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A Train for Marty

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He squirmed a little in his seat, trying to stay quiet as his dad cussed softly under his breath as he drove, one hand on the wheel, the other on the bottle between his legs. Marty eased his hand up and over the edge of the open window, smiling to himself at the feeling of it moving in the wind rushing past. They were going fast and he tried to tamp down the twinge of fear he felt as the car wove through traffic on the way to the rail yards. He'd been surprised when his dad had told him to get in the car this morning, never having gone to work with him before. His mother had wanted him to go back to school, dressing him in a long sleeved hoody to cover the fading bruises on his arms, but his dad had snarled at her and he’d heard them arguing as he waited in the car. He wasn't sure why his dad was taking him to work, but it seemed like an adventure to him, much better than school by a long shot, so he waited excitedly for his dad to win the argument so he could go see the trains. His dad never spoke a word to him on the way, but that wasn't unusual and he was afraid to ask why he was being allowed to come, taking it for the escape that it was, even if he had to be with his dad. "You keep quiet when we get there," his dad muttered as he stashed the bottle of whiskey in the glove box. "Don't go rattling off any of those stupid jokes of yours. You hear me?" Marty nodded, scrambling up on his knees so he could see the trains better as they bumped over the tracks and entered the yards through the chain link gate. The thrill of seeing the big engines made him smile and he looked quickly back at his dad as they drove along the tracks toward a small office and his dad cracked a crooked grin back at him. His dad parked the car and ran his hand roughly through his hair, patting down the wild strands as he checked his face in the rearview mirror, surprising his son and making him aware that today must be special. "Come on, kid. The boss man's waiting," he finally said as he got out of the car. Marty struggled to push open the heavy car door, but his dad had come around and pulled it open for him, taking his hand and leading him toward the cream colored wooden building. He felt the sweat on his dad's hand and looked up at him as he fished a breath mint out of his pocket and slipped it into his mouth, giving his son a familiar warning look before turning the doorknob. Marty's eyes widened at the pictures of train engines that covered the walls, the yellow and red painted engines brightening the otherwise drab little office. A large black man in a grey suit came over to greet them and Marty was surprised when the man knelt down in front of him and put a hand on his shoulder, his face pleasant and welcoming as he smiled at him. "How old are you, boy?" The big man asked. He looked quickly at his dad, wondering if he was supposed to answer. His dad nodded, his eyes suddenly dark. "I'm eight," he said quickly. "You're kinda skinny," the man said. "Your dad not feeding you enough?" The man was laughing as he said it, confusing him and he swallowed hard, unable to decide how to answer, knowing he better not get it wrong. "Doesn't matter how much we feed him, he burns it off," his dad said with a laugh. "Kid's always runnin' all over the place." "My four are the same way," the man said as he stood up. "How about I get Russ here to take you on a little tour while me and your dad talk? Do you like trains?" "Yessir," he answered, smiling for the first time as he stuffed his hands into the front pocket of his jeans, glad the interrogation was over. "Russ? This is Marty and he likes trains," the boss man said as he lightly slapped the back of a burly young man with a buzz cut. "Go ahead and give him the grand tour."


He checked with his dad, unsure if he was allowed, but his dad was already making his way to the boss man’s desk, completely ignoring him.

“Looks like it’s okay, Marty,” Russ said softly as he put his hand gently on the back of his neck and turned him toward the door.

Once they were outside, he released his breath and relaxed his muscles, startled when Russ ruffled his wild hair and laughed.

“I don’t like being in an office either,” Russ said. “Let’s go climb on some trains.”

Russ took him over to a low slung shed and picked up a couple of yellow hard hats, adjusting one of the smallest to fit Marty, as a workman outfitted him with a red neckerchief. He began to enjoy himself as the workmen fussed over him, pointing out different tools and what they were used for and joking around with him, laughing as the oversized hard hat slid down over his eyes. After Russ adjusted it he steered him toward a large maintenance building and once inside he stopped, marveling at the huge engines being worked on. Russ named each kind of engine as they toured the workshop, even helping him climb up on one, showing him the cab and letting him sound the horn. His head swirled with all the information that he tried very hard to commit to memory, wanting to know more and asking all kinds of questions as the tour continued.

“Does my dad work on engines like these?” Marty asked shyly as Russ handed him a Coke from a vending machine.

“Sometimes,” Russ said quietly. “Your dad’s a welder, but I think he’s trying for a promotion. That’s why he’s meeting with Mr. Warren.”

“Oh,” he said.

“Doesn’t your dad ever talk to you about what he does here?” Russ asked curiously.

“Can I climb up on that engine over there?” Marty asked, ignoring the question as he pointed to a massive engine painted bright yellow.

Russ laughed and shook his head and motioned for him to follow as he led him to the big diesel engine, climbing up a couple of rungs on the ladder and reaching down to grasp Marty’s arm to pull him up. He cried out before he could stop himself, the bruises on his arm still tender to the touch. Russ let go and he quickly dropped back down to the ground, taking deep breaths, afraid to look at the man who jumped down beside him, concern etched on his face. Russ took his hand in his and gently pushed his sleeve up, revealing the grey green imprint of a hand that wrapped around his lower arm, the man’s eyes suddenly becoming dark and full of the anger he was so used to.

