This excerpt begins Andy Burden’s journey by train across the country. On his journey he meets several characters that help him to learn the power of non judgment and forgiveness. This is only the beginning of his journey by train and his journey to forgive his greatest enemies:
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Let’s start over. It’s October, 1991.
I’m a burden to you.
Why? My story will make you think. You’ll question long-held beliefs. You’ll question power structures and religion. The story will disturb you. Or at least, it should. If it doesn’t, I question your humanity, your ability to feel.
My name is Benjamin Andrew Burden. I go by Andy, sometimes just A. A. Burden. I’m 28 years old. I live in a 20-foot trailer in the middle of an apple orchard in Jocelyn, Washington.
A. Burden. It’s ironic, isn’t it? I guess God has a sense of humor.
I used to drink. I used to smoke weed. I’ve been clean for several months now. Sometimes I hear voices. Since I’ve stopped drinking and smoking pot, they’ve faded.
I worked all summer for a stone mason, saved my money, bought a ticket for the train. The stone mason told me there’s a place for each stone. In the midst of my story, I’m looking for my place.
Tonight, I’m riding a train, The Empire Builder. Sometimes, in order to tell a story, you have to leave the story, separate yourself from the story.
My story is painful. It’s about child abuse, the loss of innocence. It’s about fear, isolation, and paranoia. I need to get away from it, escape, yet it still haunts me, every day. My story’s a burden, but it needs to be told. Somebody out there needs to hear it, perhaps many.
The train is heading east, toward Spokane. It ends in Chicago. My past returns with the mere thought of Chicago.
Peter used to tell us he had connections in Chicago, said he knew people in the mafia. He claimed he could take someone out with a phone call. He told us, “If you know what’s good for you, you’ll never cross me.” I was young, yet not easily intimidated. Part of me knew: Peter was full of shit. But I was still afraid of him.
After Chicago, I’m not sure where I’m going, maybe Nashville. I brought my guitar and a few of my best songs. Maybe, I’ll make some connections.
A stranger came into The Crossroads a few months back, before I quit drinking. He told me that God had a message for me. He said, “You’ve got a special talent, Andy. God wants you to use it. Go to Nashville. Go.” He was probably a crackpot, but here I am, on the train.
I find comfort in trains, in train travel. I love the clattering bell at the crossings. I love the long, twisted whine of the whistle in motion. I love the powerful pull of the engine and the clacking off the wheels on the track. Most of all, I love the slow, gentle sway, back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. It soothes my restless spirit.
Tonight, I’m wrapped in my Grandmother’s quilt. It keeps me warm as I stare out the window into passing darkness.