Glen, the Railway Man

The rails whisper before the steam even appears on the horizon, but Glen doesn’t know for sure that the train is coming until he sees its headlight blazing the way. His vision is failing him, and his hearing is all but gone. There’s no mistaking the feeling of the earth rumbling though, as the steam train pulls up to the Bendangle Station.

Glen has always been an enthusiast, travelling around the country to stay up to date with the latest historic locomotive restorations. He worked with the railways for most of his early life until he started a family and got an office job. He was bitter about that. He had to slave at a desk to support his wife and children, which demanded more than he could earn working for the railway.

He resented his family for tying him into a life of mediocrity, but now that age has the better of him, he wishes his children would just take some time away from their own pursuits to come and watch the trains roll by with him. They must have sensed the resentment he had for them, because as soon as their mother’s funeral was over, they had nothing more to do with him.

Now, Glen watches the trains going by his little station of Bendangle. It’s just down the street from his rented unit – the only thing he could afford after a life of work. As much as he blamed his kids for tying him to a passionless existence, he still loved them. His love manifested itself in his buying them the best he could afford, but he never asked them their thoughts, or their fears, or their desires.

Glen watches the train approaching and thinks to himself, “my son could have engineered that train from the ground up, now that he’s a mechanical engineer in Seattle.” And he thinks, “my daughter could have coordinated the restoration of that train, now that she’s managing projects in Shanghai.”

Glen waits for the steam train to unload its passengers and he sees it pull away. He hangs his head, thinking of his loneliness and regrets. He sets foot on the level crossing on the way back to his rented unit. He doesn’t hear the station attendant blowing his whistle. He doesn’t hear the bells jingling. He doesn’t hear the rails whispering. Glen definitely feels the ground rumbling before an electric commuter train mows him down like a blade of grass.

T

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