I walked up to the nearest phone booth at the corner of the (now defunct) Go Grocery Outlet to call in a pizza delivery. The snow had fallen earlier, not much, maybe an inch or two. Just enough to dust the rooftops, trees, and grass.
The skeletal remains of the trees were shimmering in the moonlight with a coat of glowing snow crystals. The air was still and bitterly cold. There was no one in sight, even though it was a Friday night. Gaffney is a small town. The denizens go elsewhere for entertainment on the weekend.
I reached the phone and tried both places on my list. It was too late for a delivery. I saw several sparkling lights on the railroad tracks in the distance. Roughly a hundred yards from the phone across the parking lot. I lit my cigar and walked across the lot to the tracks to investigate the lights.
Five or six of the crossties were burning. I heard an odd sound, a sort of a buzzing. A flaming gas pipe was igniting the tracks. I was fascinated by the sight of the bluish flames dancing on the dirty rails. I was tempted to sit and smoke and warm myself by the hypnotic fire all night. The notion that I might be blamed for the fire overtook me. I quickly departed so that the swarms of police that would eventually arrive would not cast me into the local jail.
I made tracks back to the phone. I called 911 to alert the authorities that the tracks were burning. I felt it was imperative that the fire department come and extinguish the flame, lest a train roll over the flames and explode. The operator told me the fire was intentionally set by the railroad people on purpose, to keep the tracks warm for whatever reason.
About that time, I heard a train coming in the distance. A shrieking horn blowing a warning to any foolish vehicles that might be on it's tracks. I stayed where I was smoking and waiting to see the awesome light show that I was sure was going to erupt under the train when it rolled over the burning section of tracks.
The train, an Amtrack, did indeed rush over the fire. It blew the flames out instantly to my great disappointment. No light show whatsoever.
I could see the passengers in the lighted windows. A hundred people flying by at fifty five miles per hour, oblivious to what just happened beneath their feet. Oblivious to the cold, smoking stranger in an army duster watching them with the jealousy that any stationary person watches a content traveler with. A hundred souls flying forward in to unknown futures, unknown places, karmic rewards and punishments. Never to know me or my circumstances. Then they were gone. Lost to me forever. I watched as the rear lights disappeared around a bend. I turned and walked home in silence.