20/21 4 8
I go outside. A freight train is just pulling through the station. I wave at the locomotives, the engineer blows his horn, once. Dozens of big gondola cars follow trundle trundle trundle rumble rumble rumble rumble car after gondola after gondola after car my God the locomotives must already be across the river headed north and I foolish scribbler waiting four hours for a train that might be late or very late who knows I don’t but it is reassuring to see this freight on the way on the way on the way.
The northbound Amtrak is going to be three hours late, they say. We were lucky only one hour late when we arrive last Wednesday night or really Thursday morning after midnight we went to our hotel and slept yes we went to our hotel and slept.
Something eerily reassuring about this long train of cars even if they are empty it means the world is moving onward and outside us the world is moving on. Look – there’s the _______ signal painted on one. A clatter and slunk echoes forward and back through the cars like a sympathic noted shudder – a fearsome quiver of steel – what’s this? A locomotive pounding at the end, too? Yes. Tick tick tock tock….
And then they are gone. Slowly slowly slowly rumbling and tracking away into the distance, that little sporadic pop has snap snap snap snap hanging in the distance almost longer than the distant rumbling.
I haven’t heard a horn since that one touch that greeted me.
Wait – I think they’re still there… down the tracks… waiting… waiting for… what?
Yes I can still hear that snapping tick hiss snap….
Where? What? How? Why?
I don’t know, dear diary. Another mystery in the night. And then, another train horn from somewhere else, a….
Another melancholy howl in the distance. The beasts are calling, the machines signalling, the monsters communicate and I….
I scribble for you, dear diary a blog.
The long Little Rock Union Station appears to be leased out for offices and restaurants. Amtrak only occupies a tiny basement hall facing toward the tracks and platform. That’s all they need. The rest is superfluous detritus from the glorious past, when passenger railroads still ruled the transportation world.
Now everything is airplanes and trains are a freak breed apart.
This scheduling is offensive, my mother said at dinner tonight at the Flying Fish. I am offended, truly offended, that we must take the train at three a.m. and no time else, never. If something isn’t done about this they will never build ridership.
And if ridership doesn’t build, they will never do anything about it, I thought, but hold my tongue. I have had enough of disagreement with her. She was all upset and nervous about how would we get to the station from far out in the car rental return. Gave them holy hell about how inconsiderate they were not having a turn-in place closer to downtown. They do but it doesn’t have a drop-key box and they are closed on Sunday.
For the last three days I have heard nothing but how will we turn in the car and how will be get back downtown and so forth and so on and then how will we turn in the car and how will we get downtown and how will be turn in downtown and how will we get the car out and how will we car the turn and downtown the get out and out the turn down get turn and get out.
To top it off she forgot to plug in her cell phone so we had no recourse but hunt down a pay phone which there wasn’t but a friendly shell station near the car rental office far out in the suburbs let me make a call which was good because the cab company has that phone number in their data bank and I had not sooner asked for a cab then he was telling me where I was calling from huh? Yeah. God bless the modern technological miracle of caller ID okay? Okay.
Little Rock Union Station sits on ancient steel beams. Its walls rise up brick and old windows. It has a tower you can see from way down the street approaching from downtown through the homeless skid row district you know the type every city in our empire has it, old inner city houses and unch______. But this one is only a few blocks from the State capitol dome.
We drove here earlier this afternoon because I wanted to refresh my memory and because I thought the station would not be open until late tonight and wanted Mom to see it was pointless coming here as early as she wanted and indeed the station building only opens at 10:30 pm and so we went and sat by the river and watched the water go by for two hours and then we went and had fish dinner for an hour and a half and then I slowly drove through local North Little Rock streets toward the Enterprise office poor Mom wondering all the time if I knew where we were going but only asking me three or four times even when I temporarily lost my way in a residential neighborhood of _________ houses good thing they were rich bastard mansions not gangbanging ghettos but I quickly back tracked and soon found the car rental place next to the freeway and suddenly the dam broke and she was now – after half an hour of extremely good behavior she was now fully _________ of questioning and asking why are you trying where are you going what are you going why don’t you and I just said Mom I found the place didn’t I? Now we go back to the gas station on the avenue and call a cab.
And a cab came, God be praised reasonable and good and we came down to the station at last arriving at eleven p.m. and so we wait only not four hours.
If the train is on time.
Except then not it’s only three hours. If the train is on time. If.
A bird cries out in the night shee shee shee.
That long freight train that stopped down the tracks is finally moving away.
I don’t know why. But godspeed. One last set of piercing wails into the distance and they gone across the river.
There is an extradordinary beauty to the night. I don’t want to go back inside but feel I must. To let Mom know I am still here and well. Safe.
She is snoring.
Sweet lady. Just like a baby asleep at night.
It is now twelve o’clock.
I yawn, and try to stretch out on the big old wooden bench, but I cannot do it. Couldn’t sleep, not yet. My fingers are bonded to the pen, my brain bleeds ink all over the page and the words fly out like cars upon the freeway, no, like geese honking across the sky, like….
Like me, with a thousand thoughts flooding through my sleepy brain.
I slept so very well last night – awake this morning before dawn completely rested. Dressed and went outside to watch sunrise over the river at Pendleton.
Here goes another freight train. This one looks a mix of tank cars and gondolas.
I lost the cap to this pen. It is a metaphor for my diarhea of the mouth hand brain write.
They call it “free writing” where you just let it pour out.
No such thing as pure free writing, of course, this brain is always leaping ahead to create sentence structure, or maybe thought itself is language except
smell the perfume today
touch the wooden door
turn the metal knob
see even in this meaning
core grammar and syntax
and always the pragmatic
looking for you dear reader
remembering names of your
estás en tu casa
aunque no estoy
en la mia
but the page is yours to make meaning
on this river bridge
“Lord, ain’t this fun.” The girl in the wheelchair sighs at me.
I laugh and go back outside. I wish she had the nerve to follow me.
I sit on an ancient baggage cart outdoors, near the growling ventilator. A shadow is moving.
She came out. We talk.
“There’s ma bell and there’s taco bell – the Mexican phone company.”