“It’s going too fast!”
Of the three of us I am the only one who has experience with this and I know we are too late. It is exhilarating to stand that close to the massive pulsing power of the machine as it passes. Our feet are at awkward angles as we shift to find balance on the sharp rocks that line the track. Hot wind blows off of the machine into our excited faces, carrying the sweet smell of tar, and oil, and metal, and adventure. And the sound! The huge roaring power of it all! I love being here. I’m hungry for the adventure. But this train is going too fast.
Dave stands looking at the wheels of the boxcars roaring past; closer than he should be to the thundering rhythm– padunk dudunk padunk dudunk padunk dudunk –his chin on his chest, eyes glazing over as he watches and listens.
Suddenly his hands clutch a ladder rung of a passing boxcar, his fingers locking around the warm steel. Arms try to leave their sockets. neck snaps, head lurches to the side but his long straight red hair seems to stay, for a moment, then rips into motion as his waist and knees and feet trail behind.
I watch in horror as the crazy energy of the train carries Dave away. It’s not the best way to hop a train. But he is on. Zero to forty in point three.
In the night we squint against the spotlights. Tinny music assaults our ears from speakers never meant to sustain half that many decibels. Bridesmaids in gaudy dresses are out in the yard trying to recreate the choreography of “Thriller”. Nice ladies in church dresses serve the last of a violent green concoction from a mostly-empty punch bowl. The sun has long gone and a cold wind is blowing off of the lake. My wife shivers and turns her body hoping to gain warmth from me.
How long has it been since I’ve seen the brides mom? Fifteen, sixteen years? She was once a dear friend, but I regret coming. Everything here seems cheesy, embarrassing. It feels like maybe the sun has set on our friendship, but I wanted to do the right thing.
Then I’m hugging her. Fake smiles, fake small talk, fake interest in meeting her husband. Then her sister is there. She motions to her and asks if I remember LeAnn. Before I can answer I hear my wife, “Oh, is this your mom?” I can almost hear the reception grind to a stop–except for those persistent tinny speakers. Forty to zero in point three.
Swinging wildly from the ladder there’s panic in his eyes, his knees inches above the ground swiftly gaining speed beneath him. Having had his fill of this adventure he pushes himself away from the train, dropping into the unforgiving gravel–a tumble of limbs, red hair, rocks and blood.
He cried–cursing aloud his stupid brain for not thinking, his stupid hands for proceeding anyway. My wife cried too–cursing aloud her stupid brain for not thinking, her stupid mouth for proceeding anyway.
I apologize – my life has been crazy with all manner of things that have kept me out of the public (mostly I’ve been sick for like two months). So I’m afraid I don’t have anyone new to introduce you to. I’ve decided to tell you a couple of my own stories. I’ll try to be back on track with new people for you to meet next week.