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” Marty whined as he backed away. “I didn’t mean to make you mad.”

“I’m not mad at you Marty,” he said, kneeling down in front of him.

Marty quickly pulled his sleeve down and stared hard at the floor.

“Your dad do that?” Russ asked quietly.

“I better get back,” he replied stoically, looking nervously around for the exit.

“Okay kid,” Russ said lightly. “But you’re gonna miss the best part.”

Marty looked back to see an easy smile on his face.

“What is it?” He asked, his smile flickering.

“Thought you might like to ride on one of the trains,” Russ stood and crossed his arms in front of him. “But, if you want to skip it and go back to the office, that’s okay by me.”

“Really? A train ride?” Marty had trouble containing himself he was so excited.

“Really,” Russ laughed. “Come on Marty. You can help us uncouple some of the freight cars.”

The next half hour was magical to him, delighted when the engineer let him pull the whistle and laughing as the engine coupled with a string of refrigerated freight cars and moved smoothly down the tracks to drop them off to be loaded. By the time the engine returned to the main yard, his father was waiting for him and he knew his adventure was over. He reluctantly climbed down the ladder and jumped down in the gravel, sadly handing his hard hat to Russ. The boss man squeezed his shoulder before handing him a rolled up poster, telling him it was a picture of the big diesel engine he had climbed on earlier and he couldn’t keep the smile off his face. Russ had gone inside the office and returned with a small model of the engine he had just ridden and he was speechless, which his dad pointed out was rare for him. He took a quick look at his dad, grateful for the small smile he saw as they walked back to the car. On the drive home he rattled on about what he’d done and the names and numbers of the engines he’d seen, causing his dad to tell him a couple of funny stories. They even stopped for burgers and fries and his dad told him he might be getting a promotion. All in all it was one of the best times he could remember having with his dad.

When they got home his mom helped him put up the poster and he placed the model train engine on the tiny desk in his room. He would spend hours running his hands over it that first night, adding model trains to the top of his Christmas list before going to bed. The next day, when he returned from school, he found a Thomas the Tank Engine on the desk in his room. His mom was beaming and he rushed to hug her, thanking her again and again for the rare gift. The two of them ate dinner alone and he could tell she was worried that his dad hadn’t come home, both of them knowing what that meant. He played with the trains until lights out, waking only when the door to his room slammed open and his dad came in, stumbling over to his desk and picking up the Thomas toy. When he sat down heavily on his bed, the telltale smell of whiskey fouled the air around him.

“Trains don’t have faces,” he said roughly, twisting the plastic Thomas engine until it broke apart in his hands.

Marty pulled the covers up tightly to his chest, blinking back sudden tears as his dad stared dully at him. He flinched when his dad reached up and brushed the hair out of his eyes, then was surprised by how gently he patted his cheek.

“I’m glad you like trains, son,” he said softly. “Me too, but it’s hell to get ahead workin’ on ’em.”

Marty kept silent, relaxing slightly as his dad patted his leg and stared solemnly at the broken toy in his hand.

“How ’bout I take you over to the hobby store this weekend and get you a real model train,” he said, a weary smile softening his face.

“I’d like that, Daddy,” he answered quietly. “Can I get a red one?”

“Yeah son, you can get a red one,” he said with a crooked grin.

About Lindy D. (42 Articles)
I write Fan Fiction under the name Sweet Lu. I am a former graphic designer and live in Northern California with my husband and two Cocker Spaniels. I love the character Marty Deeks, love writing about him and love watching ECO bring him to life.

5 Comments on A Train for Marty

  1. My heart hurts whenever there are references to Deeks’s (and Callen’s) tough childhood or any child for that matter. How true…one’s outlook on life doesn’t change as we get older. Even at 8, Marty had the ability to enjoy life despite the pain. The contrasting mix between Deeks’s joy in anything associated with trains vs. the harsh reality of an alcoholic father is well written. Quite amazing.

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  2. Wow, what a powerful piece. Seeing Deeks’ childhood, instead of just hearing his memories of it, is so much more intense. I loved the little details, like the way his dad shared his crooked grin and unruly hair. And the trainyard was vividly described. Just like with Ruthie from your last story, you wrote little Marty’s thoughts and feelings so perfectly, just as an eight-year-old would experience them. Of course he would be thrilled with getting to see the trains, and would savor a rare occasion when his dad seemed to want to actually be a good parent. But always, lurking in the background, was the fear and pain. It just made my heart break for him. Great work.

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  3. I like how you added the touch about Thomas the Tank. Now we know why he doesn’t like faces on trains! Sweet Marty!

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  4. So happy to see that this story resonated with all of you. It is a tough read and was difficult to write, but I thought that Deeks love of trains had to have come from childhood and that love survived in spite of its connection to his dad. Thank you for the kind words you three.

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  5. As always, your Deeks stories are beautifully written. The innocence of young Marty mingled with his fear was well balanced. Thank you for another lovely background story about our hero

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