I was smoking pot with a friend of mine, at his place, when his roommate came by with a couple of friends. I hadn't met them, and they looked kind of rough, but I said hi and passed the bong their direction anyway. A few hits of the wacky weed later, they started talking. It turns out they were train bums, and had just arrived in town that evening. They needed a place to go so they could get drunk and have a nice place to sleep, so they made a few phone calls, and here they were. I asked questions: What was it like? Where had they traveled? How did they manage to afford as much Jack Daniels as they had with them? One of them was missing a thumb, and I inquired about it, morbid curiosity spurring me. "Accident," he said. "Want to see something really gross?" I nodded, expecting him to show me some nifty trick with the stump of his thumb. Instead, he pulled out some battered Polaroid photos and handed them to me. I looked; I gagged. They were fairly clear shots of a decapitated body lying across train tracks. "I used to travel with this guy until about a week ago," he said. "He banged up his knee, and wasn't very good at jumping that day." I shuddered, and went to hit the bong again.

It got me thinking, though. They seemed to enjoy doing what they did. Free travel, no obligations, and a fascinating addiction to hearing the clicking of train tracks. I knew I could never do it, but was it worth it to them? Why did people look down on the homeless as much as they seemed to?
Later we got piss drunk, and my friend gave one of them a really bad tattoo of a train. He bled a lot, which is probably why tattoo parlors won't ink you unless you're sober. We had a blast. They didn't seem so rough anymore.
In the morning, they were gone, off on a train to parts unknown. Lucky bastards.

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