A Short Story on the Website of
the Red Dirt Writers Society

A New Life
by Larry Foreman (Jul 2013)


For three years, Barb had dreamed of getting away from the dreary labor of the sewing factory in Boston. She was finally on her way to a new life. The loud clacking of the wheels on the rails and the smoke that stung her eyes and blackened her only dress gave her no discomfort. They thrilled her heart and added to her excitement.

The advertisement she’d read in the newspaper about the wonderful opportunities for a Harvey Girl out West gave her hope for adventure and joy in her life. She looked forward to working and living and gossiping in a depot restaurant with other girls her age. The Harvey Girls shown on the posters looked really prim and classy in their uniforms, aprons, and caps.

Barb looked around at the other passengers. Across the aisle was another young lady, a bit older. She hasn’t said a word. I wonder what makes her so snooty. There was a man about 30 sitting just behind her. He looks like a prosperous businessman – probably a salesman. Maybe ladies’ wear. In the back was a young, skinny kid that appeared to be a cowboy by his attire. His boots were propped up on the arm rest in front of him. I’ll bet he lives a fast and exciting life. He probably doesn’t get much time to sleep. Not quite so far back sat two nicely dressed ladies facing each other. A little girl about five, lay across the seat with her head in one lady’s lap. I wonder where they’ve been. Maybe shopping in Kansas City. They look like town ladies. The conductor sat by himself in a seat at the front. He probably doesn’t appreciate the pleasure of the rocking railcar.

The variety of people in the coach confirmed her vision that the restaurant clientele would be varied and mysterious. One of them will be a kind…handsome...maybe well-set young man. She smiled broadly to herself. She turned her head slightly and noticed the lady across the aisle staring at her. Quickly she quenched her smile. She must think I’m an idiot, sitting here grinning at nothing.

Suddenly Barb felt a jolt and a falling feeling. The coach leaned her way and sped up slightly. Pressed against the window, she could see the engine veering off the rails. The crunching and banging deafened her. As the coach fell on its side, dirt flew everywhere, blinding her. Barb heard the lady across scream as she fell on top of her.

Then, all fell quiet, except the moaning of ladies and the soft crying of a child. Barb was conscious. She realized the train had derailed and careened off the raised railway bed. I’ve got to get up and see who’s hurt.

Barb struggled for a hand-hold to pull herself up. She couldn’t get both arms free. Looking down, she saw that her right arm was not there. She felt no pain. She relaxed. I don’t think I’ll be a Harvey Girl now.


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Revised July 2013.