go to see the first chapter?

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 16 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Two separate short stories, Ruby. All the chapters of this short story have a train departure time in the title. :) Happy New Year my friend.

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Fuller 16 months ago from Southern Illinois

      Oh I see. Thank you. Happy New Year Bill!

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 16 months ago from Ontario, Canada

      I felt the tiredness of William and Sarah and their relief at the warm welcome at the Hollis family warm. But how did they know of them? Am looking forward to the next one.

    • Homeplace Series profile image

      William Leverne Smith 16 months ago from Hollister, MO

      Love any story that includes agritourism. Bring it on. What fun!! Heather is a fun name, by the way!! ;-)

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 16 months ago from Queensland Australia

      And so this great story rolls along, Bill. You have got me hooked even more now with that little twist at the end..gotta stay tuned for the next exciting episode.

    • swalia profile image

      Shaloo Walia 16 months ago

      This particular train ride seems quite interesting! I really hate travelling by train and my last train ride was almost ten years back.

    • tobusiness profile image

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 16 months ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

      Bill, I just love it when you show your poetic side. Beautifully done, I'm looking forward to reading the next installment.

    • Seafarer Mama profile image

      Karen Szklany Gault 16 months ago from New England

      Very exciting! Can't wait to read about spectacular talents! ~:0)

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 16 months ago from Central Florida

      I'm glad to see Sarah with an "h" and William Dale have met Sheila and Bill Hollis. Once your story line came into view, it only seemed fitting that the Hollis' would have a part in this play.

      I'm excited to see what Sarah and William learn from this new friendship.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 16 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Jackie. You'll always have a lifetime pass on my train. :)

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 16 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I'm so appreciative, Venkatachari M. Thank you my friend.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 16 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you PS and Happy New Year to you.....blessings heading your way.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 16 months ago from Olympia, WA

      My pleasure, Ruby!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 16 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Ah, Aesta, the mystery deepens. Stay tuned, and thank you!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 16 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Bill, Heather has always been one of my favorite names. That's one of the joys of being a writer...I can use names I'm fond of. :) Glad you are enjoying the ride. Thank you!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 16 months ago from Olympia, WA

      John, I do love a twist in a story. I couldn't help myself. :) Thanks my friend.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 16 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Swalia, I would probably dislike it if I did it too often. Thank you for being here.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 16 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Jo. I enjoy writing this way. I have a story stuck in my head waiting to come out. I just need the time to give it wings.

      Happy New Year my friend.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 16 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks Mama...I can't wait to find out what is going to happen either. LOL

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 16 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Sha, the characters are writing this one. You'll know when I know. :) Thanks as always. Enjoy the heck out of 2016.

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 16 months ago from Oklahoma

      Great read!

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 16 months ago from Dubai

      Looking forward to the next chapter, great story.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 16 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you so much, Larry!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 16 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Vellur, I'm glad you are enjoying this "feel good " story.

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 16 months ago from south Florida

      Your recitation of your train trip was so realistic, Bill, I felt I was making this trip with you and your beloved. Anxiously awaiting reading the next installment regarding Sheila and her supernatural talents. I can identify with that! :)

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 16 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

      I'm enjoying this story a great deal, Bill. I'm looking forward to learning more about Sheila's talents. I like the twist at the end of this installment!

    • phoenix2327 profile image

      Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon 16 months ago from United Kingdom

      AHHH!!!! I love what you're doing here. You're creating your own universe. How cool is that?! I love when authours do this. Cannot not wait to see happens next. Ooo...maybe a sequel to the '12:59'!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 16 months ago from Olympia, WA

      drbj, you'll love Sheila if you get to know her. Thank you for taking the train trip with us.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 16 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I couldn't help myself, Alicia. As soon as they decided to go to Olympia, I knew Sheila and Bill would welcome them.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 16 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Zulma, thank you! I had to do it....it just made sense to my mind. :)

    • Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

      Gypsy Rose Lee 16 months ago from Riga, Latvia

      So good to know they made it to the farm safely. I sure am looking forward to know how they know what they know.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 16 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Rasma, I've come full circle, back to my first novel. I'm so glad you've enjoyed the journey.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Isaac Weithers 16 months ago from The Caribbean

      You still have my attention, Bill, and now I'm wondering how and if their lives will change with the arrival of the baby. Keep going!

    • MarleneB profile image

      Marlene Bertrand 16 months ago from Northern California, USA

      Ooooooh... I'm so excited. I love the way you tie things together.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 16 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I will for sure, Dora! Thank you so much.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 16 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Marlene. I love these characters. I could write about them daily...I know these people. :)

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 16 months ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Lots to think about here and a very interesting twist here.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 16 months ago from Olympia, WA

      DDE, I'm glad you found it interesting. Thank you!

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 16 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      This is a great story, and I love every little twist and turn in it.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 16 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you very much, Deb! More on Friday.

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 16 months ago from SW England

      Aha! I know Sheila! You manage to make 'normal' people with 'normal' lives appear so interesting, fun and full of humour; they have an empathy with life and the environment that's so magnetic. I love these characters and there is a gentleness at the foundations of this story which makes any events milestones. You are such a good writer, bill.

      Very busy at the moment as we are thinking of moving - not far, but it's still time-consuming. Hence, not so much time for writing but I'm still doing some. I can't not write!

      Ann

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 16 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Ann, I thank you for the kind words. You are so good about supporting and encouraging. Thank you dear friend.

      Moving? Just shoot me if I ever suggest that. :) Best wishes.

      bill

    • Shyron E Shenko profile image

      Shyron E Shenko 16 months ago from Texas

      Bill, I love how you write love and about love. You make these people sound like relatives and make me feel at home.

      Blessings my friend

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 16 months ago from Olympia, WA

      That was my intention and hope, Shyron, so thank you very much for the affirmation.

      blessings to you and yours

      bill

    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 16 months ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      Bill

      The story here got a nice little twist. Can't wait to see what happens

      Lawrence

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 16 months ago from Olympia, WA

      It should be interesting, Lawrence. Thanks for joining and I'll try to keep you riveted to the story.

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