Escorting the body was a crappy detail. They hadn't even booked him a ticket, so he was forced to sit in an uncomfortable proximity to this box of death. Nobody at home would appreciate the maudlin humor of sitting on a coffin on a train watching the world go by through the window.
Everyone knew what was in this car, so far from the engine that one couldn't hear it from this distance. There were surely no ticket takers or food service this far from the front. It had been a long ride with little to do but watch life pass by on the other side of the window.
Then he saw it. It was a lonely station in a lonely little town. Population was a very spread out nine hundred and change. A number so small that you could believe that people knew everyone else, but the distance and the terrain made neighbors strangers.
A sleepy town set far from the tracks with only a station alerting riders on these tracks that there was any civilization nearby. Not that you'd call the diner and feed store a civilization, but after where he had been this was home and comforting. It should have been anyway, but he couldn't be comfortable near the body.
This wasn't the homecoming he wanted. He didn't expect his family to meet the train, it was a long way and they were undoubtedly preparing for his arrival at home. Likely Uncle Jack would come pick him up in the beat up old ford truck that he'd bought new what seemed like a lifetime ago.
Uncle Jack had been the town hero, starring on the high school football team, earning himself a scholarship and making it all the way to the pros. He'd bought that truck brand new with his signing bonus, right before tearing every ligament in his right knee. Ultimately he'd moved back home to this small town.
It was his Uncle Jack that had suggested getting out and making a name for himself. Lacking the athletic prowess of his uncle, he had decided on the Army. Discipline, hard work, but more importantly an escape to the far-flung regions of the world had its allure.
It would be an interesting reunion. He'd said some things to his disapproving father and worried mother on his way to boot camp that were immature. He had grown up, the Army had made sure of that. His service had been something in which they could take pride. He was proud of himself and his service. He loved his dress uniform with his medals proudly displayed.
Why did they have to be on the body.
This is my entry in Dude Write's December Flash Fiction challenge. The prompt is the picture at the top of the post. If you enjoyed this, click over and read other entries using the same picture prompt. If you're a dude, consider writing an entry of your own and joining us.