This was written for the Newsies Pape Selling Competition. My task was a crossover for Newies and Music Man. WC: 2564. Special shout out to 'Connie rose' for pointing out the weird formatting thing with the last try, thank you!
"I think this might have been the wrong train." Blink looked out the window out towards the vast prairielands and back to the small map he got at the station. All the different colored lines were too confusing for these simple travelers.
"You would think that Jack woulda told us 'ow ta get ta Santa Fe in more detail than jus' 'Get on da train.'" Mush repositioned himself in the not-at-all-cozy blue bench and ruffled the newspaper he had.
The two friends had been invited to visit Jack and Sarah in their new home in Santa Fe where they had just finished moving in. Blink had been pouring over the small map that missed many key details in effort to get on the right train. The writing of the city names were way too small to make out. Blink only knew New York and Santa Fe, because he knew the general area in which they were in on a map. Other than that, he had no clue.
Mush would hear the conductor announce the next station every half an hour or so, but since neither of them could understand the map, they had no idea which way they were going. The previous stop had been Brighton, Indiana, but that meant nothing to those two.
"Just ask 'im next time he comes around." Mush poked Blink.
"Fine." Blink gave up and folded up the map.
A few minutes later, the sliding door opened with a clang and the conductor strolled by. His gray vest was slightly dirty, but it was of no concern.
"Excuse me, sir. Is this the right train to Santa Fe?" Blink asked politely.
"Yeah, these maps at the station are confusing and we think we got on the wrong one. We're visiting friends there." Blink gestured to Mush and himself.
Before the man could answer, the whole car was thrown into complete darkness.
"Gah! Oh, I never expect these tunnels. Always scarin' me." Mush ruffled the newspaper again.
"Oh, like you can still read dat." Blink remarked scathingly.
Not a moment after Mush drew breath to snap back, the whole train shook on its tracks. The boys almost fell out of the bench they were sharing. Even though they couldn't see anything, they looked towards each other in stunned silence. That jolt was enough to knock anyone standing onto their behinds. There had been no noise from the aisle way. The conductor hadn't made any sound. Not even a footstep or a quick hand onto the back of a bench to steady himself.
The train emerged from the tunnel and their car filled with daylight.
Mush yelled with surprise, "The conductor!"
"Neva mind him, look at the seats!" Blink stared at the bench in front of him. That one, as well as all the other ones, was now bright red.
Footsteps drew Blink out of his trance. He turned and saw what Mush was going on about. He had changed, too. His vest and pants were black, and his black hat had two horizontal gold stripes around it. He was now an older man than they had previously thought.
But they couldn't dawdle on the differences since he had already left their car.
"How rude." Mush commented as he folded up his pape. A ruckus was issuing from the car that the conductor had just gone into. It was hard to make out, but it sounded like an argument. They were all talking very quickly, and some of them sounded like a train, like the hissing of the pistons. The two friends caught word like "cash", "bicker", "traveling salesman", "territory", and "music man".
The train gave a few jolts, the brakes had been applied and they had started to slow down.
One more exclamation came for the other car, and the slammed to a halt. They could know hear the conductor. "River City. Station stop: River City. Just crossed the state line into Iowa…" Blink didn't listen to the rest.
"I know where we are! We are definitely going the wrong way, Iowa is way too north! We need to get off, now!" He grabbed his bag, whacking Mush with it in the process.
"Ay! Watch it!" Once Blink was clear. Mush stood up, stretched, and grabbed his bag.
They made it to the dusty ground in one piece, with no help from the man who came barreling out of the car next to them with a briefcase. "Whoa! Why is everyone in such a rush 'ere?" Blink panted.
"Everyone's rushin' somewhere, Blink." Mush shouldered his bag and walked towards the small town.
Blink shrugged and followed him towards the main street, where a big hubbub had started. Mush headed towards it, but stopped when Blink caught his elbow. "Let's find a place to stay the night first; I don't think we're going to fix all this today." He walked on the boarded sidewalk into the motel.
The clerk at the desk told them they could have any room they wanted. "Two Queens or One King?" He asked.
