“Hello,” my mother said, staring down at Missy. “You probably don’t know me, but I’m Tara’s mother. She seems to hang out here quite a bit, and I’m trying to locate her.”
“Hmmm…” Missy drew it out. “What does she look like?”
My mother gave a military description of me.
“I dunno man, I’ve been pretty stoned. Bad for the memory, yanno?” Missy didn’t even touch cigarettes, much less weed. She just said it to irritate my mom.
“Oh!” my mom remembered something memorable about me. “She always has her dog with her, a German Shepherd.”
“Oh yes,” Missy let just one corner of her mouth turn up, “I know Jeff.”
My mother stared at her, confounded, and left.
Missy told me about it first and I laughed so hard. Then I called my mom and she told me about it and I laughed even harder.
“Mom, what if you were someone who didn’t need to know where I was? Aren’t you glad she’s holding out?”
Missy and her three legged dog, Anna, had train hopped all over the country, and had ridden trains all the way from Texas up to Alaska. Missy lived in constant fear that one day she’d throw Anna up into a train in front of her and then not make it up herself. “I think she’d jump, if I called her…” she’d say.
I was sixteen and I worshipped Missy. She was so mysterious and so free. We would go together on Sundays to volunteer at the soup kitchen and then bring leftovers back to our friends (volunteers get leftovers, “clients” don’t – cause don’cha know them dirty homeless people will save that food till it goes bad and then get sick and sue). I would always watch the way she did the dishes, very gracefully, and talked to people like she was a little suprised but glad that they were sharing her airspace.
There was no train hopping in Alaska in the winter – people would die, so the train people actually checked – so Missy was stuck for the winter. Come spring she hopped a train heading to New York and I never saw her again.