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FICTION Tourist


Trap by Nicholas Thurkettle


The sign advertised the train museum


as six miles north of the main highway. Off the wide concrete these were slow, hot miles. The air buzzed with insects. The road rose and fell gently; not hills or even bumps, just waves of land, lulling me as I drove. Farm sprinklers – wheeled, industrial – perched over the land, feeding it from long metal arms, like giant mother birds.


I found the building – low and wide,


concrete and dark wood – sitting, humble and square and calm, on its appointed patch; surviving weather, surviving disinterest. My car tires sliced through the gravel of the parking lot, throwing up pebbles. I cut my engine.


Silence. A whitewashed wooden square


stood along the path; an old long oval hung over the door. Both made the same announcement – “Train Museum” – in simple red letters. The square sign had more to say, in the same slender hand-made letters: “See the history of the train rendered in these world-famous models!”


I felt an instinct to look around me,


but mine was still the only car in the parking lot, six miles north of the main highway.


That radiant sunlight left me dazed


and blinking as I stepped through the door. But my pupils widened, and the


26


room emerged in my vision, like the center dot of an old television, all light and color blossoming from one point to fill a black void – a simple lobby (not eight feet by eight), where a rack of postcards proudly flanked an American flag. And here was the woman – smiling, awaiting me.


Her squint and smile were like creases


in fresh bread. Small and plump, flowers on her shirt, traces of what must have been a buttercup shade in her simple white bob; I thought she could have stepped right out of the wallpaper. They had not always known each other, but they belonged to one another now, sure, like roosters and barns, berries and cream.


“Welcome to the Museum”, she said.


She produced a brochure. “This is the Model Train Exhibit, telling the history of the train. The displays are interactive, they are fun for the whole family. Try pressing the buttons you see along the way for surprises. Admission is a five-dollar donation, and please do sign our guestbook at the end, tell us where you come from and where you’re going.”


She stood back now and her smile


spread. For a moment I couldn’t move. “Enjoy the tour,” she said at last, and


I noticed I’d been holding my breath. I stepped into the horseshoe corridor.


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