Wednesday, September 23, 2009


     Chester, the epi-center of the universe, sits on a hill surrounded by train tracks. The little town quietly goes about it's daily business as  trains circle around at all hours of the day, hauling cargo up and down the state in graffiti sprayed tanks and boxcars. If you want to arrive anywhere on time, you either learn the train schedules, or you learn how to get to the by-pass in a hurry.  Otherwise, you are trapped, sitting behind the crossbars just counting cars as they rumble on by.
     Whistles are the morse-code of train engineers. Long before texting, tweeting, and twittering became the rage, engineers communicated with each other through long and short combinations of the whistle. Pedestrians and drivers are warned of approaching trains at each crossing by this unique combination of sounds. Track changes are announced, and warnings are heralded with each toot and blast.
     The long-long-short-long whistle signals a train is approaching a crossing.  The personalities of different engineers are clearly revealed through their individual styles of pulling the chain. Usually, the enginer blows the warning in a distinct, crisp pattern, quickly and efficiently warning motorists to clear the tracks. One  engineer, however, is particularly annoying when he passes through town on the 12:16 am train. He blows his whistle in a carefree, haphazard way: long (pause pour a cup of coffee pause)long  (pause pause pause pause) short (pause yawn stretch pause) long. I can't figure out whether he's taking a cigarette break or texting his girlfriend in between, but there are interminable pauses between each pull of the chain. The pauses are without reason or rhythm; you can't anticipate the next blast. It may come quickly one night, and the next drag on and on and on.
     I want to throw open the window and scream, " Blow that thang and get on out of town." I've just been ripped from a deep dream by the bellowing whistle and I'm waiting on edge for the next blast, gripping my blanket with nervous fingers.  His erratic timing pulls at my sleep deprived nerves; I'm  unable to anticipate his next attack, so I lie there, waiting for the blast, waiting for a time that can't be measured... I visualize his maniacal laugh as he tortures each town he blows through in the dark of night, erratically blasting the whistle, leaving behind a  village of zombies, red-eyed and dazed the next morning.
     I realize that after I have been back home for awhile, I will once again be able to sleep through the night without even hearing the train blow through. My brain will adjust to the sounds, both the steady, regular trains and the wild, crazed engineer, and I will sleep a deep and peaceful sleep.
      But for now, I wait, hands tightly clenching the covers, waiting for the whistle that will jerk me from a deep sleep, waiting, waiting, waiting,,,,,......

No comments:

Post a Comment