|Alan's train, seen here cruising along the Putney Bay shore.|
Mt. Hayes, in the distance, is often snow-capped in winter, and shows its plume of steam.
Alan settled into his seat in the middle car.
The first car was also the engine, and the last car was the dining-and-club car, plus baggage and mail. The train had an aged, and often-restored look to it, that somehow felt comforting. As he entered the car, Alan saw a small brass plaque mounted by the door, which declared, in Russian and English: "This train car, proudly built in 1956, is a gift of the people of Czechoslovakia, 1982." Cream-colored paint and varnished wood trim filled the cars' interior, with seats of fabric upholstery sporting patterns of slightly-faded red roses and wisteria. The seats were spacious, arranged in sets of two that faced the next set of two, instead of all facing forward.
He settled into his seat with a new book titled Eleanor and Park, a novel about a pair of 16-year-olds. Other passengers selected seats around him. He noticed many teenagers and slightly older-looking men and women with backpacks, and a few families; but the car was nowhere near full when the train started out.
It took only a few minutes to reach the first stop, in Alison, and more passengers boarded. Here an older man in shorts and a flannel shirt sat in the seat apposite of his, jarring Alan's comfort zone. He wasn't yet ready to engage in any conversations this early in the morning...
His seatmate didn't say anything, so Alan looked out at the scenery. The tracks followed the coastline just above the beach, and Alan watched the long and sizable waves rolling in. The ocean was calm except for the incoming swells. "That is pretty-good sized surf for this stretch of coast." the guy said, "I'll bet they'll be much larger once we round Roaring Cape! Do you surf?" "Oh, no," Alan replied, finally looking at the fellow, who seemed friendly enough. "I grew up by the ocean, but I wasn't a big swimmer. I like watching the surf, though..."
The train stopped again at Margaret Beach: a cluster of small houses, a store, a pub, and a tiny train station next to a small sandy bay. "That's Ten-window Bay", offered his seatmate, to which Alan had no reply. Sloops and gaff-rigged sailboats sat still next to a boat ramp and repair yard. Not much happening; mail bags were exchanged, but no one got on or off.
As the train gathered speed again along the back side of the bay, Alan watched the grassy lowland glide by, and he could see massive Mt. Hayes looming in the distance to the north, a tiny plume of steam flowing from its peak. "Uh, do you know about that mountain?" Alan asked his neighbor. "I'm just wondering if it has ever erupted, or if it might some day..."
"Well, it hasn't erupted for many years, as far as I know. As for the future, I've heard many stories and rumors that it either won't ever erupt, or it'll go off tomorrow...take your pick!"