Bobby Bob's Train Trouble

December 9, 2008
By Jillian Graham, West Palm Beach, FL

"Sir, please, the train is about to leave,” the conductor said.
The train's not goin' anywhere without me.
"Now, hold on one second -- ,“ I said.
"Sir, you really need to finish up those good-byes and board the train," the conductor said.
Somebody woke up on the wrong side of the bed.
“All right, all right. Ma, Dad, the next time you see me, I'll be a winner," I said to
my parents, Maebelle and Johnny Joe Taters.
"You’ll be a real barbeque champion! Good-bye son," Johnny Joe said.
I stepped into the train and found my seat next to a window. The train would travel from Toone, Tennessee to Marion, North Carolina and then go all the way to Maryland, so if you want to get off in Marion, it's a hit or miss situation. It sounded pretty risky, but everything outside of farming and making sleds sounded adventurous to me.
I'm thirty years old and I still live on my parents' land in a small cabin near the corn fields so I can continue to occasionally work on our farm. My full-time job is at Bobby Bob's Bobsleds where I am the owner and manager. Besides my work, I really take pride in hunting and cooking. This year, I finally mastered my dad's famous barbeque dish, and I thought it was fit that I buy a train ticket to go to the North Carolina Coastal Barbeque Competition.

The train lurched forward a few minutes after I boarded and I decided to play cards by myself. After a while, I rested my head against the window and slowly put my cards back into the box. Trains made me tired; the way they swayed made me nauseous, too. Or maybe that was just my nervous excitement. I was trying to decide just where that feeling came from when I fell into an especially deep sleep.

Peppy voices slowly called me back to the real world.

“Oh goodness, did we wake you up? Alex, you should really keep your voice down,” the professor said as Alex stifled a smirk.

“Are we almost to Marion?” I asked.

Alex adjusted his French-looking cap over his blonde hair.
“Actually, we’re an hour and seven minutes past Marion. That’s what all the commotion was about. We were seeing how long you’d sleep after we got on board. Sorry it got so out of hand,” Alex said.

I fiddled with my oversized belt buckle like I always seemed to do when I’m nervous out of my wits. “Are we really on our way to Maryland?”

“Yep! We’re actually on our way home from an annual scientist training camp in North Carolina.”
The professor’s gray hair caught the sun’s rays as they shone in through the window. He felt to make sure his moustache was still over his lip. I don’t see how he could mistake it for not being there; it was large and bushy like his eyebrows.
“That’s right. By the way, I’m Professor Edlen Garsnagle. And that’s Alexander Herman. What would your name be?”

“Oh,” I said, “I’m Bobby Bob Taters. And I missed my stop. I was on my way to the North Carolina Coastal Barbeque competition.”
“Oh no, you missed your stop? Alex, this man has no idea where he’s going! I think we should offer to let him stay with us,” Professor Garsnagle said with an excessively large grin. “We love barbeque, too.”
“Sure, he can stay with us; at least until he can call some family and arrange a way to get back to wherever he needs to go. Maybe he can barbeque something for us.”
Alex smiled slyly, but I half ignored it.
I’d miss my barbeque competition -- the one I’d been looking forward to for years -- but I’d have a place to wallow about in self-pity for a while. After stepping off the train at the station in Maryland, the three of us grabbed our luggage and headed for the scientists’ residence.
“Welcome to our lab,” Alex said after we walked four blocks.
We’re here already? I must have been day-dreaming the whole way!
“Oh! It’s great to be here,” I said.
With a kick from Alex’s foot, the fire engine-red door flew open.
“Hey, this works! You can sleep down there, in the basement. It’s the best we can do,” Professor Garsnagle said, and I gladly walked into the slightly chilly room with the comfortable bed.
I was just settling in when I heard a voice from upstairs.
“No Alex, I don’t think that’s such a good idea”
I made a bee-line for my closed door and pressed my ear against it.
“Maybe it’s no big deal to us, but it’ll sure get people talking.”
“Professor, sometimes you have to take these risks.”
“Alex, he knows our names, where we live, everything. What if he escaped and told the police? This is too risky. He’ll be gone in a few days and never think to come back.”
Their voices dropped so low I couldn’t understand what else was being said. I really wanted to get out of here fast, though. I decided to sleep it off and wake up acting completely normal and unsuspecting. I’d wake up early in the morning, and then I’d run to the train station and head back to Toone. At least, that was my plan.
When I woke up at four on Friday morning, my door was locked and no matter how hard I tried, it wouldn’t budge. I heard a shriek and pressed my ear to the door as I had done only hours ago. Another shriek rang out and the sound of a gas-powered torch filled my ears. I pulled away from the door as Alex yanked it open.
“Sorry! Our doors stick sometimes; this darn old house. I’m also sorry about the screaming; I couldn’t contain my excitement.”
Pain filled my arm as I was dragged into the kitchen. My eyes darted to a large metal basin sitting on the floor with a burnt-looking hog neatly laid in it.
“We wanted to surprise you with our own barbeque! It’s a hog from the black market butcher’s shop downtown. We like to have a little fun once in a while and have a cookout to celebrate a successful week at our science camps,” Alex said. “It’s pretty risky, though, because if the neighbor’s see smoke, they’ll call the police right away and we’d get busted for roasting a huge hog in our kitchen.”
The three of us chuckled at the thought of being hauled away in a police car for making a delicious roast.
Professor Garsnagle said, “We just wanted to make sure you’d keep our barbeques a secret.”
I smiled at this and agreed never to tell a soul.
Then the Professor said, “This will make a fine lunch. Don’t you think so, Mr. Taters?”
“Best hog I’ve ever seen,” I said, and I meant it, too. It looked scrumptious.
“Then after we celebrate our accomplishments, you can call some family and get yourself home,” Alex said as he smiled at me.
“Yes, here’s to Bobby Bob’s fortunate train trouble that brought us all together to share our love of fine barbeque,” Professor Garsnagle said.
“Here, here!”

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