Train Spotting[Okay - so two things I want to know more about - at least two: the world before 'the train'; and how to bring the train back (do we really want to?).
Jack had been pretty quiet so far. Something had been troubling him so now he said; "Billy, I was wondering; you say that the train changed everything in our world - including our memories. How do you know that it wasn't you that was changed?"
"Yeah," JJ added, "according to you everyone in the world would have changed. Wouldn't it be easier to have just you change and leave everyone else the same."
"What do you mean; easier?" Billy asked.
"Well, perhaps easier to believe." JJ laughed uncomfortably.
"You think I'm making this up? You think I'm just telling a story?" Billy was clearly getting upset.
"No, no, Billy." Jack said; "It's not that at all. It's just that if you think about this - you know all I'm saying is - couldn't it have been a case of you being on this train for what? at least a few hours. And somehow during that time you could have been assimilated into the same reality (may I say, universe?) as the train?"
Billy stood up and walked to the porch railing and looked out over the back yard. The squirrels had moved their chase into the woods behind the shed. Then he turned around and said; "Why would I have gotten on the train if it wasn't the normal thing for us to do?"
JJ laughed; "You're kidding right, Billy? I mean seriously; getting on that train was the most normal thing for you to do. That was the kind of thing you did - all the time. That was just how you were - don't you remember?"
"Not really. " Billy said quietly.
"More evidence for our point." Jack said.
"I don't see that." Billy protested.
"It doesn't matter." Red interrupted. "You guys are arguing over details that aren't important. It doesn't matter whether the train changed Billy's universe or it changed everyone else's. You guys are missing the point. Where did this train come from and how do we bring it back?"
Everyone looked at Red. Jack said; "Hmm, good point."
"That's right, Red." JJ agreed; "It's not important to the issue of the train but it might be very important to know more about this before we consider whether to try to bring it back again."
"If we even can." Red added.
"Oh, we can alright." Billy said; "I'm certain of that."
"Okay you're on, Billy. How do we do that?"; Jack said
"Well, " Billy began, "I think ordinarily it would be next to impossible to re-connect with that universe. I don't know how we managed to connect to it in the first place. Maybe it was some sort of random mutation sort of thing."
"Like what drives evolution?" Red asked.
"Yeah, I guess so. " Billy said; "I guess you could think ot it that way. If such a thing happens on a molecular scale why not on a 'universal' scale?"
"Anyway, " Billy continued, "after I got off that train, it disappeared back into wherever it came from and since it was just a random thing that it showed up in the first place, finding it again would also depend on random chance."
"Grandpa, this is like your multiple universes idea, isn't it?" Red said.
"Yes, I think it is." Jack said; "But who knows how many of these universes exist. It could be an infinite number (at least in our perception)."
"Right." Billy continued; "So it would be next to impossible to find that particular train again - in that particular universe. Unless..."
"Unless what?" JJ asked.
Billy smiled and paused for effect.
"Come on Billy." Red protested.
"Unless, someone had some link to that universe. Some physical piece of that universe that might serve as a guide."
Red said; "Like bread crumbs?"
"Right!" Billy said; "Or like a tether to pull that universe back to this one again."
"So Billy, " JJ asked, "did you take something from that train?"
"No, " Billy said as he looked at JJ, "But you did."
JJ stared at Billy as he thought back to that day. Billy smiled as he waited for it. Then JJ gasped; "The milk can cover."
"Do you still have it?" Billy asked.
"I think so. " JJ looked at Red. "Isn't it still hanging up in the garage?"
"Yeah," Red said, "as far as I know it's still hanging above those shovel hooks by the workbench."
"Well that can lid, " Billy said triumphantly, "was from the train. And that is what will bring it back."
"Okay," Jack said, "assuming what you say is true, how do we do that? How does that lid bring the train back?"
"Yeah," JJ said, "I've had this thing for - what - almost 20 years, and it hasn't brought the train back yet."
"Are you sure." Billy smiled.
"Yes, " JJ insisted, "don't you think I would've heard it - or seen it - if it had?"
"Perhaps you weren't listening - or looking." Billy said. "Remember I told you that I've stopped in to talk with old Mrs. Olsen in Oakwood? Well, she's heard it -- many times since that day."
"And she's probably senile." JJ laughed.
"That's not very nice to say about someone, JJ. " Billy scolded. "And anyway, she's as sane as you or me."
Red laughed and then caught herself.
