Story of Red Line Charlie

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Yeah? Oh hi, good to see you. You want to come in?

Naw, Charlie stepped out. But that was a while ago. You want to wait for him?

I see. No, he don’t like me asking, you know? But today’s Tuesday. Probably went to see his sister. You could try in an hour or two. If you’re in the area.

Oh yeah hi. No, he’s not back yet. I don’t know, but supper’s in an hour and he damn sure doesn’t like to be late for that. He had a dime in his pocket. Where could he go for a dime?

He coulda taken any line. He always starts on the Red Line – Kendall Station. But he likes to visit his sister on Tuesday, OK? She’s in Charlestown. Or he might have gone to see his cousin. Transferred to Jamaica Plain. Or maybe he just went for a ride.

Yeah. All the time. Sure, he could have gotten on the wrong train. Why you think we don’t own a car? Look, I’ll tell him you were by. Thanks for asking after him. See you later.

Oh, hi, ‘morning, say listen, I’d ask you in but I haven’t even made the coffee yet, you know? No, he ain’t returned. Hell no, but he woulda called unless he’s still on the dang train. Is that even possible, do you know? He could be underneath the street on the ‘T’ right now, for all any of us know.

Listen, do me a favor, it’s on my mind. Usually I go down to Government Center, Green Line on Scollay Square, to hand him a sandwich through the train window. He likes that, likes it when he knows people are watching out for him. But I didn’t, because I didn’t know which damn line he’d be on.

So would you mind checking up on us this afternoon? With him not returning and all, you know. I can’t just call Missing Persons. First thing, they’d ask did we argue or something. Hell yes, we argued. We always argue, but he always comes back, don’t he?

You don’t mind? Oh, thanks. I’ll see if I can reach his sister on the horn. And if he’s not there, maybe she knows if that good for nothing cousin got a phone number yet. Thanks again.

Thanks for coming back. No, I mean it, it’s sure good to see someone, you know? I’ve been worried sick. No, I still ain’t heard a thing. I just don’t know what coulda happened to him. And I called the MTA. There’s nothing to stop him from riding that damn train until the cows come home. My sister’s coming over to spend the night. Unless he comes home, of course, and boy will he sure catch it!

Good of you to drop by again. No, not a thing. I know, it’s been a whole week! Listen, he don’t owe you any money, does he? Oh, well that’s nice of you. He don’t have many friends. Missing Persons says they will let us know if they get anything, but he’s not certifiable, and not a threat to anyone, so there’s just so much they can do. We ain’t learned nothing about him, disappeared without a trace, rent’s due, and I’ve just got this feeling it’s different this time … and they raised the fare on the goddam MTA. You know? What if he never returned?


Did he ever return,

No he never returned

And his fate is still unlearn’d

He may ride forever

‘neath the streets of Boston

He’s the man who never returned.

Kingston Trio, circa 1959

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