tales for dreamers: on the apple route

Have you heard of the caboose and the freight car that run on the apple route every winter? Without an engine, that too?

tales for dreamers: on the apple route
tales for dreamers: on the apple route

The train used to run on the apple route every winter.

(Why apples, you ask? Oh, that’s because apples store well in winter.)

But no one knew what the ‘apple route’ really was, not even the driver.

The rumour was that the caboose and the lone freight car carrying all those boxes of apples tended to take off by themselves in the middle of the night when no one was watching and distributed apples to those in need.

Rumour further had it that they came back to the siding before the first light of dawn, nothing different about them, not their paint nor their locks, everything intact, but only the apples gone missing from the freight car somehow.

But the driver insisted he had never seen a train run without an engine in his entire life, and he had worked for the railways ever since he turned fourteen, and that was well over half a century ago, so surely he had gained some knowledge in all those years about how these things worked, hadn’t he?

Nevertheless, he once stayed up all night to see what exactly transpired when he was fast asleep.

And that was the night the door of the caboose opened by itself, even though the driver had taken great care to lock it before retiring for the night.

And that was the night he went to investigate, not knowing that once he stepped through the open doors of the caboose, he wouldn’t be able to step out again.

No sightings of the runaway caboose and the freight car have since been reported. Nor has there been any mention of the old driver. Not much effort was expended in looking for them.

Few remember the tale. Fewer remember it as it truly happened.

The officials who presently work at the railway station dismissed the story as an old wives’ tale when we inquired.

But the children who live by the railway tracks outside the edges of the city have a different story to tell.

They speak of an old man who rides up in a caboose with a freight car coupled to it on the night before the new year.

Did you know a train could run without an engine? they say. All it needs is some magic.

And he gives them boxes of apples enough to fill up their entire homes, enough to feed their mamas and their papas and all their brothers and their sisters and their cousins and their aunts and their uncles and their grandmamas and their grandpapas and their friends all winter.

He looks like Santa Claus, they say, except Santa ought to have arrived the day before Christmas and this one was always a week late. But to wait for only a week was a small price to pay; better than going hungry all winter, they say.

We went back to the railway station but the folks who work there insisted all this was just make-believe, a tale concocted by the crazy people who live by the railways tracks outside the edges of the city.

Those people likely stole the apples from the orchards on the other side of the tracks, the railway officials declared. Too bad no evidence of wrongdoing was ever found.

When we went back to talk once more to the children who lived outside the edges of the city, who was there to greet us but the legends themselves?!

The caboose and the freight car, and the old driver who looked like Santa Claus.

And he asked us if we’d like to join him, ferry apples all winter to feed the poor who lived outside the edges of the busy world, and he threw open the doors of the caboose as an invitation.

And we stepped through, knowing well that we wouldn’t be able to step out again. It was a small price to pay to work on the apple route all winter.