by Jeanne Grieser
"I have some good news. Twenty of you have been chosen to take a ride on a train."
Ten year-old William Dunbar was excited. William hoped his siter Elise and he were picked for the exciting train ride, but only William was chosen.
Maybe Elise could go another time, he figured, but that wasn't meant to be. This wasn't a fun-filled train ride. This trip was a permanent one--out of New York, headed west, and away from any family William had ever known.
ISBN 1-59431-478-0 Young Adult / Fiction based on fact
Also available in RTF and HTML formats.
"I have some good news." Mrs. Green stood at the head of the long wooden table. Forty-two boys and girls leaned forward in anticipation of Mrs. Green's good news, their eyes wide. "Twenty of you have been chosen to take a ride on a train." She smiled at the faces around the table.
The boys and girls began talking at once. Some of them clapped their hands. Excitement filled the cool, dark basement.
Ten-year-old William looked at his younger sister sitting next to him. "Elise, we might get picked to go on a train ride. We've never done such a fun thing in our whole life."
Elise slowly smiled, but didn't say anything. She was still sick with fever.
Frederick poked William in the ribs with his elbow. "William, maybe we can go together. Whoo-whoo!" He pretended to pull on a chain connected to the train's whistle.
Mrs. Green clapped her hands sharply. "Children! Settle down."
The noise in the room gradually subsided. Mrs. Green waited until everyone was quiet and looking at her before she began to speak. "I will read the twenty names and you are to come stand by me at once." She picked up a piece of paper and held it at arm's length to read.
"Frederick Smith, Mary Brown, Herbert Miller, William Dunbar..."
He was picked! William shoved the last of the hard biscuit in his mouth and took his place next to Mrs. Green, as the rest of the twenty were called. His face felt like it would stretch out of shape from smiling so wide. He waited for Elise's name to be called for the fun train ride ... but her name wasn't called. Maybe Mrs. Green forgot. He needed to tell her.
"Mrs. Green," William whispered, tapping her on the hip, "you forgot Elise." He pointed to his sister sitting quietly at the table. Her head was bent down like she was looking at her shoes.
"No, William, I didn't forget Elise. She's not coming with us."
William's eyes filled with tears. "But why can't she come along? She's never ridden on a train. This would be fun for both of us. We haven't had fun in so long, Mrs. Green."
"She's sick, William. Elise has to stay here in New York City with the rest of the children," Mrs. Green explained.
"So she can ride on a train later ... after I do ... when she's well again?"
Mrs. Green nodded. "I will put her on a train as soon as I can."
William felt better. He smiled and waved to Elise to let her know that everything was all right.
Mrs. Green led the selected boys and girls to a small room at the back of the basement. "Now children, you must take a bath. After you are clean, I have new night clothes for you to wear."
Frederick moaned. "I don't like baths."
But William didn't mind. A train ride and new clothes? What a great day this turned out to be. He was very ready to get rid of the tattered, smelly clothes he wore. They were the only clothes he owned and he had worn them for six months--ever since his father had dropped him and Elise off at the Children's Aid Society.