Category Archives: Corona Chronicles

Corona Chronicles: Ghost Train-Part 6

Part Six – “Essential Services

“You will do foolish things, but do them with enthusiasm,” Colette

Heading South on Route 191 in Montana

Malta, Montana got its name from the spin of a globe and a finger that landed on the island of Malta in the Mediterranean, or so they say.  Daphne and Clay swung south out of town on to Route 191.  If they had kept going west on Route 2, they would continue on what is called the Hi-Line.  It pretty much follows the tracks of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Railroad across northern Montana just south of the Canadian border.  Daphne thought it might be nice someday to drive the Hi-Line west of here to Glacier National Park; but not today.  This was not a road trip.  They weren’t sightseeing. This was a hauling-ass-back-to-the-ranch-to-outrun-the-virus kind of trip. 

Clay had filled up at the one gas station open in Malta so they could make it back with ease. But was she at ease? Was Clay? There were still a lot of unknowns.  Could she be carrying the virus and give it to Clay.  Highly unlikely, but she did come in contact with some people along the way.  But they all looked pretty healthy, weren’t old, didn’t cough or sneeze once, and didn’t shout or whisper both of which would have spewed flu. And Clay had been quarantined for three weeks on the ranch; just him and the cows and the cat.  He just went to the grocery store and didn’t see any strangers except for the gas station guy in Malta and the cashier at the Truck Stop where he got the sandwiches and water.  Nobody coughed or sneezed or even spoke a word.  No spew.  No flu.

Early that morning at Devils Lake, Daphne had definitely felt like she was in an episode of “The Twilight Zone”. “Imagine you are on a road somewhere between science and superstition; things and ideas; reality and fantasy. Unlock this door to another dimension with the key of imagination…Nee, nee, nee, nee;  nee, nee, nee, nee…”

But as they had pulled out of the rail station that afternoon, Daphne had thought about the last shot of “The Graduate”.   And now another movie crept into Daphne’s malleable mind.  Was she running away like Hoffman in “Marathon Man”?  “Is it safe?” said the evil Nazi character played by Larry Olivier. “Would it really be safe here in Montana from the virus?” she worried.  Montana, the fourth largest state in the Union with around a million people, had the fewest cases in the country and Phillips County, that they were leaving, had none and Sweet Grass County, where they were headed, had none. (For perspective, Sweet Grass County is about the size of Rhode Island and has about 3700 people and not one stoplight.) Yes, it was as safe a bet as one could make nowadays where every day felt like every other day and every night brought nightmares.  Where a cough filled her with anxiety.  Every sniffle brought fear.  “It’s all in your head,” Clay would say if he knew she was ricocheting between fear and the thrill of freedom.

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Corona Chronicles – Ghost Train Part 5 – Is it Safe?

Sleeper bed on Empire Builder
Night on The Empire Builder

Fro…to and fro…and… Daphne slowly opened her eyes.  She felt for her phone. It was 6:05 AM.  She turned over and opened the curtains.  The train had stopped at a station.  It was still night but she could make out some one story buildings and little houses in a row.  The houses were covered in ice and the ground with snow.  Siberia? No, the sign read “Devils Lake, ND” with no apostrophe.  Cold place for devils, she thought.  Bet they leave for the winter and head south.

She laid back down and decided to wait until sunrise to get up and at ‘em.  She had slept well and felt good.  She took a deep breath and the air smelled… fresh.  She remembered being sick the day before, but feeling better when she went to sleep. She remembered waking up around 10 PM and peering out at a city that must have been Minneapolis.  She had tried to stay awake long enough to say a silent “Hello” to all her relatives both alive and buried there.  Almost all her father’s family had lived, worked, and died in the Twin Cities. All except Aunt Hannah.  And many summers were spent at the lakes north of the city with these aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents.  It’s where she learned to fish and to water ski a bit.  She remembers the leeches that attached to her legs and her uncle burning them off with a cigarette lighter.  That was when everybody carried a cigarette lighter.   They ate a lot of hot dogs and hamburgers and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  They got lots of mosquito bites.

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Posting Ghost Train Chapters

Dear Friends,

I will be posting the final chapter of my/Daphne’s train ride from Albany, NY to Malta, Montana in a few.  I’ve gone back and made some adjustments in the timeline so as to make this diary a bit less confusing.  I’ve never really written this way before; in installments and especially using multiple personalities in installments. Made it much harder to keep track of who was talking or who was in my head from one day to the next.  But I also realized that except for my essays, I have never completed anything in my life.  And discovering that I am an ENTP and that psychological type, indeed, does not complete much, I am relieved that there is some sort of explanation.  But still, a bit unrewarding.  So my goal was to get this thing done and out of the way before I forgot it.  Although the surreal aspect of being alone on a train is not easy to forget.  The details are.  So it isn’t perfect because I hurried.  But it did get done.

Thanks for reading,

The Montana Maven

aka Daphne

aka Grand Dutchess Olya

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aka The Catskill Cassandra

Corona Chronicles: Ghost Train Part 4 – Dinner is Served

Daphne fumbled around in her bag and pulled out her iPhone and IPad and was pleased that this newer car had an electric outlet near the door and across from the sink with it’s own little shelf.

Just then, Marilyn’s head appeared from around the corner and handed her a menu, “You’re getting off in Montana, right?

“Yes, Daphne smiled, “My husband’s picking me up in Havre. He’s got a long drive from the ranch. About 4 hours.”

“I heard from the crew coming from Seattle that the Montana National Guard is checking people’s temperatures at the station when they get off the train,” she said with a shrug.

