The wind blew sharp and chilly. The sun shined brightly, but Billy was thankful for his new fleece jacket. The scent of a wood-burning stove lingered in the air of the train station. Billy watched the girls, who were off to one side giggling and whispering and stomping their feet to stay warm. Impatience was settling in as they waited for Miss Patterson to finalize details at the ticket window.
Finally it was time to board the train. Jason grabbed Billy by the arm, and they raced to the front. Miss Patterson called to them, “Ladies first, please!” The boys skidded to a stop and moved over. Billy stuck his foot out in an attempt to trip Courtney but she was too quick. She hopped over Billy’s foot and stuck her tongue out. Jason nudged Billy, “See, she does like you.”
On the train, the jostling for window seats began. Miss Patterson and the other chaperones quickly took control and made sure everyone had a seat. Jason and Billy promised to take turns with the window seat, and they carefully positioned themselves where they could watch Courtney without being too obvious.
The conductor went quickly through the rules: “Keep the windows closed. No running in the aisles. Snacks and souvenirs are available two cars back,” but Jason and Billy tuned him out. The conductor punched tickets as the engineer shouted “All Aboard!” The train let out a long slow whistle and steam puffed into the air as the brakes released and the train began its journey through town. All the kids waved cheerfully at the few townspeople running errands and headed to work.
Before long, the fourth graders grew bored with the fall foliage and farmlands out the window and started trekking between cars, more for adventure than the snack shop two cars down. Billy picked out five dollars worth of candy, while Jason counted out his change for an Arcade and Attica Railroad conductor’s hat. As the girls flooded into the snack car, still giggling, but now chattering loudly, the boys escaped back to their passenger car to listen to the traveling entertainers lead them in a rousing rendition of “She’ll be Coming Round the Mountain.”
Once they arrived at the depot, the schoolmates tumbled out of the train car to stretch their legs. Everyone snacked on cider and doughnuts as the crew transferred the engine to the end of the train for the return trip. After a quick game of tag, they loaded the train again. At each crossing, the train whistled its way across the countryside. Halfway home, Courtney came running into the train car, caught sight of the conductor and slowed to a speed walk until she reached Miss Patterson. Panic filled her voice. “I’ve lost my purse and all the money in it!”
Billy saw his chance to impress Courtney and quickly began scouring the floor for the missing purse. He ran and then slowed to a brisk walk when he caught sight of Miss Patterson on his way to the concessions car, stopping everyone he passed inquiring about the lost purse. When he returned to the passenger car, Courtney was in tears. He dug through his five dollars worth of candy for her favorite, Reese’s Pieces. He approached her shyly and asked, “Would a little snack help?” She smiled through the tears and accepted.
Miss Patterson directed the children back to their seats and began her own search. Billy sat antsy in his seat wanting to help, but wanting to obey. Then something caught his eye. Wedged in between the window and the seat in front of him was something sparkly. He jumped up and rescued the missing purse, and rushed to Courtney to deliver it. She rewarded him with a kiss on the cheek. As they pulled back into the station, Billy was suddenly too warm for his fleece jacket, although the air was still quite crisp.