by Judith Arianne
I knew when the train pulled into the station that no one would hear me out. No one would even flinch as I told the bazaar story that had just happen. Really, I knew I could tell no one, not even the in-laws, because they were in a world of their own, farmers; only knowing they had to farm and cut outside ties, including me from what they knew to be true for them. The best thing to do was NOT to say anything to anyone at all. It would be hard to keep this kind of information silent. I could be the next one to go. I would say it was a dream, and even that would not work.
I was on a train coming back to California, the year 1964. I had been married in 1963 a month after the Kennedy assassination. It was not the best time to get married with the entire world in sadness over his death. My husband was stationed in the great lakes, and I had gone to visit him for a month. Just a simple train ride home would turn into a nightmare, that to this day I sometimes feel that just around the corner...well, the names are changed, not that it would help, anyone can find anyone these days. A wonderful three-day trip back home was a chance to enjoy the ride and meet new people. I was lucky to have a nice compartment, a bed, sink, and the toilet under the bed, so if one had to go at night, we had to call the porter to put the bed up. The first day was great, good food, great scenery and later that day a few hours before dinner I met a friend. Her name was Virginia, and she sat right across from me, and we began to chat. She was about my age, in her twenties, blonde, and sweet.
We got to talking about the Kennedy thing, and decided to have dinner together. She was going to college, and she had a boyfriend in college to. We went to the dining car together and got a table. We ordered, and the waiter was fun and talked to us a lot. The dinner was great and we found we had much in common. Then she said, “listen, I have a lot more to tell you, why not meet in your car or mine for a time and we can talk in private.” I thought that would be an interesting evening, and I told the waiter we would probably see him at breakfast. He smiled and gave a little wave good-by to us. We decided to meet in my car and I could hardly wait, because I felt we were in for some real girl talk. Little did I know...
A knock on my door, and there was Virginia, a strong, know what I want kind of girl. I looked at her and there was something in her eyes, but before I could digest what I felt I was seeing she sat down and drew a long breath. I wondered what I had gotten myself into. I was just a bride going home on a train, a phantom train, and a phantom experience. “So Virginia, what have you got there?” I sat down beside her and her hands were trembling, what could have happen between the time we left the dining room and now? She had a large brown envelope on her lap and began to open it. “Since you are so interested in the Kennedy Assassination there is something I just have to share with you.” She opened the envelope and out spilled pictures, up close and personal pictures, images I had not seen before and now, here in this moment of time standing still, I asked the questions I should not have asked. “Where in God’s name did you get pictures like this?”
There was Kennedy up close, and there was someone on a hill with a rifle aimed at him. “This looks like someone was standing behind a shooter, but weren’t there secret service men everywhere?” “This was a secret service person, and he...” “Wait, here just a minute, I may not believe that Lee Harvey was the only one, but the secret service?” “My boyfriend and I were there that day; he is a journalism major and had his camera to get footage of the parade. I was with him, and we were both in shock, screaming and cops everywhere, people running. We were on a grassy hill watching and Steve was taking pictures fast and furious, and then when the shots rang out, he has just snapped what he thought was a secret service man protecting the president. He wanted to get photos that were candid and showed the behind the scene’s action. After he took those, he raced up as close as he could to the car without being knocked down.” I looked at the photos carefully. This could all be make-believe I thought. No one could get that close with all the people around the Kennedy clan. And yet, there they were, close up shots of Kennedy and Jackie, his head looking like a china dolls that had just been tweaked by a careless child. It couldn’t be real. Why didn’t they take the photos to the press? Oh, I had a lot of whys.
“We are both traveling right now, he going one way, and me another, to get these photos in the right hands” She spoke softly now, as if all ears were at our door. “Well, I sure wouldn’t give them to any secret service guys right now, or even FBI, or anyone, I think I would just hide them somewhere, too dangerous. You no doubt know of all the people killed that had anything to do with the assassination, almost everyone! “ We do have the negatives put away Karen in case something happens to us.” “But why get into this, it is just too dang...”Somebody has to get the truth out there, and after we do this, we are going to meet and go off somewhere for a few months, and then get back to school.” We talked into the early morning, and then agreed to meet for breakfast. We were both so bolted and alive; we were wide-awake, hard to go to bed now!
