Main Street, U.S.A. (Walterville, MO)
Even for an old conductor like me, the Carolwood Pacific Railroad can get tedious. After completing my last rounds of the evening, checking tickets, giving my speech, I went up to the engineer. He looked up from his newspaper, as he was on break.
“Yes?” he asked.
“I’ve decided that after tomorrow morning, I’m leaving for an indefinite period of time.”
“WHAT?” he shouted with a fury that would frighten Hades. “WE NEED A CONDUCTOR! WHO WOULD REPLACE YOU?
I offered, “What about the dining car operator, Eloise?”
“Then who would replace her?”
“She has assistants.”
He sighed. After a short pause, he pulled out his pen, dipped it in his inkwell, and wrote, “Hello Ease the dining car operator will replace Mill Town Carpenter for an in deaf knit period of time.” It took me a moment to parse his spelling.
The train pulled loudly into Walterville Station. I walked to Eloise, who was standing at the front of the slowly emptying passenger car. She looked up when she saw me.
“Are you really leaving now?” she asked.
“Yes. I just wanted to wish you good luck, and to tell you that I’d send you a postcard from each place I visit.”
She nodded. “Good luck to you too. A word of advice: stay away from Andy’s Backyard. There are a lot of tourists there. Oh, and if you ever get to Paris, give this package to my parents. The address is on the label.”
I nodded. “I’ll do that. I hope I see you again. You can do this job, Eloise. You might even be better that I am. The script is in the recording booth.” After she acknowledged what I said, I walked out to the station, and stared down Main Street.
“Excuse me, sir, would you be willing to fill out a survey?”
“See the Incredible Dancing Mouse! Only $5!”
“Balloons! Buy one for the price of two, get one free!”
“¡Cigarillos! ¡Solo diez dólares!”
I walked past the town hall. The slightly brisk morning air made me remember my time climbing earlier in life. I brushed away each salesman as they walked towards me. Suddenly, a cocker spaniel and a gray dog ran past me. I looked at where they had run from. It looked like they were inside Tony’s Town Square Restaurant. I had heard stories that two dogs were frequent customers, but I had thought they were just that: stories. I shook my head at the thought of the uncleanliness of that idea.
Remembering Eloise’s request, I looked down at the package. It read, “Marie et Jacques Boulanger, 120 Rue des Souris, Quartier des Impressions, Paris, France, 75001.” I knew enough French to know that the address was in the Impressions Neighborhood in Paris. I’ll need to make my way over there eventually, I thought as I passed the Uptown Jewelers shop.
Minutes later, I had gotten to the bridge across the Elias River and narrowly avoided being trampled by the Walterville Whales baseball team celebrating their victory at the Casey’s Corner restaurant. I looked across the bridge at the statue of the city’s founder, Walter Edwards. He pointed south, down Main Street and away from the Monument to the Pioneers, built to look like a castle. Before leaving the train yesterday, I had arranged to meet with a travel agent named Lloyd Watton. He met me inside the Plaza Restaurant. After ordering a small breakfast, he started talking to me.
“So, Mr. Carpenter, do you have any places where you want to go?”
“Well, I did want to get over to Paris eventually.”
“Hmm… Oh, I know! How do you like-” He slid out a piece of paper “-this?”
The paper read,
“The Magic Kingdoms Voyage!
For only $700, you can:
- See the wonder of the Renaissance!
- Experience the American Revolution!
- Ride with cowboys in the Wild West!
- Venture into the deepest, darkest rainforests!
- Live in the luxury that is the Future!’
I put away the paper, and handed Lloyd $700. “I’m in. When do we leave?”
“Tomorrow at noon. You can stay, free of charge, at the Grand Jefferson City hotel, where the trip will depart.” I nodded, then, after working out the exact details, took a different train than mine to Jefferson City, and checked into my hotel. When I woke up the next morning, I took a taxi to one of the parks in Jefferson City, from where the trip would leave. Lloyd was there, as well as five other tourists, named Alvina McLean, Thomas Gordon, Ramon Lane, Marion Commins, and Johnson Spice.