"Two beds!" They both said in sync. The man chuckled and took two keys from the wall behind him and handed them to Blink, who had paid.
Mush had found some stationary and, as Blink struggled to find an envelope, wrote to Jack explaining their predicament and saying they would be a few more days in getting there.
Once it was addressed and in the mailbox, Blink nodded and motioned to the stairs.
"I neva realized 'ow 'eavy these are till I take 'em up stairs." Mush complained.
"S'only one flight! Calm down."
Eventually the friends made it to their room. "Am I the only one who thinks we is the only people staying here?" Mush gazed up and down the pristine corridor.
"I ain't surprised. Don't seem like these Iowa folks is used to other people, Mush. I think that other guy from the train is the only other one whose gonna be here." The large ruckus from the town square had only gotten louder.
Blink fought with the door until it swung open, admitting them into the cramped space. Mush fell face-first onto the bed closest to the door, so Blink threw his trunk onto the further bed. He pulled from his pocket the crinkled map he had, but it was no clearer than the first 20 times he looked at it.
What if they never made it to Santa Fe, or even back to New York? They would be stuck here in, where were they? Lake Town? No, River City. No one would know they were here, or where "here" was.
"Stop worrying," Mush sighed after Blink explained how they would die here. "I bet someone 'ere can give us a better map."
"Only if anyone is nice enough."
"As long as they're smart enough to figure out that if they 'elp us out, the faster we're gone." Mush pointed out.
Unfortunately, Blink could think of no retort. "Come on, let's look around."
Only after Mush glared at him, he rolled off the bed. They each scraped a key from the table. Mush put his in his pocket while Blink locked the door behind them first. He fumbled with it going down the stairs, and misjudged one of the steps.
Blink's short life flashed before his eyes as the ground rushed towards his face.
Luckily, he felt a pair of strong hands catch him underneath his arms before his face slammed into the first floor. The man was on Blink's blind side, so he couldn't see him until he stood up. He first saw the man's tan dress shoes, and brown Houndstooth pants.
"Thanks," Blink muttered as he regained his balance. Mush walked up next to him and out a comforting hand on his shoulder after the ordeal was over. "Ey, ain't you da guy who ran into us getting' off da train?" Mush recognized the briefcase.
"Mush!" The lighter haired boy snapped.
"That's alright. I'm sorry about that, lads. Got in a tight spot with some gentlemen and thought this might be a nice town to stop in for a while." The man had lined kind face. His dark brown hair was slicked back and parted to the side. His suit jacket matched his pants, and a short, light brown hat with white around the base sat on his briefcase which read "Prof. Harold Hill"
"Professa? Oh what?" Mush demanded.
"Oh, never you boys mind." Hill quickly picked up his case and rushed up the stairs. "I'm just dropping this off." He called out behind him.
The boys watched him go up and sighed. "There's sumthin' off about him."
Blink looked at Mush. "I ain't about to complain about him, he just saved my skin."
Their boots tapped the cobbled streets of the twilight town. The ruckus had broken up and families were walking to their homes, chattering like crickets. Only a few select words could be caught in the constant noise. Words like "trouble", "pool table", and "band".
The friends split up, each trying to find someone who knew how the train system worked. All the people either shook their heads or didn't respond at all.
Exhausted, they finally trudged back up to the motel, to find a group of people outside it. Hill was there, without his briefcase surrounded by four, angry looking men talking about credentials and papers. Hill then said something, and waved his arms to a beat, and the men started singing in harmony. They were so amazed with what they were doing that they didn't notice Hill slip away into the motel.
Needless to say, they didn't pay any attention to the two teenagers walk through the same door where Hill was previously standing. Blink went to step on the bottom stair, but found his foot blocked by another foot, clad in a brown shoe. "Hill?" His head was in his hands, and his elbows were on his knees.
He looked up at them with deep, troubled eyes. "Hello, boys."
His demeanor reminded Mush of Denton, only for a second. Mush sat down next to Hill. "What were dose jerks askin' for out dere?"
"My teaching credentials."
"Why are you still sitting out here?"
Hill opened his mouth to respond, but Blink spoke up first, "Because he doesn't have any."