Virginia said she would meet about 8:30 or 9, and if she did not show, come and get her as she may sleep right through the alarm. She gave me her car number and birth and we said our good-bys. I could not sleep, and the poor porter finally after two rounds of putting the bed up, I told him I would sleep on the bench seat. A lot to think about, and I had really liked the Kennedy family, and of course it was the first time I had been able to vote for a president, and felt close to this family in the White House. I listened to the wheels on the tracks; I dozed off and woke up at 7:30. I got cleaned up, dressed and almost ran to the dining car. It was 8:45 and there was the waiter from last night. He bid me good morning and I told him I was waiting for a friend before I ordered. I wondered if it was all real and if I was really a part of it.
It was soon 9:15 and I left the table telling the waiter I would be right back. I walked back through the cars looking for car 19, birth 56. I then walked the other way trying to find the car, and then I just got lost, and asked a porter for directions, knowing that Virginia would want me to get her up at this late date now. The small, elderly man, a white mustache half gray, half white, one eye at a squint looked at me like I was crazy. He took off his porter hat, held it in front of him like a shield and told me there was no car 19 on the train. Suddenly I felt ill, like I was in a nightmare, but awake. “What, what, well, that cannot be true, I was meeting a friend from that car for breakfast.” I tried to stay calm, but this was getting to me, my stomach in knots. “Well, I will just try again down this way.” The porter looked at me wide eyed. “I think I’ve been on this here train long enough to know how many cars we have miss.” I ran towards the dining room. I sat down at my table and the waiter came over. I was shaking. “You want some breakfast now miss?” “Do you remember that girl I had dinner with last night, well, I can’t find her now.” He looked me up and down, and then he said it. “I didn’t see no girl with you miss, you just had dinner alone and then...” “Stop,” I cried, something has happen here, and no body wants to admit it. You remember her; you waited on both of us, and even talked and laughed and...”Can’t say that happen miss, maybe you dreamed it.” He was lying, but why? How could I prove Virginia even existed with no evidence she and I ever met? The waiter watched me run from the table with a look of “what’s wrong with her” and not attempting to smooth anything out for me. I was on my own. Was I next? She was gone, vanished, car and all.
I went back through the cars, hoping, wishing that someone was wrong and I would find her. I asked my porter if there had been any stops during the night, and the answer was no. I did not sleep much and am a light sleeper, I would have known if we stopped. So, what happen? We pulled into California the next evening and it was if I had been in another world, and now here I was grounded, getting into the in-laws car, and they asking how my trip was. As we drove towards home, my mind was fuzzy. The in-laws were talking, but I didn’t hear them. I tried to make myself believe this never happen, but there it was, and I was still reeling from it. Who would ever believe a story like this? And if I ever told anyone, would they come looking for me, for what I knew, and did they even know I existed? How could the staff on the train lie? Were they all a part of it? There have been so many movies and stories about what some people believe really happened. I don’t think I will be giving out any opinions on that, and will just keep it to myself. Every time I see someone that looks like a secret service man, I look the other way, walk a little faster, and write books of fiction that seem to settle the queasiness I get in my stomach every time I thing of that event. Of course we all know it never happen, just a story of a bored young woman who had nothing better to do while riding the train into a real twilight zone.
I know how it feels when someone wants everyone to believe some strange and scary event that happen to them, and everyone just laughs and knows it never really happen...until it happens to them. It’s kind of like Ripley’s Believe it or Not, you know you saw it, but it really wasn’t there at all. Life is a magic trick, one that leaves your tongue dry, your mind in wonder, and your sanity up for grabs. Oh, and that waiter, I saw him on another train a few years later, and he said the strangest thing to me. “Miss, you probably don’t remember me, but I was your waiter a few years back, you know, when you misplaced your friend...?”
Judith Arianne a/k/a Judith Morton (email@example.com) is an experienced and talented artist from the forests of California. She has spent the majority of her life discovering its beauty and walking many paths. Writing has always been her one true love. Her extensive catalog of written works cover a wide variety of topics but typically always come back to hope for the human spirit. She spends a lot of time these days writing or painting watercolors of beautiful sunsets that never were or that might someday be. At the moment she has not published any work, but once wrote for an online spiritual magazine and had many readers interested in her work.
Judith did some writing for children and was approached by a few publishers, but had just lost her husband and gave up writing until she got back in the groove of life. Now days it is her art and writing that keep her busy. In her spare time she works for human resources and that gives her many ideas for material.