The Dead Tracks
Most of life is pure happenstance,
but somethings are fated to happen
as if magnetically drawn
It was a cool and rainy late spring day. Sean Oddo sat in a chair on the front porch, smoking a cigarette and drinking a beer. He had a far off look, eyes staring blankly across the street. Life had been going from bad to worse for Sean. He got fired from his job for failing to report and his girlfriend had broken up with him the day before. Despite the hundred or so text messages he sent, she had not responded to one of them. When she ended the relationship, he felt like it was more than he could take. Sean slipped back into the habit of taking oxy’s, he was no longer smoking them, not yet anyway, but was taking them to dull the pain.
Sean finishes his beer and stands up, slow, steadying himself on the side of the porch. The combination of three beers and half an oxy he had taken was slowing him down considerably. Despite his state of inebriation, he could still feel. The sting of rejection was starting to weight on him, dragging his soul deeper into the hells of depression. He wishes to be away from all this, to forget about everything, for awhile or forever, he thinks. Sean goes into the house and opens the door to the room he shares with his brother. His brother is lying on the bed, not sleeping just listening to the radio… Unknown Soldier, by The Door softly plays in the background.
His brother, Steven, is eighteen, three years younger than Sean. He is lying on the bed, half asleep, half awake, zoning out to the music. Sean grabs a hoodie and his oversized, consignment shop army jacket. He puts the jacket on over the hoodie and stands in front of the mirror. In the reflection he sees, thin, red, straw-like hair, alabaster skin, freckles and joyless, almost dead eyes. He frowns at his image, it frowns back at him. The song quiets in the background; and then there is a sudden slamming sound, followed again, by silence. Then spoken words from Jim Morrison, “Make a grave for the Unknown Soldier…” Sean glances at the mirror again and mumbles, “I might as well be in the grave…”
Steven jerks up from a semiconscious state and asks, “Did you say something, dude?”
“Ya man, I’m going for a walk, if mom gets up before I get home, tell her I’ll be back later, ok?” Sean answers.
Steven looks up at his brother, not answering right away, just staring at him for moment. He senses a darkness surrounding his brother, but attributes it to having smoked some really good pot. “Dude, are you alright? You look a little out of it. When was the last time you slept?”
Sean smiles, sad and distance, looks past his brother and says, “Naw man, I’m fine, just need to stretch my legs. Hey man, you mind if I take a bud with me?”
Steven, falling back into a stupor says, “Go ahead, help yourself,” as he lays his back on the pillow and zones out, suddenly sits up and says, “Yo man, what time is it anyway?”
Sean flips open his cell phone, and replies, “Its five-thirty,” as he takes a bud and stuffs it and a pipe into one of the upper army jacket pockets.
“You’ll be home before mom gets up, won’t you?” Steven says. Their mother is an overnight waitress and sleeps from the afternoon until early evening, usually getting up around eight-thirty.
“I don’t know when I’ll be back,” Sean answers, thinking or if. Without a girlfriend or job, and fueled by alcohol and pills, Sean is having intense morbid thoughts. He continues, “Just if she wakes up, tell her I’ll be home later, okay?”
Steven looks his bother up down and says, “Sure, I’ll tell…” his voice trailing off as he lays back down. He knows Sean is hurting, but does not want to be a pain in his ass, so he lets him go, not bothering to question him.
“See ya,” Sean says as he closes the door behind him. On his way out of the house, he stops at the refrigerator and grabs a couple of beers. His army coat easily conceals them within its pockets. Stepping off the porch, Sean already has a destination in mind. A place he and his friends have been going since their early teens; where you can smoke a joint, drink a beer and not be bothered by the police or anyone else; the dead tracks….
Sean crosses the street, gets to the corner and crosses Olds Street. From there it’s over the Express Street Bridge that crosses the creek. Then a quick jaunt down Clinton Street and two minutes after leaving his house he is on the path that runs alongside the dead track. The dead tracks were called so because they were abandoned, no longer in use railroad tracks. These tracks have been out of service for a long time and Sean has always known them as the dead tracks.
