"Pull in! Pull in!...Right here. See if you can find a parking spot somewhere.” My wife turned into the business like a getaway car that races to find a parking spot by other cars so it can disappear, by blending in. Our car was the lizard zipping under a rock, trying to keep still while panting, one eye bulging on the side of its head waiting for a predator to pass. “Are you ok? Are you sick?” she asked.
“Just park here, babe, behind the gas station, under this Live Oak.” We got out and slammed the doors shut.
“Where are we going?” she said, walking briskly behind me in her sandal flats, fresh after a pedicure with an Orange Sherbert polish. (I love her so much.)
“I saw a train.”
“Yeah. While we were going over the bridge on William Cannon, I saw a northbound train. Headlight on, everything. I want to see it. Get a picture and just watch it as it passes beneath us,” I said, going in and out of embarrassment for what I just heard myself say. We were headed back home from the bookstore. I had bought some Texas history and nature books, and a Flash comic for my son. She bought some records.
“Well, go, run, baby!” she said.
My running ability at this age is akin to a penguin with bad ankles fleeing a Polar bear, or a stumbling Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz. But I had to catch that train. The sun was somewhere above my head glaring like a sun in a Saharan death march, and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. Just a lone buzzard, wings spread wide, approaching from on high.
A siren blared in the distance, and a speeding ambulance floated by me with blue, flashing lights as I huffed, talking to myself, setting a pace. The blue reminded me of blue syrup on ice from the snow cones of my youth.
I ran, gingerly, even though my skeleton felt like a chuckwagon being drug over rocks by a team of crazed horses. Every old injury, every knot of scar tissue from my glory days blew steam from my joints like a train whistle. “I know, I know,” I thought to myself, “but I’m almost there. Just a little further to the top. I gotta catch this train.” I wanna see it. Hear the chugging engine, and the hot squeak of steel wheels rolling over the smoothed maroon of railroad tracks. When I ran up to the fence, the train had already passed. I looked up. Two buzzards perched on the light post above me, grooming their feathers. I could see the loose skin on their beaks.
I clutched the fence like every kid does, palm-side, with my fingers hanging over the wire, and rattled it a bit, disappointed.
My wife walked up. I stood there, squinting in the sun, breathing hard, like a U.S. Marshal whose man just got away.
“It was a short train,” I said. “It’s long gone. I was hoping it was a longer one.” She smiled. “Well, you tried.”
I looked at the railroad tracks on the other side. The caboose slowly pulled away in a straight line that led to the Austin skyline.
“You know I love you, right?” she said, smiling.
“Yeah, I know,” I laughed. “Who the hell would dart into a parking lot on demand, without an explanation, just so a grown man, a fat man, could chase down a train. I mean, it’s 93 degrees.” She smiled up at me, her sunglasses gleaming with sunburst, and reached for my hand. I kissed her and we walked down the bridge, past the food truck and gas station back to our car.