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Kaylee sat on a hard, rough bench reading Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn. Suddenly she looked up, for she had heard the whistle of the train, and it sounded much closer than it had any of the other times she had heard it over the past hour. It was supposed to get here two and a half hours ago! Thought Kaylee looking at her watch. Why is the train taking so long to get here? But though she was slightly tired of waiting, the excitement of finally hopping on a train and going to see her grandparents by herself was exhilarating. Kaylee felt she could not wait for the warm Florida weather, rather than this blustery Michigan climate. Nonetheless, Huckleberry Finn had been interesting. The whistle blew again, but as Kaylee sat in the well-furnished train station, her thoughts dwelled on the wonderful story Mark Twain had written. She smiled at the thought of Tom Sawyer, Widow Douglas, and Miss Watson. Her thoughts were lost in the details of the story when suddenly the whistle tooted again, and Kaylee jumped as she looked up.
The train was coming toward her, but not in the swift exciting way she had imagined. The train was slowly creeping along the tracks. Its shiny scarlet coat was splattered with mud and covered in dirt. A shrill, clamoring noise was issuing from the third car. Kaylee’s excitement started dwindling. How could she ride this slow, muddy, thing, all the way to grandma’s? Something had to be missing. Kaylee was sure she had seen this train fly past her house; a beautiful scarlet streak. It had gone so fast it appeared to be a blur, and it always had a merry hoot rather than this slow, ugly screech. Kaylee did not know what to think. Right at that moment, the conductor got out of his car, and Kaylee stopped worrying about the train at all. In fact, not only did she stop worrying about the train, but she completely forgot about it! The conductor was the shortest man she had ever seen, and his beard was in the funniest shape. He looks just like a dwarf! Kaylee reflected as the man stepped toward her. His pointed beard, funny cap, and height looked exactly as Kaylee always pictured dwarfs! Kaylee did not know what to think, but she didn’t have much time to ponder him, because the dwarf was coming toward her. As he stepped forward, Kaylee felt sure she could sense some magical aroma flowing from him. The man stopped, and Kaylee smiled hesitantly.
“Hello Miss!” Squeaked the dwarf. “My name is Mr. Dwindle. Pleased to meet you!” Kaylee looked down in an unsuccessful attempt to hide her burst of laughter. The man’s tiny voice was overwhelming. Kaylee struggled to keep a straight face as she looked up again and spoke.
“Hello.” She giggled. “I’m K—Kaylee Martin. P—Pleased to meet you also.” She could barely continue talking because of her mirth. It did not decrease as the man continued talking, even though Kaylee did not find his words helpful.
“I’m afraid the train is not in perfect order today.” Mr. Dwindle looked worried. We’ll have to fix it, but I know how much you’d like a ride. I will still take you on my train, but because of the delay, it will be free! Kaylee knew her parents would be happy to hear that, but she couldn’t help feeling upset that she would not be able to stand in front of a long line of people and hand her shiny silver ticket to the conductor. Everything seemed to be falling apart to Kaylee! Tears sprang to her eyes as she looked back up to Mr. Dwindle. She would not go. She would tell him she would come back another day. Perhaps the train would work better tomorrow. But as Kaylee looked into his eyes, so anxious and hopeful that Kaylee would come aboard, her heart melted. Who cared if she rode on the train without the pleasant company of fellow passengers? Who cared if she rode on it, even if it was a muddy and ugly locomotive? Who cared if the engine barely moved? She had longed for this trip for as far back as she could remember! She smiled faintly, but it was all she could muster as she told him,
“It’s okay. I’m sure my Grandma won’t mind if I’m a little late.”
“Excellent! Please follow me!”
