Albert Sgambati
Riding The Rails

When Sam slapped his wife Nancy across the face she didn't flinch. That's how scared she was. Sal, Sam's brother, was even more afraid on account of the gun. Sam wasn't himself and both Sal and Nancy knew it.

The truth was that Sam was acting on the advice of Howard, a man he didn't know who at that moment was traveling on a train across the country with Sam's best friend Jake.

Sam couldn't think what to do next. Nancy bit her lip and tears welled up in her eyes. Sal wanted to tell Sam to put down the gun but feared any sound would set him off so said nothing. This was all on account of Jake who pretended to be Sam on his trip.

"I don't care," Sam said when Jake told him his idea the night before he left. "I'm sure as hell sick of being me," Sam said, "so if you want to give it a try, be my guest."

"Your brother and your wife!" Howard threw up his arms and yelled across the table two days later in a crowded dining car moving through Utah—and that's why Sam stood there with a gun pointed at Sal and Nancy under the patchwork quilt.

Frightened and unable to decide what to do next, Sam picked up their clothes from the floor and threw them out the window. Eight stories. Without knowing why.

After that he walked out.

A minister who got on in Lincoln and sipped whiskey with his breakfast advised Jake (playing Sam) and his wife to go for counseling. Then the next day a young blade boarding in Cleveland suggested a threesome. Jake called Sam and told him everything.

It all came too fast for Sam. He was beginning to suspect that Jake was not really who he was. And that's when the line went dead. Jake stopped calling and it was like Sam had lost a piece of himself. Nancy moved in with Sal.

Three months later when the phone finally did ring Jake told him, "You were great. The woman of my dreams felt sorry for you somewhere between Hershey and Harrisburg and fell in love."

And that's what made Sam decide. No one heard from him again. Sal and Nancy were relieved, and when Jake's girl left unexpectedly Sam didn't even cross his mind.