About a hundred yards down the path, off Clinton Street, the way is obscured from traffic. The path runs parallel to the dead tracks, on Sean’s left is a heavily wooded field and on his right, up about twenty-five feet are the working tracks, which trains use on a regular basis. Once out of view, Sean cracks open a beer and he takes a long, slow swig, savoring its effects on his tormented mind. Continues walking, slow and steady forward, stopping as he comes up to the train bridge that crosses over the creek. Sean sits down on the cement embankment and lights a cigarette. He recalls all the good times he and his friends had had partying here. Digging through his pocket he finds the pipe and bud, and fills one with the other. Snaps the lighter and a flame leaps forth, taking a big toke, he inhales slow, holding it in. In the distance Sean hears the voices of younger kids. Probably just fishing in the creek, he thinks.
Sean exhales. He takes a deep drink of his beer and finishing it, tosses the can; it lands on the bottom of the embankment, echoing into the emptiness. He takes out his cell phone, pauses, hesitantly he texts his girlfriend, “i m srry 4 evrythng plz 4giv me, i cant live w/out u!!!” one last text, he thinks and presses send. Sean waits, not really expecting a response. He takes another hit and opens the second beer, exhaling so the smoke billows around his head. He chugs the beer in ten seconds flat, crushing the can and tossing it over the edge, it lands awkwardly and rolls to a stop twelve feet from the water.
Sean stands and paces. The anger and frustration building up within him; he holds the cell phone in his hand, like a ball, cocking his arm, readying to throw it into the creek. As Sean is about to let it rip, the phone chirps and he short arms his throw and the phone merely bounces off the ground in front of him. Panicked that the phone might be broken, he falls to his knees, picking it up. It is fine, unbroken and there is a text from his girlfriend, “Srry cnt tlk now, call u soon.” To Sean it feels like his heart has beaten for the first time all day. He smiles; he has hope, taking a hit he lies down on the side of the bridge, feeling good.
Rillie Salker is a thirteen year old seventh grader. He has a slim build and is short, with icy blue eyes and a look of distrust. He was always wearing a baseball cap, which covered his short blonde hair. Despite his slim physique, barely tipping the scale at eighty pounds, Rillie was not a kid to be trifled with. His drunk of a father had been sentenced to five years in jail after he had nearly beaten Rillie to death. His father had broken five of Rillies ribs and three bones in his face. Each time Rillie was hit he pulled himself off the ground and stood facing his father. Rillie took round after round of the severe beating, feeling less and less, both physically and emotionally. The entire episode felt like an endless moment in hell. The police finally showed up. With three officers pinning his father to the ground, Rillie stumbles over, looks him in the eyes one last time and spits in his face.
The experience had hardened Rillie, he turned to drugs and alcohol; pot, pills (anything to numb the emotional pain.) When he did go to school he was more likely to be in the principal’s office than he was to be learning something in a classroom. He mostly got in trouble for talking back to teachers, but also was kicked out for smoking in school and fighting. When Rillie got into a fight, he would get the thousand mile stare, as if looking right through his opponent. He had no capacity for empathy, fighting with the intention of inflicting as much pain on his adversary as possible. Two boys he had fought had ended up in the hospital with broken bones. They were too afraid of further retribution from Rillie, so they just claimed to have been jumped, saying they had no idea who beat them up.
Right now, Rillie was on the way to see his friend, Tim Johnson. It had been a cool, rainy late spring day, as he walks up Tim’s driveway, the sun breaks through the clouds for the first time all day. From the kitchen, Tim’s mother yells out the door, “He’s not here, I think he’s fishing. He has his phone, text him,” and she returns to talking on the phone.
As the sun brightens and warms the day, the moisture laden air forms a thick fog. Rillie texts Tim, “Where u at?” waits about a minute and his phone vibrates. Tim’s reply text says, “fishing in the creek, u no where.” Rillie texts back, “B rght there,” and he starts walking. Rillie is wearing a black hoodie over a dark red T-shirt, bright red shorts and black high top sneakers with blood red laces. As usual, he has a menacing look on his face and walks with eager, predator like steps. He crosses Olds Street, over the Express Street Bridge and walks down Clinton Street. He can get to the creek by either going through the playground or by taking the path beside the dead tracks. Preferring the solitude, he cuts down the dead tracks path, heading toward his friends.