Kaylee stepped behind Mr. Dwindle as he led her to the train. He moved aside to let her into the train, and Kaylee tried to make the most of it as she stepped proudly onto the vehicle. But the inside was worse than the outside. A vent was omitting a smell similar to that of rotten eggs, and a small trickle of yellow water was leaking onto the floor. Kaylee scooted aside to avoid a puddle of mud on the floor, and had second thoughts about continuing with the ride. But when she peered down into Mr. Dwindle’s eyes, again her heart softened, and she continued walking. The dwarf led her to the back of the train, but, to Kaylee’s continued disappointment, there was seemingly nowhere to sit except for on a stained rug on the ground. Kaylee set her suitcase down, but remained standing, feeling sure she didn’t want to soil her clothes during the ride. She looked up, and realized Mr. Dwindle was waiting with her. Doesn’t he realize I’m old enough to sit alone? Wondered Kaylee as tears filled her eyes. I’m thirteen years old! She hastened to wipe the tears with her finger. Well, she thought, I may as well sit down. Maybe that’s what he’s waiting for! Carefully, Kaylee sat down on the blue rug and tried to look happy.
“I’m good now, thank you for waiting with me” Kaylee said, urging Mr. Dwindle to leave her alone. “You can go now, if you like!” Kaylee added, a little louder.
Mr. Dwindle appeared very happy she had sat down, but instead of going to the front to drive the train, he followed her lead. Great, thought Kaylee. He won’t leave me alone! I just wish- But her wish was interrupted by a sudden gush of wind. She felt herself being lifted up, with Mr. Dwindle next to her and the carpet underneath her.
“WHAT’S HAPPENING?” Kaylee screamed, staring at Mr. Dwindle. But the dwarf was smiling and calmly enjoying himself as he commanded the carpet.
“Now out the door and north towards the Helmer’s!”
“How do you know my grandparent’s last name? Kaylee asked, forgetting her fright. “And how do you know where they live?” Mr. Dwindle winked at her and looked ahead again. Kaylee finally smiled effortlessly. It felt good to be happy again. The cool wind whipped her black curls around her face. Her gray eyes were dancing as she looked down below at a small country town. Kaylee explored her purse until she found her shiny silver digital camera. Mr. Dwindle chuckled as she snapped shots of the towns they were passing. To her surprise, none of the pictures were blurry at all, even though they were flying at a terrific rate! Then Kaylee turned the camera towards Mr. Dwindle and took a picture. He looked funny, sitting there with his funny little cap and his short beard. Kaylee laughed aloud as he looked back at her, pleased she was enjoying the ride. Two hours later, the carpet finally started it’s descent. Kaylee heard a whistle blow and she jumped as she sat. She had forgotten she was supposedly coming by train. Suddenly, the carpet flew into the last car of the train, which was still muddy and soiled. Kaylee jumped up and brushed herself off.
“Thank you!” Mr. Dwindle told her as she turned to him.
“Oh, no, Thank you, Mr. Dwindle. That’s the best ride I’ve ever had. And—“ Mr. Dwindle stared at her expectantly. “And I’m sorry I was a bit irritable when you offered me the free ride and all.”
“Not at all, Miss. Not at all!” The dwarf replied. “You will, I expect, be coming back by train?” Kaylee nodded as she walked to the entrance.
“Good bye Mr. Dwindle!” She said as she stepped out of the train. The station was empty, and Kaylee skipped down the street, waving to Mr. Dwindle the whole way. She started up the long driveway to her grandparents. It wasn’t long before the delicious smell of apple pie baking met her, and soon after she could hear the gentle splash of the ocean waves hitting the warm sand. Kaylee squinted ahead and distinguished Grandma, her arms out, walking towards Kaylee. Beaming, Kaylee ran toward her, and finally they reached each other and embraced.
“Oh Kaylee, it’s so good to see you again!” Grandma cried repeatedly. “I’ve made some fresh apple pie, and Grandpa is getting into his swim suit. Let me take your stuff! You look so happy! Was the train ride good? Oh you’ve grown so tall Kaylee! It’s been so long since I saw you last! Now hurry inside and get your bathing suit on and let’s go into the ocean! The water is terrific right now! Oh, Kaylee, oh, and don’t forget—” Grandma rambled on and on, but Kaylee could barely hear her. She was so happy to see her grandparents, to smell apple pie, and to feel the windy warm weather of Florida. She just looked at her grandma and smiled.