Dead Mans Switch

“They shouldn’t force me to retire.”

“C’mon, Jake, you’re the oldest guy in the Carmens Union. You’re a public employee; you got no choice. Cripes, you coulda punched out twenty years ago at full pension.”

“What the hell else am I good for, Pete, except driving these steel snakes?”

Pete laughed and gestured toward the platform.

Jake came to an abrupt halt. “Holy … where’d this old rattler come from?”

Jake surveyed the old subway train, with its open windows, concrete floor and wooden bench seats. He ran his hands along its boxy lines.

“Check the motorman’s cabin,” Pete insisted. “It’s got the old style dead man’s switch that you gotta hang on to. No computers are gonna slow this baby down. And you’re the only guy left who still remembers how to run one.”

“But …”

“The transit system sold it to a railway museum up in Maine. You’re taking her to the yard in Ashmont. One last trip to the end of the line before they ship her off. It’s one of the Halloween trains.”

Jake held back his tears, stepped inside the carman’s cabin and took hold of the accelerator wheel. “Okay, baby, one last run … for both of us.”

Gently, Jake eased the old train into motion as Pete waved and a group of his fellow motormen applauded from the platform.

With windows wide open, the air rushed in and the noise resounded off the tunnel walls as it accelerated, making it seem as if the train were moving at impossible speeds.

First stop and a jazz band boarded. The second stop a bevy of young ladies in flapper outfits. A party broke out in the cars. It was all part of the transit system’s nod to Halloween.

Jake, at the helm of the vintage beast, smiled and accelerated into the eldritch tunnel. As he travelled the corridor of lights he began to think back to the sights he’d seen, the people he’d worked with and met. Memories of the girls who used to get on at Park Street after working the burlesques in Scollay Square, and one in particular, the curvy, bobbed brunette with the pink cheeks and dimples.

He entered Harvard station where the train was met with cheers from a platform full of college kids in costume. He worried they might exceed capacity but the party outside the cabin just got louder. He pushed on into the black tube.

He thought again of the girl. She flashed her breasts at him a few times as he pulled into the station, but her smile … so innocent. Her boobs were pretty, pale vanilla topped with cherry nipples. After a few times he ran out onto the platform and intercepted her.

“Young lady, are you trying to get yourself arrested?”

“You wanna take me into custody? How about a ride up front?”

“What? I’d lose my job.”

“Didn’t ya ever wanna do something that might lose you your job?” Her coy smile and dimpled cheeks disarmed him. She took his arm and he let her ride in the cabin.

Throughout the ride she pressed her plump behind against him, nestling the bulge in his crotch in the crease of her ass through her flimsy dress. She was the kind of girl his mother warned him about, but she was so darned cute.

Her stage name was Yvette, but she told him to call her Sally. They had some innocent dates, movies and a shared sundae at Bailey’s, the old ice cream parlor. It was hard for them to be more intimate; he took care of his elderly parents at home, and she had too many roommates. Still he managed to make love to her bosom on a bench on the Common and she brought him to ecstasy with her hand. He brought her home, told the folks she was a music teacher. His mother fell in love with her.

He wanted her forever, or at least until the end of the line. When he asked her, she had him sneak her into his room where she finally revealed her delicious undraped curves, and didn’t answer “yes” until he had taken her over the edge of rapture.

“No wonder they call you a motorman,” she giggled as she lay naked beside him.

A week later her friends went celebrating at a nightclub – the famous one, famous for the lives that were lost there in the fire.

The old rattler emerged from the tunnel on the Cambridge side and crossed the river over the old Salt and Pepper bridge. Revelers poured out onto the platform at Charles only to be replaced by others. An entire group got on sporting vintage clothing.

Jake peered at one man who waved and winked before boarding.

Damn, it looked just like Tony Moran, the singer. He winked again at Jake and slid his finger tips in a rakish gesture around the brim of his hat.

“Tony?” Jake mouthed. Couldn’t be, but the guy sure could have passed for him.

Jake accelerated into the tunnel, next stop: Park Street.

He couldn’t get Tony out of his mind. He’d been a popular crooner locally. When they hauled his body out of the Coconut Grove the only way they could tell it was him was the metal plate in his thigh from an old war wound.

Outside his cabin the music had changed to a mellow, vintage melody as the train entered Park Street.

Jake’s heart nearly stopped; he nearly let go of the dead man’s switch.

“Oh, God, don’t be playing tricks with my eyes,” he pleaded in a whispered prayer as he brought the train to a halt.

It was another girl. Of course it was, some pretty little thing tipsy as hell thinking it would be fun to flash the train man.

There was a commotion on the platform. Jake peered out his cabin window. A pair of strapping young guys had lifted her onto their shoulders and they were carrying her along the platform as the throngs cheered.

They let her down outside his window.

“How about a ride up front?” she said, in her best good-little-bad-girl voice.


“Been waiting for you to pull in.”

A thunderous voice reverberated along the platform echoing off the station walls: “All aboard the party train.”

Cheers, music and the tapping and stamping of dancing feet filled Jake’s ears, but all he could see and hear was Sally. He held her in the cabin, closed the door and moved the train on into the tunnel.

The lights upon the walls blurred by like shooting stars.

“Until the end of the line,” he said.

“Sweetheart,” she said, and held him close,” this ride won’t ever end.”

* * * * *

At the Ashmont yard, Pete watched as the EMTs removed his buddy from the motorman’s cabin.

Henry, the yardmaster, patted his shoulder. “Poor Jake. It really was his last ride. It’s a wonder he didn’t come crashing through the yard.”

“Never happen,” Pete said. “See … he let go of the dead man’s switch.”

© 2013 Robert Buckley. All rights reserved. Content may not be copied or used in whole or part without written permission from the author.

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