Sean Oddo has been lying on his back for about five minutes, abruptly sits up, he had nearly fallen asleep. He was having happy thoughts of getting back together with his girlfriend. He fishes out a cigarette, looks around and lights up the smoke. Whoa, this fog is really thick, like being in a cloud, he thinks. Just then his phone starts ringing, it is his girlfriend, and his heart skips a beat. “Hello,” he answers, almost sounding cheerful.
“Hey Sean, I am sorry I hurt you, but we just cannot be together, now or ever. I am sorry, take care,” and as quick as the call had come, silence, she had hung up.
The fog swirls around him, phone still at ear, blank, confused look on his face, staring far far off at nothing… emptiness. A full thirty seconds Sean stays in that position, the look on his face changes from bewilderment to rage. Without thinking he stands and whips his phone into the creek, collapses to the ground, wanting to cry but unable to. He pulls himself up and sits on the bridge embankment, taking a drag off his cigarette and looking for the pipe. He takes a big hit and as he exhales sees something. Through the thick fog, thirty feet in front of him, he makes out the outline of person walking his way. As the person gets closer Sean glimpses red and black, walking in a quick, deliberate way. As the person approaches, Sean can tell it is just some young teenager and he ignores him and takes another toke off the pipe.
Rillie Salker stops five feet in front of Sean Oddo and says, “Hey man, give me a hit off that,” and he points to the pipe.
Sean has no idea who Rillie is and is not in the mood to deal with some punk ass teenager’s bullshit and replies, “Fuck off, pipsqueak,” and takes another hit, looking at Rillie with a you wish look. Sean exhales and stands, drops his lighter and bends down to pick it up.
Rillie, turns a shade more red than his outfit and says, “Did you say ‘pipsqueak’? Well, fuck you,” and while Sean is still bent over he rushes him. Rillie pushes him with all the strength he can muster.
Sean stumbles backwards, trips on the bridge embankment and tries to catch himself, arms swinging in wild circles. In a long, slow motion moment, his lighter goes flying off in one direction and the pipe in another direction, Sean goes over the edge. It is about twelve feet from the ground, at six feet his head smashes against a part of the embankment that juts out, causing his body to somersault awkwardly the other way. He hits the ground head first; feet straight in the air… SNAP… his body at last comes to rest.
In that moment, Rillie had paid no attention to Sean going over the edge; Rillie was focused on the pipe. It had flipped up in the air and as it came down, he took three steps to his right and caught it. Rillie gets a lighter from his pocket and takes a hit as he walks over to the edge. He looks down just as Sean’s body has a terrible spasm, a large gasp of air releases and his body goes still. Rillie walks down the side of the bridge and stands before Sean’s lifeless body, and says to himself, “Holy fuck, this dumb motherfucker is dead and I fucking killed him, whoa that’s fucked up,” a sinister smile creeps across his face as he bends down and whispers in Sean’s ear, ”Won’t be calling me ‘Pipsqueak’ anymore will ya, fucker?”
Sean hears a train whistle blow, not near yet, but closing on his location. The fog was burning off, but is still present. Rillie cannot see the train, but he knows that it is close by. He runs to the other side of the bridge. As the train’s horn bellows before the crossing the bridge on the working tracks, Rillie makes it to the other side. As the train is crossing, there is a sudden high pitched metal on metal scream as the train conductor saw Sean’s body and slammed on the train’s breaks. The sound sends Rillie running toward his friend Tim. When he finds Tim he is ghost white and struggling to catch his breath. Rillie tells Tim and their other friends that he thinks he saw Tim’s neighbor, Sean Oddo laying on the ground by the bridge and that he looked dead. “When the train put on those breaks and it was loud I got scared and thought someone should call the cops or something. I mean I really think that dude is dead,” he looks away from his friends and smiles.
The police were called and there was an investigation. Based on the amount of drugs and alcohol in Sean’s system it was ruled an accidental death. It was surmised that Sean had passed out, rolled off the bridge and broke his neck. It seemed a very open and shut case; Sean had been living a life that seemed certain to end early. The family mourned but the small town quickly forgets about Sean. Though, the day he died was remembered by one individual on an annual basis.
He would visit the site on the anniversary of Sean’s death and stand on the bridge while taking a hit from Sean’s pipe and remember the last time anyone ever called him “pipsqueak.” Thinking to himself, the first one may have been accidental, but not the rest. Sean Oddo had been the first of many victims for one Rillie Salker.