Billy smiled at her and added; "Okay, she's as sane as you guys."
"She does live right next to the tracks." Jack offered; "If anyone would hear it, she would, I guess."
"Have you heard it, Grandpa? "Red asked; "It would go right by here wouldn't it?"
"No, I've never heard a train go by here." Jack said, "At least not since they stopped running. We used to hear them all the time. In fact we got so used to the trains that we didn't even notice them any more after a while."
"Could that be why you haven't noticed it since?" Billy asked.
"Oh, I think I would've noticed it now." Jack said. "Marge certainly would."
"But the can lid isn't here is it." Billy said. "It's over at JJ's, right?"
"And the old tracks didn't go anywhere near our house. " JJ said. "So, of course we wouldn't hear it."
[Oh just great - I changed the last few paragraphs and now this following bit no longer works. So now what do I do? Go back to the original? See - this is why I shouldn't change things once published. Like just let it go and work with it. Well I'm in it now. Check out the comments to this blog to see the original. Maybe this will be a worthwhile improvement.]
"But you said that Mrs. Olsen heard it .. " Red said.
".. hears it!" Billy corrected.
"Okay, Mrs Olsen hears it." Red continued; "How would she hear it if she doesn't have something from the train, too?"
"Yeah, this bothered me for a while too, you know." Billy said; "Then I remembered that on that day when I got off the train in Oakwood and went over to Mrs. Olsen's to use the phone to call Mr. P, you know? And I left my train ticket on the table by the phone. You know, the punched ticket I got on the train? I remember writing your number on it, Mr. P. so I could dial it and then I must've just left it there by her phone. I certainly didn't need it anymore - I thought. So I kind of forgot about all about it, you know?"
"And Mrs. Olsen kept it?" Red asked.
"I asked her that when I saw her last spring, and she said she'd kept it because it seemed very strange that I should have such a thing. And maybe it meant that I my story - our story - wasn't so wild after all."
"So, did you get it back?" JJ asked.
"No, she couldn't remember where she'd put it, you know. She said she'd look for it and call me if she found it." Billy said. "She hasn't called."
"Maybe she does remember and just doesn't want to give it up." Jack said.
"Maybe." Red said; "But why would she want to keep it?"
"Well, the only thing I can think of is that the train meant more to her, you know? It was a link to her life on the farm. You know, her past, before her husband died and all that. Maybe she just wanted to hold on to that."
"Okay, "JJ said, "so she's got a link and I've got a link. So how do we use my link to bring back the train."
"Well, I was getting to that but you keep interrupting." Billy protested.
"Sorry." [ someone said. ]
[ Okay now that I've changed the bit with Mrs Olsen, I guess I don't need this following part either. Maybe I don't need to bring in the G.I. - I've got to think about this some more. Oh what a tangled web we 'devise' when first we practice to 'revise.']
"Well, you know the guy I met in Glendale? Well it turns out he was the same guy I was talking to on the train." Billy continues. "You know that GI who was in the war."
"Your kidding." Jack laughed. "This is getting weirder by the minute."
"No kidding - really, remember I told you that he got of in the City? Well, on the train - you know while we were talking - he was telling me how hard it was making ends meet on his pension and all. So I gave him ten bucks that I had planned to use for the movie - popcorn and candy and all, you know. I wasn't going to go since JJ didn't come with so I figured it would help him out a little."
"That was very nice of you." Jack said.
"But why is he still here - in this universe?" JJ asked.
"I don't know for sure but I think the fact that I'd given him something from my universe actually pulled him into my universe when he got off the train."
"I bet he was really confused." Red laughed.
"He's in Glenwood." JJ winked at Red.
"Yeah, he's been very 'confused' since then." Billy smiled. "But he remembered me, you know, when he saw me. And this really confused the doctors -- for a while. "
"I'll bet." Jack said.
"And I remembered him, of course. It was like old home week, you know, for a while there. And then the doctors figured it out -- or they thought they did -- and they decided it would be better to keep the two of us separated. "
"Why?" Asked Red.
"I'm not sure." Billy said. "Maybe they couldn't come up with an explanation and didn't want us re-enforcing each others' delusion - or something - I really don't know."
"So he's the one who has brought the train back? " JJ persisted.
[ gotta go - the coffee is cold and I'm warmed up now so back on the bike and back home]
[Dec 28, 2014 - Okay lets pick up where we left off on the modified version above (so forget the GI, okay) ]
"Well, like I said," Billy continued, "I've been talking to Mrs. Olsen, you know? I wanted to know how often she heard the train, and when."
