Catching Out

By L.E. Swenson

My sweetie and I are young at heart. When we met, two of the things we had in common were the wanderlust and a love of reading. Never did we imagine we would have a house in a very quiet bedroom community that is maintained by our day jobs while we dream artistic dreams.

So there I was, sitting in our car at the train crossing in our town. The train crossing can be a nuisance because the rail line is for freight and so the trains seem to be miles long as you wait for them to pass. As I watched the stream of tank cars and boxcars float by my front window, I noticed something.

The cars of this freight train that passes regularly through our town were covered in hobo marks. I don’t mean a bit of graffiti here and there. I mean covered in symbols and signs left for future weary wanderers. Sometimes it was just a road name painted in big bold letters or date of travel by the hobo riding that day.


I was caught up by the present desire to “catch out” (hobo vernacular for hopping a train). I know the train goes somewhere northwest in Pennsylvania, but it wasn’t the destination. In my mind, I abandoned the car at the railroad crossing and started running alongside the train with all my might. My mind then realized that I have been sitting for a living for the last 15 years, and my body has no business running anywhere, much less alongside a moving freight train. My mind let my body stumble and fall face-first into the dirt.

I came back to the car just as the signals started to fade and the zebra-striped bars of the railroad crossing started to rise. I then remembered the errand I was on when I first stopped at the crossing.

As I stepped on the gas to go about my business, I had a final realization. Boy, I need to get in shape and so does sweetie, so that one day we can catch out for real.