Don’t pay us any mind, me and my boy here. We’re just going to set up our lawn chairs by the train tracks and see what comes ‘round the bend. Just a pleasing way for a boy and his pa to pass some time together. It’s the simple things, y’know?
Nice, normal train here. My boy’s waving to it, I’m waving to it. No need to get too elaborate with such a normal train. Just a quick wave and let it pass on by. Me and my boy know the dance with normal trains like this one. It ain’t a waltz. It’s a tapping of the toe to a melody you’ve heard a thousand times before.
Slow one coming. My boy’s giving this slow train a wink. I always told my boy, “When the slow train comes, give it a wink.” Say what you will about my boy, but you’ve got to admit he knows his manners well when it comes to winking at trains.
Look at this majestic steel iguana right here, slithering through the gentle slope of the hills, gleaming in the brilliant light of the full-orbed sun. Wow. Me and my boy are squirting a stink out of our train glands at the sight of this one.
What a beaut, this train. Would have loved to see her when she was just a pup—was probably no bigger than my thumb. Me and my boy are nodding and smiling with our hands on our hips while this gorgeous sea cow of the rails lumbers on by. An agreeable train indeed.
Gosh, look at this one right here. A pregnant momma train. Probably on her way to her nest to give birth to a whole litter of baby freighters. My boy’s got tears in his eyes watching this marvelous gal meander through. It’s the miracle of life unfolding right before him. He’ll never forget it.
When my boy’s momma got chased away by bullfrogs, I wasn’t sure if I could rear him on my own. We had entirely different interests. I liked adult activities like swimming and digging holes. My boy liked child activities like eating and sneezing. We seemed to have nothing in common. Then we started watching the trains and found it to be a most wholesome enjoyment. Our bosoms swell at their approach, our hearts gladden at their merry tooting and rumbling. They bring us close like nothing else before.
I tell my boy: One day you’re going to have a boy of your own. Your boy might be normal or he might be a goth, but either way you’re going to love your boy something fierce, and you’re going to take your boy down to the railroad tracks and set up some lawn chairs, and together you’ll watch the trains go by. Train watching is an activity passed down from pa to boy, and from pa to boy again, over and over. A tradition running through time; an endless string of fathers and sons together by the side of the tracks, barreling down the years in ceaseless procession, like a train.
TRAIN WITH A FACE! TRAIN WITH A FACE! ME AND MY BOY ARE HIDING BEHIND A CACTUS ‘TIL THIS MONSTER GOES AWAY!
I speak plain to my boy regarding the ways of the Reaper. I’ve let him know I won’t be sitting beside him forever. One day the conductor’s gonna call my station, and my soul’s gonna go to that big lawn chair in the sky. They say in Heaven the trains are louder and uglier. We’ll all find out soon enough. I tell my boy: When the day comes that you poke me with a stick and I don’t wake up, don’t shed no tears. I’ve lived a full life. I’ve sat beside my boy watching the trains go by. Just lift up my corpse and throw it in front of an upcoming train. Let that speeding iron behemoth obliterate my stiff carcass and scatter my bones and guts all down the tracks. In that way, I’ll become part of the railroad forever, my innards roosting with the spikes and the sleepers.
And then I’ll be up in Heaven, watching the loud ugly trains come ‘round the bend in the Great Hereafter. And I’ll set up an empty lawn chair right next to mine, and I’ll put a towel over it so the saints know it’s reserved. And when your long years of train watching have themselves come to an end, and you make your skyward pilgrimage to eternity’s rail yard, you’ll have a train-watching seat ready and waiting alongside your old man.
But that day’s a long way off. For now, we’re alive, both me and my boy. We’re alive and living the best way we know how. Side by side. Watching the steel iguanas slither on to far-off stations.
Slow one coming.