California Zephyr Ch. 01byProfessorR©
Copyright 2004, All rights reserved
Train 6 (eastbound) Car 0631 Economy Bedroom 6
There was some magic about this train, according to the friend who told me this story. In the rolling movie set known as the California Zephyr, she played parts in a dream scenario, led by the power within an ancient ring.
- Prof. Richard W., formerly of (_________ University)
Karen had suddenly faced a moment which she had been dreading for several years, the death of her grandmother. For the ailing, elderly lady, "it was a release" as people said. For Karen, it meant a sudden trip back to Galesburg from her home in Berkeley. And, despite years of women's liberation, the duty (as the only granddaughter) to sort through grandma's belongings.
It also turned out that the airline fare for this sudden trip would be prohibitive. It was too late for an excursion fare.
"For that rate," Karen told me later, "the airline president should have driven me to the airport. I got the last Economy Bedroom on the Zephyr instead." Karen boarded the sold-out train in Emeryville in mid-morning, and in a little while, watched the San Francisco bridges fade away, and then the marshlands, and then...
The trip became a kind of blur. Her tiny room remained motionless, while America wheeled past her window. She went out to the diner for a meal at lunchtime and noticed nothing. After that, she tipped the car attendant to bring her meals to her room.
It wasn't just grandma's death closing a chapter in her family and dragging her down. It was her own life. She was thirty years old, and the guy that she had been going out with had dumped her last week. Jim DUMPED her, as she would put it. His reasons were shallow-sounding, but hey, he was kind of shallow! Now that she reflected on it.
In the night, east of Winnemucca, she opened the blind and watched the stars moving across the train window sky. The desert beyond the tracks was empty, just showing some distant lights from the freeway on the horizon. It was cowboy country. Jim would be at home here: no involvements, no one trying to touch him, no subtleties.
The train had passed a famous bordello earlier in the evening. She had read about it in a travel magazine, but perhaps she would have guessed what it was anyway. Expensive limos, dirty pick-up trucks, a slick-looking low-rider, were pulling up for the evening activities. She could picture Jim liking going there, if he wasn't so cheap.
On the empty desert she imagined that she was watching Jim through a one-way mirror, entering a room in the fancy house; she could picture the bustiered prostitute, a tall, bleached blonde, silently issuing her coded commands to Jim's ego. At the first signal, Jim would try to embrace her, bringing him close enough for her hands to begin working on his clothes. Then she'd have her hands in his pants, reaching into his briefs to straighten him up. She'd surely be sighing as if she enjoyed his groping of her breasts when they spilled out of the bustier.
Karen caught herself laughing harshly out loud as she realized that the picture, other than the image of the prostitute, was her own, but she let the imagery roll on with the scenery. The working lady pulled away from Jim with a squeal as he attempted to take off her last covering and then she stretched back on a brass bed.
With practiced coyness, the pro signaled her readiness by slowly spreading her legs apart, communicating directly with Jim's hormones. Karen watched his erection tighten up, and saw him take a glance at the mirror, admiring his own hardness as he rolled a condom down his shaft.
She decided that this train of thought was unhealthy, she would have to try to think of something else. Her body's memory of Jim was too strong, however, and she too easily imagined this enemy tilting her vagina up to Jim, guiding him into herself, stroking him, encouraging his desperate thrusts.
The bright lights of Elko slammed into her face, erasing the compelling one-way mirror image with neon promises of quick wealth, cheap liquor, and easy love. The train slid to a fast stop as expectant faces looked up into the windows from the station platform. A 19-year old cowboy swung smoothly from a coach ahead and a high school girl standing by an old pick-up truck at trackside went running to him, embraced him, ran her fingers down his well-muscled back. Karen snapped the blind shut.
The first night out on a train was never an easy night for her, but she was tired and would give it a try. She finished undressing for bed, putting on the blue shortie nightgown that she'd brought along.
"Damn!" Everything was reminding her of something. Bernard had loved her in a similar outfit a decade ago. Each step of putting it on reminded her of some smooth comment that he'd made. As she raised it up over her head, the powder blue showed off her blonde hair. She pulled it down over her breasts, "champagne glass breasts" he had called them, over the "silky, smooth curve of your tummy" and down over the "secret triangle" she had already covered with the matching blue panties.
Bernard was a reporter from France who had come to her office in the City on a project long before she had met Jim. She hadn't been so careful then, and her natural curiosity and his practiced Gallic charm had made their liaison seem so logical. He must have been more than just a news reporter; perhaps his family had some money. A night in San Francisco's rooftop lounges had segued into his room-with-a-view in the expensive hotel beneath.
He was just in it for the sex, she had warned herself then. But now, as she climbed into the lower berth, she wondered where he was. Men were strange beasts, she thought. Jim was demographically just right to become her husband, and he behaved like an animal. Everything was wrong about Bernard, but as she lay between the plain covers it was his hands which she imagined touching her, not Jim's.
In her drowsy state, she came sharply once to consciousness as she remembered the stress of Jim's struggle with her bra on their first time. Then she remembered Bernard's touch again, and how her clothing had seemed to melt away as the Frenchman caressed her. Karen relaxed in her dream-Bernard's arms as he kissed the inside of her thighs, and then the dream faded into deep sleep.
She awoke after the train had left Provo, having slept much longer than she expected. She forced herself to dress for the day. At breakfast time, it was snowing on the mountains of Soldier Summit. The little guide pamphlet which the attendant had brought her told about this climb. As the train twisted upward, she thought about her grandmother again, felt guilty about thinking of her own problems last night, sure that it was wrong to have been thinking about sex so much. Grandmother had done so much in her life. Had she wasted time on this subject? Probably not, Karen supposed. She had raised a family, yes, but anyone who could put up with a Jim could have handled sex efficiently enough to have kids.
