Ajax followed Lucrecio everywhere, even to the new school, but the kids there didn’t like the two of them very much. It was hard enough to make friends as the new kid in town, but even worse when your parents have mysteriously died, your Uncle is the town weirdo and your only friend is a crow.
Lucrecio knew he was different. He knew it every time he took out the Gold Pocket Watch and tapped on the cracked glass, trying to get the hands to move again. Each tap sent a tickling shock through his little bones. But as the other boys and girls at school kept growing taller and taller, Lucrecio didn’t grow an inch. It was like time had stopped for him at the fire, just like it had for the Gold Pocket Watch.
Now his parents´ old house in the forest was paved over with a four-lane highway.
After a few years Lucrecio got used to the trains rolling by and shaking the little shack. No matter what he and Ajax were doing, when they heard the whistle blow in the distance, they would run to the tracks and wave at the engineer as he went by and run after the caboose as it winded off into the distance. Sometimes a passenger train like the Zephyr went by, and Lucrecio would stand with Ajax perched on his shoulder, waving at the people, wondering where they were going. He loved the looks on the people´s faces as they headed off to their comfortable homes on the other side of the Silver River , wondering what strange people lived next to the railroad tracks.
Sometimes a train screeched and grinded as it slowed down and stopped in front of the shack. Lucrecio, Uncle Milton and Ajax watched as railroad men got out to inspect the train.
One sunny afternoon Lucrecio was alone on the porch when he heard the whistle in the distance. He ran out to the tracks to wave at the engineer, who passed by slower than usual, greeting Lucrecio with a blow on the whistle as he slowed down the train for inspection.
The train stopped and a few men walked up and down the tracks, looking inside and under the boxcars.
´Hey whatcha lookin for?´ Asked Lucrecio.
´Hobos. They are trying to get a free ride across the Silver River to break their leader out of jail.´
Lucrecio had never heard of Hobos before, but he knew some people were not allowed into Gold County after the Diamond Highway was finished and they built more towns. A lot of people moved east over The Silver River in the Great Migration. Almost everybody except Uncle Milton and a bunch of hobos.
´Well kid, keep an eye out for the hobos, they kidnap and make slaves of little kids like you!!´ he laughed loudly and headed back toward the front of the train, which slowly rolled down the tracks, whistle blowing, as the men in the caboose waved goodbye.
Lucrecio walked to and from school everyday with Ajax , following the railroad tracks from his Uncle Milton´s shack to the rickety old wooden bridge across the Silver River where Lucrecio caught the bus to Grantswood School .
They didn’t have any other friends and a lot of the kids were hostile towards them. Kids on Uncle Milton´s side of the Silver River aren’t allowed to attend Grantswood, but the tragedy of the fatal fire and the subsequent media attention and ongoing search created enough publicity to grant special privilege to Lucrecio. He even met the Big Boss Fingerling once when he went on TV with him and was walked into the school on the first day.
Lucrecio got off the bus and started along the path in the woods to the Silver River .
´Caw!! Caw!!´ Ajax was waiting for him on the rickety old wooden bridge and they slowly crossed together.