Ride the El to Doom
By ALICE B. HARCRAFT
They said the iron horse on stilts had to come down—but there are singular forces beyond our ken that must be reckoned with first!
Jack Larue sat In the first half-empty coach of the elevated. His left hand was hooked over an old black lunchbox, his right elbow leaned on the rust-streaked window sill. The el clattered and vibrated along and Larue peered out at the dingy squalor that passed the window in three and four-story uniformity. The slanting rays of afternoon sun caught the train in brilliance, but there was nothing left to sparkle or shine and the brightness only served to show up the worn seats and the lustreless metal and iron.
The train bent its stiff-jointed rigidity around a curve. The wheels groaned and squealed, and the clattering became a wooden-like rumbling as the cars headed up an incline onto the West River Bridge. Larue lifted his eyes from the swirling muddy water that ran beneath to the city beyond. He never failed to get a kick out of coming home from the foundry in the evening and seeing the city before him. His part in construction was small and humble, yet he never failed to marvel at the shining powers and edifices, evidence of the deeper purpose and achievement of a trade he felt a small part of.
Larue got to his feet and started heavily up the aisle toward the front. To the right of the aisle in his little compartment was the motorman. From long familiarity. Jack jerked the door open.
"C'mon, Pete," be yelled above the clatter of the train, "you're gonna be late pulling into 109th Street!"
The aged man hunched over the controls as though a part of them, made a noise that fell unrecognized over the growl and rumble of the train.
"You got the grumps, eh?" said I making as it to playfully push the motorman.
"Don't do that, Jack," said the engineer, "I tol' you when I'm running this here train..."
"Aw, you're as old and grouchy as the el." said Jack. "Soon they'll come along and pull you down." The old man stiffened at that. The two said no more for a while.
"What would I do?" said Larue half to himself, peering out over the tracks as they ran up to the train in widening twin lines, only to fall away under the floor of the coach.
"What would I do?" Larue repeated. "Me, I'd have to find a new way to get over to the foundry and back. This has been good enough for me for ten years. And what about you?" He turned his head and laughed at the old man. "You were here when I started on the run. Guess you've been here since the el. Take her down and they'd take old Pete Nevers down, too, eh?"
Nevers was sitting like a ramrod. The train coasted off the bridge and flashed itself ungracefully around another curve.
"Never mind, Pete," said the laborer. "Can't do without the el can we," and he laughed off down the aisle as the cars slowed down for the 109th Street station.
His words were little less than prophetic; a forewarning in these days when cities everywhere were doing without els. For it was at lunch time several