--A short short story conceived in a few seconds on a drive back from Greek food at the Athens Cafe. Just by the gait and stride of a young mother in an evening walk, it unfolded...
Crossing the Tracks
by Ardi Keim
Left at the church on the corner. Past the playground of the school of The Holy Family. Recalling the laughter, shrill screams of girls and the most important demands of boys, while two teachers watch half-attentively in their conversation at the edge of the blacktopped confine. Will Robbie be there one day, demanding fairness his way? Another girl shrieks the ending quote of that cyclone fenced memory.
What is freedom?, she wonders now, and every time she passes the school yard--kids or no kids. When she was one of the shrieking girls there, her dreams didn't go much beyond the moment and the fence. But now, approaching the railroad crossing at the dog-leg bend of Orchard Street, she reflected on later thoughts. Was it the spider on the signal box that retreated around the edge as she got closer in this late spring evening? Still a chill in the air, but the sun's angle on the silver-painted metal box reflected the glare of a hot summer day. Though last week she brought the snow shovel from the porch to storage, now she looks southeast down the tracks to another world in August.
She and two girlfriends on one of their adventures mothers never know, in the year before she met Dale. Wild then -- and free. Her only job was assistant to the activity director at summer camp in Wisconsin. She couldn't wait to be out on her own then. Her own car and a good job. There were tracks past camp too--parallel to county road 121. She remembered the rumble in the evening after dinner in down-time on her bunk, or walking by the lake. And once her granddad told her and Tom some stories of his early days on the rails, riding the cars to Spokane and Portland, and once to a place called Lafayette down south somewhere. Adventure and Freedom! And summer day dreams. She could see forever down the tracks. Tom joined the Marines last year. His life seems exciting, even still in training. He says he might go to Pakistan in the fall.
Bump. Bump. The wheels of the stroller hobble across the second track. And her last look southeast, as she re-enters her neighborhood and the realization returns. Dale, Robbie and the news from the doctor earlier today.
(c) 2008 Ardi Keim