The Crossing

Nighttime. Pitch black.

No light except a lone halogen bulb mounted on a hanging fixture above the door of a small storage shed. Its corrugated steel is dusty and slightly rusted, its single window, security glass with wire webbed between the panes. The grass rustles in the wind with the dark night back drop. No stars. They’ve been blacked out by the dust and clouds and the only sound left is the whistle of the wind and the grass being caught in its breath.

One hundred and eighty degrees from the shack and a few steps away are steel tracks. They create a crossroads here with the dirt road rarely traveled so the only warning for the oncoming engine are yellow signs on opposite sides of the tracks and road with their backs to each other. Like guards they man their post and only waiver slightly when they are blown upon by the mouth of the clouds. They are marked with dents from slugs and hollow point bullets from guns fired by the residents nowhere near here who find entertainment in destruction of property knowing they’ll never get caught in the country.

The gravel on the road opposite the shed crunches. Two feet in leather boots make strides in the direction of the tracks, purposeful but obviously in no hurry. The tops of the boots are covered by black work pants, up to a t-shirt covered by a black cloth jacket that covers him down to mid-thigh. His hands are in his pockets and his eyes are fixed on the tracks. His eyes are cold and analytical like that of a snake as he comes closer and closer to the tracks, leaving footprints in the dust which will be forgotten by the morning.

He stops with his toes against the rail and looks down for a moment. He can see the affect of steel upon steel in streaks of reflection against the long metal rail. He lightly kicks his toe against it just to feel that it was real, that it was solid. Then he bends down and puts his ear to the steel and listens for the vibrations of an oncoming engine, barreling its way towards him. All he hears is silence.

He rises to his knees and reaches inside his pocket. He produces a carpenter’s nail he’d pulled from a two by four surprisingly straight and holds it to the light. The tip creates a pinprick of light. He palms it and pulls a picture out of that same pocket. He looks at it for a moment with the same cold analysis that he did the crossing. There were memories there but they’d long since been rendered neutral if not turned to ice in his mind. The wind picks up momentarily, causing the tall grass to whisper unintelligible secrets to him and the picture flutters against his knuckles.

His brow furrows and he looks down at one of the wooden ties, then back at the picture and nail. He kneels down and holds the picture to the surface of the tie with the tip of the nail and produces a claw hammer from his pocket. He nails the picture to the tie with some effort as the wood is old and knotted. He stands up, observing his handiwork, tilting his head to the left and then to the right. He looks up to see a light in the distance and he stares at it as it gets closer.

Its horn blows.

He turns to face his accuser straight backed and solid like the signs to his left and to his right. His spine is made of steel and his eyes are floodlights.

In one fluid motion he hurls the hammer in the direction of the train. He takes a deep breath with his eyes closed and his head back, inhaling the smell of dust, steel and country grass as if it were the fragrance of a flower. His head levels out and his eyes look straight forward. It’s coming closer still and it blows its horn. He looks down to the picture nailed to the tie, breathes from his ribs, brings his eyes up, then back down again. The eyes in the picture look, unchanging, right back at him.

“Goodbye,” he said.

He steps off the tracks and into the night, the gravel crunching under his feet. He barely feels the wash of the train careening by.

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One thought on “The Crossing

  1. Pingback: The Sidewalk | Where would we be without you?

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