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As he went down the aisle his golf cleats made a sharp sucking sound in the corridor matting. The car was almost empty and he eased himself into the nearest seat. He set his golf club down next to him. The window was open, and he took big draughts of the thick summer air blowing in. "Mullins," he said to himself. The pine woods were moving by very slowly.
He felt a hand on his shoulder. He looked up. The conductor was eying him, taking in the baby-blue outfit and the shoes with the blue flaps over the laces. "Ticket, please."
He reached for his wallet instinctively, knowing it wouldn't be there, and feeling instead his golf glove, the fingers sticking out, empty and spooky against his touch.
"Ticket. Ticket, please."
The golfer groaned. He was watching the pine woods go by, very slowly, as if the train's engineer was finding it difficult to resist the attractions of Mullins.
He looked up at the conductor.
"I'm a little confused," he said, trying to stall for time. "Where does this train go?"
The conductor clicked his ticket clipper impatiently, but he announced: " Pitcairn, Caroline, Jehovah's Junction, The Gulch, Beulah, Plum Flats, Junction City, Logan, Bailey, Edwin, Shrake, Loblolly, Mullins, Pitcairn...."
"Mullins!" cried the golfer. "But aren't we just pulling out of Mullins? What was that place back there if not Mullins?"
The conductor clicked his ticket punch again. "Course that was Mullins. You must be a stranger in these parts." He peered closely at the golfer. "What sort of duds you got on there? Ain't seen so much blue on a man since the day they drug in Abe Parsons that time he froze to daith up on Catclaw Mountain." He cackled sharply. "Stranger, they ain't many folk in these parts who travel on this railroad line without knowing it goes in a circle. If it's Mullins you're fixin' to go to, I'd be inclined to step off and walk back. Otherwise, that'll be $28 and we'll be getting back into Mullins along about 11:30 tonight."