Stationary Station

The trains leaving for Brodericktown always run on time. For everyone else. The famous lines, of which stories had been written about their reliability, are clogged with stalled cars on the platform. All the technicians stand around, unable to answer why they just won’t run. A raving man on the platform is claiming the trains have lost the will to live, like a bad plot device. The rest of us are all on these benches—slouched shoulders, hands on our bags, briefcases, backpacks, staring longingly at the engine. Well, the rest might be. I am fine with the prospect of not arriving at my destination. The limbo of a station doesn’t sound that bad.

Perhaps somebody will walk up and ask if I am skilled with a table saw. They might be working on a shed down the road, and would explain that they needed my help. I could walk down there, in the bright midday sun, and spend the day running their pencil lines through the blade. Afterward, someone would open a cooler of cheap beer, and we would discuss, in unison, how nobody knew how to run anything, how everyone in charge was an idiot, how all the answers are so simple, but everyone is just too stupid. Then we would forget these solutions to the world’s problems as the sun went down, and the frogs would begin to chirp as we said our goodbyes. I would get a motel room from a suspicious clerk, wary of strangers, and plan to meet them at the sight tomorrow. A new life suddenly in front of me, I might call myself Rudolpho to embrace the change.

There was a hoot from the engine that made us all jump. An official told us we should begin boarding. The train was fixed. Most of the others sighed in relief, picked up their things, and shuffled toward the cars. The raving man would not be satiated, however, repeating that it was not safe, that the train did not want to live. A few employees gathered around him, impassive to his impassioned pleas directed at their obstinate faces. I lagged behind, bag slung over my shoulder, hoping to make last minute eye contact with a day laborer who would call me Rudolpho, but in the end I walked into the car all the same, still the same person.