Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Railroad, pt. 2

Spike - 437 words
Sarah Van Name

It was the first day of Christmas break when they started to cut down the forest. The sounds of sawing and the soft pillowed thumps of falling trees flooded the air from nine to four, when dusk and cold started to drift in together. My parents had moved here in part, I knew, for the peace and quiet, and the way my mother’s wrists tensed as she made breakfast on those days told me how upset she was at what she must have considered an invasion. I had suggested to my dad that we wait until then to pick our tree – we could just grab one from the ground and you wouldn’t even have to deal with the cutting, I had told him – but he had refused, and the day after Thanksgiving we’d gone out together and chosen the best tree there was, broad and plump with needles.

When I looked out the window at the work, a quarter or maybe even half a mile away, all I could see was a cloud of dust and intermittent flashes of orange vests. I went out to survey the damage on weekends when it was quiet. They were doing a good job, not cutting down much more than they had to. By new year’s there was a broad, flat swath of dirt running as far as you could see in either direction, surrounding by military-straight lines of trees on each side.

I remember it was new year’s because on new year’s day they drove in the first spike. In my books I had read about inaugurating train tracks and was rather excited. I expected the mayor, maybe, a crowd of important people in nice shoes, a ribbon.

There was a tree still standing a little ways back from the dirt, and I sat in its branches all morning with a book waiting for it to happen. The men showed up one by one, late, hungover and yawning. Finally the foreman yelled, “Okay, come on, let’s get to work,” and they dispersed to get their tools. I peered through the pine needles. I saw the foreman say something to one man, who nodded, and then I watched him kneel and pound in the first spike.

No one else had looked. There had been no celebration – no ribbon, no mayor. I hopped down from the branch, my thighs sore and prickled from the bark, and walked back home, where I sat at the kitchen table with my dad and watched the cloud of dust in silence, the mystery and drama of the railroad filtered into the hard cool air for good.

No comments:

Post a Comment