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Rated: E · Non-fiction · Experience · #2277178
Digging up some fond memories for The Writer's Cramp.
It was one of those silly stunts that seemed dangerous at twelve years old. We stood by the railroad tracks in our bare feet and listened for the three o'clock train. It was only two forty-five, but my cousin said the train always came through sometime around three. Julie was my second cousin, to be accurate, and her parents owned the old fishing lodge where we were staying (“we” being my parents, my brother, and me). Julie lived in the lodge with her parents, her grandmother, and a tiny dog that looked to me more like a large squirrel.

The place was pretty much in the middle of nowhere, about two miles inside Vermont from the Canadian border. The nearest town was six miles away, and it had little more to offer than an Esso station and a convenience store. But we were there so my parents could visit with my dad's relatives and enjoy a few days of relaxation.

“Here it comes,” Julie announced. She must have had a sixth sense, because I heard nothing until two or three seconds later. Then, the soft throbbing of ancient wheels flowed into a melody as it blended with the sight of the engine rounding the bend, rocking slightly back and forth on tracks that had sagged and warped over many years of abuse.

I remembered waiting by similar tracks back home and watching to see what would happen to a penny my best friend had set on the rail. We'd tried the experiment once before, but never found the coin after the train rolled over it. This time it worked, but the result was little more than a flattened piece of copper that was no longer worth anything.

“Don't forget,” said my cousin, “you have to be quick, but not too quick.” Vague information at best, and a little scary at worst. She was on one side of the tracks, while my brother and I waited nervously on the other side.

“Wait 'til Julie goes,” I warned my brother. We stood what seemed way too close as the train rolled slowly by. I waved to whomever might be looking out, and a gloved hand wagged an acknowledgment. Then I waited, heart banging rudely at my chest. I glanced once toward my brother, and he looked even more scared than I felt.

Then we could see it. The caboose. And behind it? Nothing. Open air. Closer, closer, closer. And there was Julie, staring across the tracks at us. And calling to us. “Now.” She hopped onto the rail on her side, and we did the same on ours. And I could feel the heat of the train and the tickle of the vibration that resonated for a few seconds through my feet.

In retrospect, it wasn't all that special. But it was something I'd never done, as was kissing Julie in the hayloft later that day. And fifty years later, those are just some of the many fond memories I can dig up when I feel a desire to daydream. And if I feel a need to relive those experiences, there's a railroad track a couple of miles away. I never saw Julie again, but my wife has some pretty kissable lips, so she'll make a fine substitute.

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