"Good idea." Jack said.
"Yeah well, it turns out she remembers very well because it happens pretty much every day when it happens."
"What do you mean 'when it happens'. " JJ asked.
"Well it runs in cycles, you know. It doesn't happen all the time -- like every day and all. It's not regular like that. But when it happens it usually happens the same time of the day and it usually happens for a few days in a row and then it doesn't for a while."
"Did she ever keep track of when she heard it?" Asked Red.
"Not really." Billy said; "But she said that it was pretty much the same time of the day that she remembered the real train coming, you know, when there used to be a train."
"How about the regularity thing. Did she remember anything about these gaps. Did she say anything about when it started and when it stopped?" Jack asked.
"Not really. She said it seemed to just come at random times. Sometimes a month or so apart and sometimes over a year or so. She said it was really variable."
"Does she remember when it started?" Jack asked.
"Well, you know that she heard something that day you guys were looking for me. She still doesn't know if that was a truck or not because she wasn't really listening, you know. It caught her off guard."
"Did she start hearing it again after that?"
"She said she didn't remember hearing again until a few years later. Maybe as many as ten, you know? At the time she was spending a lot of time away from home; helping her daughter take care of her new baby and all. So she might have missed it for a while. But she said the first time she remembers hearing it was just before Christmas ten years ago. She was putting lights on the bushes outside her house when she heard the train go by. It was about 3:00 in the afternoon. Then she heard it again at about 8:00 in the morning the next day. And then again at three that afternoon. And that's the last she heard for a long time. "
"So it didn't come again before Christmas the next year?" Red asked.
"No, like she said, it was really random. She said that it's happened maybe a dozen times over the last ten years -- that she's heard anyway."
"When was the last time she heard it?" JJ asked.
"Yesterday afternoon." Billy said with a smile.
[Whoa, I didn't see that coming -- wait, that's too soon -- it doesn't make sense -- Billy would have had more of a sense of urgency. Let's try this...]
"When was the last time she heard it?" JJ asked.
"Almost a year ago, now. She said it was just after Thanksgiving last year."
"So you think it's due?" Red asked.
"That's why I'm here." Billy smiled. "I ...
[ Wait a minute. I think I like the first thing better after all. Let's go back to Mrs Olsen hearing it yesterday. But we'll just change the time.]
"Yesterday morning." Billy said with a smile.
"Yesterday?" Jack said -- amazed.
"She called me right after it happened -- I'd asked her to -- and she said it was the first time she's heard it for over a year. So I drove out here and that's what I was doing over by the bridge -- waiting for it to show up at three."
"Did it come?" Red asked.
"No. Well, at least if it did, I didn't see or hear it. So I called Mrs Olsen and asked her if she heard it. She said 'Yes, right on time at three.' So I started thinking about it and that's when I remembered the ticket and thought of the link it might have."
"Why didn't you just go to Mrs. Olsen's and wait for the train there - wouldn't that have made more sense?" Red asked.
"I guess so, now that I think of it. But, well I don't know but I guess I didn't want to include Mrs Olsen in this any more than I had to, I guess. Like I said, I don't know why I went to the bridge. Why did you guys choose yesterday to go for a walk?
"Good point." Jack laughed. "I have to admit it was quite a coincidence."
"No duh." Red laughed.
"So anyway, " JJ said; "you're saying that this is the first you thought of this 'bread crumb' thing?" Jack asked.
"Yeah, I was sitting on the bridge, you know, and going over all this in my head and trying to think of some reason for all of it. And then I remembered the ticket thing and then I remembered the milk can lid that JJ found and that's why I was so glad to see you, Mr. P -- and Red."
"So you really don't know that this how to bring the train back." Jack said "It's just a theory."
"A pretty good one. " Billy protested. "Don't you think so?"
"I think we have the makings for an experiment, Grandpa, don't you? Red said.
"I think you're right." Jack agreed. He has taught her well, he thought.
"Okay, " JJ was looking at Billy, " what you're saying is that since it came twice yesterday that the odds are good that it will come again today -- at least."
"Yes, according to Mrs. Olsen"
[Oh Oh. Do you see the problem here? Again, it's a matter of urgency. This dinner happened the evening of the 'second day'. A whole day has been lost here. Why would Billy allow this when time is so critical? ]
[that's all the time I have for today..... ]