"Something about a train, I think. Or part of a train. That track is pretty rusty by now, and I'm sure we would have heard a train rolling through!" Athena shook her head in disbelief.
"Unless it came during the storm the other night. There was an awful lot of lightning and thunder. We wouldn't have heard a train go past the front porch!" David was right, of course. But it was a little creepy, that a train could come by, drop off a box car, and then leave again. What was the point, anyway?
Athena looked at David, who didn't seem as practical as he usually did. In fact, he looked a little concerned. "So, did you go check it out?"
"No." He glanced at his mother. "I don't want to borrow trouble. My mother doesn't have anyone else." Normally, Athena would have considered this to be an unduly, well, wimpy response to the situation. But there was just something nagging about it, something that made David's answer seem a whole lot more acceptable than it would normally be.
David looked Athena straight in the eyes, more like himself, as he challenged "You can always go check it out with me if you want, of course!"
"Oh, no, that's OK! Really! I need to check on, um, I'd best be going and leave you and your mother to harvesting the apples. Thanks again for getting a bunch over to Taryn! I'm sure her daughter will appreciate it!"
David gave her a brief smile and then returned to picking apples from the tree and putting them in baskets.
The next morning, Athena was awakened by the smell of smoke. This was soon followed by a bit of shouting outside, which grew louder as it approached and as more voices joined in. She and her mother grabbed their ponchos from the pegs by the door and joined the small crowd.
The group went left around the little arm of the woods that stuck out here. Beyond the woods was an old abandoned railroad track. Sure enough, there was a boxcar sitting on it. The fire was in a metal barrel near the boxcar. There was no one around.
David and his mother approached Athena and hers. "Odd," was his first response. Everyone sort of stopped when they saw the barrel, and that no one was around. Different voices discussed the scene, some with enthusiasm and some more hushed.
"The boxcar looks locked up tight. Surely there's no one inside."
"Well, it'd make no sense for them to be inside. Why start a fire to keep warm, and then leave?"
"Maybe he didn't start it to keep warm. It's not that chilly out here."
"Yeah, but if he spent the night in the train..."
"But how do you know it's a he?"
"Carlo was right, though. There is part of a train out here!"
"Do you think he started the fire?"
"Of course not! He'd never waste fuel so foolishly!"
Then Carlo wondered aloud, somewhere near David and Athena, "Do you suppose someone started the fire just to bring us out here?"