Fond of stories, my son sometimes missed school to read, and on those days we sometimes read together, by the window overlooking the railway line snaking through the valley. Stories such as Robinson Crusoe or Gulliver’s Travels made him wonder about new worlds. I dispatched syllables about magic drums, charming snake princes, and idyllic countrysides, to be hushed and lulled, and bandied and spun. Sometimes I placed the house where I grew up in the midst of his favorite story.
Our doors rattled when the train chuffed by. He marveled at its sooty, pugnacious engine, its green windows, its bright-red bogies, and asked if the train took its people to that house where I grew up, where granny and grandpa still lived, but where he had never been.
I waited to let it pass, watching it huff up the shoulders of the hills in the dwindling light.
That’s where it goes. To granny’s house.
I pardoned my mischief, the lie.
When we sat down to dinner after one such reading, the rain came down through the cedars, water curtained the window, and I could imagine a rattlesnake from Rangeet Valley by the fence near the peonies.
He asked, Can I take that train when I’m old enough, done with school?
You sure will, I said, hoping for a change: the territory dispute resolved, that the borders between our divided land might open. One can’t hold onto something that is not theirs to hold for long. That day, they’ll allow the train to pass beyond our current freedoms. I hoped, then, the train would encompass the loop of my son’s imaginary worlds.
On a Monday morning?
Outside, we saw the spiny cedar leaves, wet. The leaves wouldn’t forever hold on to the diamonds clinging to them. When released, the dazzling raindrops would take off in whimsical revelry to join the sudden streams below.