Karen opened up her briefcase and pulled out some proof-reading that she had brought from the office. She forced herself to work on it across the West Slope of Colorado, deep into Glenwood Canyon, on past lunch time. Her eyes tired, she slept in the afternoon, and awoke only when the train lurched a bit as it stopped in Winter Park.
The train was running an hour or so late in a snowstorm now, and it was dark under the storm clouds. She pulled out the guide and saw that they were in a little cowboy town called Fraser, not really at the park itself. At 8,550 feet above sea level, and cut off from the ocean by ring upon ring of fortress peaks, the air here was super cold and super dry. The tiny crystals of "freeze-dried" snow sparkled in the station's lights. The station bustled with ski-country activity.
Again, she told herself, her preoccupation with men and relationships was coloring the view out the window. There were a half dozen or so college men and women in expensive ski outfits getting off the train here. They were being met by about an equal number of friends, and as at Elko, there were embraces. Some of them seemed "just friends-ly" and some of them embraced in very familiar ways, blending colorful chartreuses, bold blues and flaming pinks into a swirl of preliminary passion.
Karen tried to tell herself that she was behaving like an old maid, reading motives into everything. These guys were going to have a great time on skis together, and so what if more happened?
For the first time on the trip, Karen enjoyed a laugh. Laughed out loud at herself. In the privacy of her compartment she watched them slide away from view, and in her new self-deprecating mood mentally let them have their fun.
It was easy to realize that there were one or more Jims in the bunch. She could picture the group around the fire in their condo, pairing off to fit a dozen people into six beds (or maybe less, she realized). She heard the ripping sound of ski clothes coming off, the little nylon hooks grabbing desperately, useless against youthful energy. She pictured urgent fingers in ringed zipper pulls, lambswool undergarments being swiftly slipped off well-exercised thighs, to release the not so recently-exercised organs that they had shielded from the cold.
The train swept by the base of the ski slopes. Bull wheels turned, skiers went up into the snowy night on lifts. They whizzed down almost to the tracks in front of her. She felt the engine pulling hard against the grade, and then the California Zephyr roared into the Moffat Tunnel. In the smoky darkness, she returned her mind to the question of whether there were "Jim's" in the ski group. This was her fantasy, real though it might turn out to have been; Karen decided to change it.
She felt herself grin as she imagined herself standing before this group and demanding a halt to the activities. Their imaginary astonishment was amusing to picture.
"Hi! You don't know me, because we're all imagining this, but my name is Karen," proclaimed Karen in her daydream, "and this is my very good friend, Bernard." She pointed out the French journalist who had entered the dream.
"Is there anyone here named Jim? Raise your right hand!" Karen demanded. All six men raised their hands, a couple of them raised their left hands accidentally, and then joined with their rights.
"I should have suspected that," Karen sniffed. "We're not here to spoil the fun, but you folks need a Sex Ed class before anything else happens." The imaginary class booed and shifted uneasily.
As the train rumbled under the Continental Divide, Karen pictured herself and Bernard working with the class, explaining not the "facts of life", but the facts of enjoyment. Just putting the brakes on the incipient mass fucking had let the men and women look at each other a bit, and Bernard's suggestions for suggestive practical exercises had reminded them that there was more to their sensual sides than a quick squeeze, penetration and an explosion.
Karen blushed at her own imagery, as she pictured herself and Bernard demonstrating the last exercise, in which she climbed on top of the dishwasher counter, allowing him to easily kiss from her toes to her lips. At this point, Bernard flexed a very dear muscle and the firelight in the condo lit a beautiful sparkle on his tip. He slipped easily into her on a silver stream. The class couples, following their example, completed the exercise in similar style, on whatever convenient spot they could find. The train emerged from the long tunnel as Karen felt the dream slip away. She forced herself to take one last look at the "class", and found that there was now no one named Jim in the room, and everyone looked warm and glowing in the firelight.
The warm, glowing image really was Pinecliffe, just past East Portal, and the train was curling, down, down into the lights of Denver. When her sleeping car had merged with those lights in suburban Arvada, Karen changed for bed, pulled up the covers and slept soundly through the Denver switching and servicing.
In the morning, she awoke as the Zephyr left Omaha and she felt wonderful. She was even able to look at a packing plant and still feel like heading to the diner for breakfast. Taking her place in the waiting line in the dome lounge, she smiled at passersby, and even chatted for a few minutes with an older lady. They talked about the mountain scenery that they had just enjoyed. Karen supposed that her private view of the mountains might have been more sensational than this lady's.
The simple breakfast felt wonderful, the bacon snapped crisply, the jam in little plastic packages seemed terrific. The older lady joined her at the dining car table, and told an interesting story about riding the Zephyr years ago, when there was a choice of famous trains through the mountains. Karen returned to her room and told herself that she should feel guilty. The Iowa landscape scrolled past her window at 75 mph; winter fields covered with old snow, front porches on white, wood frame houses, tractor supply billboards, a little insurance office. As Karen packed up her proofreading project, and put away her nightie and toiletries, she wondered how she would handle the duties awaiting her at her destination. The door of her sleeping car opened out onto grungy, winter-beset Galesburg. Her brother was waiting to greet her, gave her a hug. "You remember Mrs. Schmidt, the neighbor lady, don't you?"
"Yes." Karen flashed back to visiting Mrs. Schmidt and having cookies and milk with her son.
"She's fixed up some cold cuts for us. You'll probably be wanting some lunch, huh?" Her brother, still thinking of food!
"Okay." Karen let herself be carried back into the familiar circle of family activities.
[To be continued. The magic begins as Karen will discover an interesting family secret and enjoy her return trip on the Zephyr beyond anything in the travel brochures.]