Tuesday, January 1, 2013

train ride

Walking down a side street I found myself on a dirt road that led out of town along a disused rail line.  After walking for a while I saw a wooden rail coach sitting on a siding.  I had gone far enough from the town that there were no buildings around, or any other sign of human activity.  The car showed no evidence of vandalism.  Its windows, unbroken, were some of them open, as the last passengers might have left them when they got off the train.  The car appeared to be as when its last crew had walked away.  In the jungle it is hard to tell how long something has been left to sit, though the wheels were as rusted as the rails, as if the car had sat there for a long time.  I left the dirt road and walked through the brush and climbed onto the rear platform and tried the door.  It opened. 
     Inside, the car was lit by the afternoon sun pouring through the windows and across the empty seats.  There was litter on the floor and things were beginning to come apart.  There was one sort of mold growing on the wall and another sort growing on some of the seats.  There were not as many spider webs as I might have expected.  I heard something scurry away when I entered.
     I sat on a less-moldy seat and looked out the open window into the jungle, kept at bay for the present by the railroad right-of-way, and imagined myself rattling through the forest in the coach, sometimes with a noisy crowd of passengers and sometimes by myself.

I imagined starting out from a busy station in a crowded train car with noisy children and families and old farmers, a businessman or two and maybe a soldier coming home for a visit and a young couple very much in love, and a conductor in an old-fashioned uniform comes through punching tickets and the train passes through cleared fields of crops and pasture and enters the jungle and people get off at the little towns and I see people leaving the train I never knew were on it and they unload packages and valises and there are people waiting for them on the little station platform and then an Indian in a uniform signals the engineer and we pull away without anyone having gotten on and this repeats at other little stations and the car empties out and the conductor doesn’t bother to come through anymore and eventually I am in the car by myself as it rattles over track that seems to be in worse shape than the ones we were on when we started out and the sound of the engine seems weaker and the right-of-way narrows and the jungle comes closer to the train and begins to brush against the side of the car and sometimes a branch flicks through a window and it seems to be getting dark outside.   Finally, the train stops and I realize this is the end of the line.  I look out the windows on both sides of the car, but there is no sign of a town or any light in the forest and the crew seems to have left the train.

I got up from my seat and left the car and went out into the afternoon sun and walked through the brush to the dirt road that led back to the town.

1 comment:

  1. Good imagination. I once sought shelter from the rain in an old box car in the Southern Appalachians, one that hadn't moved in a long while, and dreamed of waking up Atlanta.