“Ah, smart of them. The governor seems pretty serious about this flu. But, as I said, I’ve been self quarantined for 3 weeks, so I should be Okay.” Daphne said with as much confidence as she could muster with this bit of news. And then I’m just going to the ranch and self-quarantining again. So should work out just fine.”

Marilyn nodded and smiled and disappeared back around the corner.

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Corona Chronicles – Ghost Train: Part 3 – Purgatory

railroad tracks in city
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Olya awoke as she heard a whistle blow. Ah, yes, as her eyes opened, she was on a train heading north. She furrowed her brow as she looked out the window of the train.  It was not quite night. It was the time of day called “twilight” when the trees starting looking like large beasts with long arms and sharp nails; and cows became bears; and silos became turrets on castles. It was a time of day when things that had been quite real were now looking not so real. She felt quite groggy. Where was she? She suddenly realized that nobody even knew she was on a train except for her sister Irina who was safely ensconced in her home in the far north with the Ice Queen and her loyal dog Fred.

“Fred?” she queried.

“No, Sugar, it’s Marilyn,” said the beautiful dark woman standing in the doorway of the room. “Checking to see if there was anything else you need tonight.”

Daphne shook herself further awake and sighed. That’s right. She must have nodded off. And time to stop daydreaming that she was a Grand Duchess living in reduced circumstances. She was not the Grand Duchess Olya. She was not in Russia. She was not time traveling back to 1917.  She was in the year 2020 and she was on “The Empire Builder” headed to Montana to hunker down on a cattle ranch until this whole thing blew over.

“A cup of hot water would be grand, I’m mean great,” she said with a bit of strained cheeriness.

“I’ll be right back.  The pot is still hot!” said the woman and disappeared. Poof!

When the woman returned with the hot water moments later, Daphne sighed again, “Very kind. Thank you.”

“You have a good sleep,” said the woman and then she also let out a long sigh and was gone.

“I must write down some thoughts before bed,” Daphne said to herself as she dunked the tea bag into the hot water and plumped the pillows on her bed. It had been another strange day. And a bit foggy, but she would try to recall the highlights.

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Corona Chronicles – Ghost Train Pt 2. – “Things that go Bump…”

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Sleeper Car on The Lakeshore Limited

Bump…Bump…Sway and Bump…Rumble…Bump!  That last bump was a doozy, Daphne thought.  It made her open her eyes.  She was in the dark, but she could feel a blanket wrapped around her neck and upper body.  Her stocking feet were sticking out of the sheets.  She was in a box.  No, as she lifted her head.  It’s a small room. Ah, she was starting to remember.  She was pretty sure that she was on a train.   Yes, I’m not dreaming, she said to herself.  I’m on my way home! Home? It always surprised her to say that word. What and where is home really?

Enough of that and she shook her head to clear out the thoughts. She disentangled herself from the blanket and sheets; then yanked open the window curtains only to see nothing but dark shapes.  The day too was pulling back the night’s shades but at a more leisurely pace more like gauze than the thick blue folded train curtains. She had slept okay. She remembers getting up at 12:40 am because the connecting door to the next room was rattling again. Sounded like a crazed woodpecker. Before going to bed, she had folded the Welcome to Amtrak safety brochure and stuck it in the door and the rattling had stopped. She felt very can-do gal at the time. Very proud of herself. But it had fallen to the ground, so she folded it once more and wedged it back in. She had woken up again at 2:40 am. But, by and large, it had been a good sleep albeit a rough one. The only thing that went “bump in the night” were the actual bumps of the rails on the tracks. If there were any ghosts, they must have been the friendly kind.

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Corona Chronicles – Ghost Train – “Nighty Night”

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“We’ve stopped,” she thought to herself.   “And I’m on a train.”  “Yes, I’m sleeping in a sleeper car on a train.  On a train that’s been rushing through the darkness of night.  But now we’ve stopped.  But where are we?”

The Grand Duchess Olya Kampinskaya propped herself up on her elbows then turned around in the narrow bed to pull aside the curtains.  Actually, though her good friend Tim called her Grand Duchess Olya, the family had come to such reduced circumstances that there wasn’t much “grand” left except for a pair of diamond cuff links, a string of pearls and a signed copy of Prince Peter Kropotkin’s “The Conquest of Bread.”  “To my good friend, Olya, Kisses and Hugs, Peter.”

She stared out into the darkness and saw some plain wooden structures covered in ice and snow.  So, was she really on her way to her dacha in Siberia?  She reached for her glasses and put them on.  She read the sign. The sign was in English and it said “Devils Lake, North Dakota” without an apostrophe.  Hmmmm?  So, there was more than one devil at this stop and they had a lake.  And she was not in Siberia but somewhere in North America.

Daphne sighed as the train pulled away from the deserted railway platform.  It had been fun to pretend that she was a Russian aristocrat running away from Moscow that, at the time, was filled with Bolsheviks and a terrible flu.   But she wasn’t Russian or an aristocrat.  It wasn’t 1917, and her friend Peter was in Palm Springs.  No, it was April 6, 2020 and she was running away from  New York and a terrible flu.  That was the truth.  She was fleeing to the safety, she hoped, not of a dacha in Siberia but her ranch in Montana where her husband, Clay, was busy birthing calves.  He was not a Grand Duke nor was he a cattle baron although Daphne often referred to herself, as “The Baroness du Boeuf” or like Barbara Stanwyck, “The Cattle Queen of Montana.”   By now you must have figured out that Daphne had a rather vivid imagination and a tendency to make shit up.  She’d been doing this all her life.

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