Hill slowly brought up his eyes to Blink. "Was it that obvious?"
"No, it took me a while." Blink explained that if he had really meant to come here to actually teach, he wouldn't have rushed off the train after an argument, or go around trying to sell his work.
"That ain't always true, Blink."
"Since when are you taking his side?"
"I thought you wanted to defend him!"
"Boys! I am an adult, I can take care of myself, thank you." He stood up and ascended the rest of the way up the stairs.
Mush stood up and smacked Blink upside the head. "Ow! What was dat for?"
"For usually being smart, you sure can be pretty dumb! If what you said was true, and Hill ain't a teacher, then he's a travelin' salesman. Like we'se heard on the train."
"So!? He'd be on the rails a lot, he must understand how it all works. You just offended our one chance of getting help to Santa Fe!" Mush stormed up the stairs in a huge huff.
Blink felt all the air leave him like an old balloon. How could he have been so stupid? He trudged up to the room, which Mush left open.
Mush was on his side, facing away from Blink, obviously pretending to be asleep. Blink fumed to his bed, and luckily, actually fell asleep fairly quickly.
The next morning, Blink woke up Mush. "Let's ask Hill today."
"Ise hoping youse gonna apologize first."
"Don't worry." Blink went downstairs after finding out Hill wasn't in his room.
They eachgrabbed a bagel from the shop and found Hill peddling his music sheets and band forms. No one was batting an eyelash. Blink stooped to grab a sheet of music. He read it as he stepped to the corner of the street. "Beethoven's Minuet! One of the most famous pieces of classical music to ever grace yer ears! Get it right here and your boy can learn to play it in just a few short weeks! Trumpet, Trombone, Tuba, Drums, and the Flute! Right over 'ere! Thank you, sir." Blink finished quietly as one man walked up with his son. "You'll jus' sign up wit dis gentleman righ' 'ere."
After the father signed the form to join the band that Hill was creating, Blink walked up to him. "I'm sorry about yesterday, I over-reacted."
Hill's face broke out into a huge smile. "What brought along this change?" He laughed.
Mush appeared next to them. "We'se stuck 'ere. We were on our way to Santa Fe to meet a friend there. We think you could help us figure out the right train."
"It's a pretty tough crowd here, but it looks like you two have experience peddling things." Hill said with a sly grin. "I'll help you, if help me sell and get this band started. I'll take it from there."
The friends looked at each other, and shrugged. "Sure."
Hill laughed. "Wonderful! Let's get started." He split the sheets and forms in two piles and handed one to each of them. Blink and Mush fanned out and sold a startling amount. Hill walked between the two, gathering completed forms and money, and asking advice on how to sell.
He was talking with Blink as he was putting cash in his briefcase. "You gotta make it interesting. And flatter 'em. Say something nice about the kid. Even if parents hate their kids, they can never be prouder of anything else."
As the sun started setting, Blink and Mush met Hill back in the lobby of the motel. They handed over the cash and the completed forms, adding to the pile that Hill made himself.
"Very nice." Mush commented on Hill's pile.
"Thank you, Mush. I got the family whose daughter is the librarian. Her brother didn't seem too excited, but I think he'll be fine." Mush whistled as Hill laughed. He slowly became more serious. "Well, you filled your part of the bargain." He pulled out a larger map than what Blink had, but other than that it looked the same.
"Wait a second, so I just got the 'pocket edition' of that thing?" Blink exclaimed as Mush fell over with laughter.
"I guess so." Hill smiled and moved to sit in between the two, explaining how the tracks worked and which one would take them to New Mexico.
They stood up once the rails made sense. "Good luck, boys, I hope you find your friend." He smiled and dashed out the door.
"Good luck wit your librarian!" Mush called after him. Blink sighed and the two bickered the rest of the way up the stairs, down the stairs, checking out, and to the train station.
"Hey, look!" Blink heard singing. There were the four guys, singing goodbye to a few women outside the library. And there was Hill, running off towards the motel.
"What a guy." Mush murmured as they boarded the train and sat on the red seats, which turned back to blue in the next tunnel.
Thanks for reading!