I arrived early to my stop, though it would not make the train come any sooner, nor was there any possibility that it would be early, nor late. The ticket was old and I thumbed it nervously in my pocket, wearing creases into it, before glancing at my watch and pulling the faded piece of paper out, ready to hand it to a conductor who wasn’t even there yet. It had been hard to find, almost nobody had tickets for this line anymore, but there were a few left around.
This is about the time of year that the train went under, late fall, I read it in the newspapers at the library. The Army Corps of Engineers routed the river slightly to the west, flooding the tracks and displacing a few dairy cows. The flooding hadn’t garnered much attention, the headline on the story read “Some cows may not give milk for days.” Maybe somewhere under the water there are still a few stubborn heifers grazing alongside the muddy tracks, chewing river moss.
It had been a sedate undertaking, considering the effort involved in moving a river. So sedate that the next morning, a sleepy crowd boarded their train and drowsily handed their tickets to the conductor, an old man with a soft, slack body, close to retirement. A little girl’s head bobbed and settled against her mother’s shoulder, holding her hand. A man opened the paper and closed his eyes, letting the pastoral surroundings escape as the train urged on and away from its stop. Everyone had been right on time, the train arrived, as it always did, with metronomic precision.
The momentum of the train did not allow for much slowing as the train sped into the water. The apathetic glassiness of the water was barely disturbed, until the smoke stack submerged and bubbled for a moment, then stopped. Water, I imagine, poured through the windows and rushed in first at the passenger’s feet. Had the little girl pulled her feet up? Had her mother squeezed her hand?
A few moments before the train’s scheduled stop, I could see the black shoulders of the locomotive ascending through the brown water, the light still shining as it must at the bottom of the river, the conductor’s face slowly coming into view. Water rushed out of the door as it slid open, a strand of moss hanging to one side. The man took my ticket with his waterlogged hand, ripped it, and passed the damp stub back to me. The little girl was still there, though she sat looking at the floor with her hands in her lap now. I sat across from her, but she didn’t look up. Her mother caught my gaze and I looked away. The train groaned, it’s rusty gears grinding against one another, and we lurched backward into the river. Water rushed in again, and if she had the first time, the little girl did not pull her feet up out of it. Neither did I.