It had been years since Maury had ridden on a train, and now with the momentum beneath his feet thrusting him toward the terminal, he laid his head back against the seat and remembered something his father used to say whenever he pulled the station wagon into the garage: “End of the line,” he’d call out like a conductor.
An orange glare filled the compartment. Outside, it was dark. All he could see was his own reflection until they came to a town with lit-up signs or flashing red lights blocking off the crossways.
Growing up in Bryan, Ohio, there had been tracks behind his house. He loved hearing the forlorn whistle in the night as he fell asleep and the iron wheels grinding against the steel rails. Sometimes, he would stand in the back yard watching the Cleveland-bound Pensy from Chicago, his eyes flickering back and forth as the cars rattled by. Sometimes, he laid pennies on the track to be flattened. Twice a day, early morning and late at night, the Lakeshore Limited swooshed by with passengers gazing out. He always waved at them. Sometimes, they waved back.
Once, for his eighth birthday, his parents surprised him with a ride. That morning, he and his mother boarded the Lakeshore Limited, his father seeing them off at the station. Maury remembered the bored looks on the commuters’ faces, how they closed their eyes and napped or read the newspaper. One woman hunched over a crossword puzzle, the eraser tip poised to her lips, thinking.
He sat on his mother’s lap, staring out the window at the passing scenery. Trees, houses, farms, cars, horses, cows, pigs—they all seemed to be rushing backwards as he hurtled forwards. He held his mother’s warm hand. His breath steamed the window. The conductor called out the stops: Waterloo! Elkhart! When they disembarked at the next stop, in South Bend, there on the platform stood his father, waiting, and they all got in the station wagon and drove back home.
He remembered something else his father used to say: “The angels always sing in heaven.” “Always?” Maury had once asked. “Always,” his father had said. “They never stop, ever.” But surely, Maury thought, they must take a break now and then. Surely, if anyone deserved a rest, they did.
DS Levy lives in the Midwest. She has had work published in New World Writing, Bending Genres, Bull Men’s Fiction, Atticus Review, X-R-A-Y Literary Magazine, and others. Her flash chapbook, A Binary Heart, was published by Finishing Line Press.