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“En voiture!” Larry cried triumphantly. Followed by “All aboard!” as a courtesy to any non-French-speaking Normanvillers.
Since you couldn’t leave passengers loitering on the platform once they’d notionally boarded the train, Larry scooped up their physical beings and deposited them on a utility shelf. It would be their parallel, non-physical selves, their spirits, that would sit back in the plush window seats of Coach 3425 and watch the world roll past.
The engine chugged out of Normanville Station and clipped past Main Street and past the little white church with its little graveyard and the Ace Garage with its cannibalized auto wrecks out back and then came a cluster of barefoot kids lazing round a fishing hole. The train rounded a bend and began an ascent into the Excelsiors. Larry could picture the scene from Clementine’s point of view. Passing Hobo Hollow she would observe the hobo shack, half-hidden among the tall jackpines, where Henri le Hobo stood near the woodpile waving cheerily. To her left — Clementine craned across the aisle to see this — Shad Flats came into view with its rickety shaft house that lowered the miners into their glittering sub-surface caverns and also there was an office-trailer where several miners were out front angrily shaking their fists.
“They’re angry about the delay,” said Norman. He was holding back the beer/gold train on account of the Orient Express occupying the mainline right now. But the miners were desperate to exchange the gold for beer. “They might go on strike. The economy will be ruined,” said Norman.
After Cherokee Lookout, the Orient Express curved and began descending thru Mauvefoy Cut, the narrow channel with high rock shoulders that was moulded by Rick Mauvefoy in the weeks before he left us. Clementine took fright at the hollow eye sockets and beetling cortex of the Death Head outcrop and breathed a sigh of relief once they were behind her. The train highballed thru a stretch of scrubland, clattered across the Clearwater Bridge, and arrived triumphantly back in town, braking abruptly for Normanville Station.
“Nawm’vil, awwwl out!” called Norman.
“We didn’t tour the valley,” Larry objected. “We didn’t get the complete tour.”
“The schedule is a total shambles,” Norman groused, as he throttled up the Orient Express once more.
This time the Orient Express passed the fishing hole then slid down onto the Clearwater Valley branchline, where it maintained a stately sight-seeing pace alongside the Clearwater River, which was basically a winding streak of blue-black paint overlaid with a ripply, translucent plastic coating. There were white acrylic streaks at spots where the water ran rough. A deer sipped at the river’s edge. In a picture-perfect moment, Coach 3425 passed beneath the Clearwater Bridge just as the Santa Fe with its tankcars crossed overhead. Surprisingly, Henri le Hobo had made his way down to the riverbank and there he was waving at Clementine again.
Norman, meanwhile, brushed past Larry as he hurriedly organized some citizens into a protest outside the Bank of Normanville. “The bank is collapsing because the gold shipment hasn’t arrived,” Norman said excitedly. The protesters were led by the mechanic from the Ace Garage who had a wrench in his hand, backed up by a shopkeeper with a broom. The belly dancer from the lounge of the Royal Hotel was also part of the crowd. Against them Norman deployed the town’s one and only policeman, who happened to have a grin on his face actually. Norman had stated in the past that the town needed more cops and now his words were coming true.