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FICTION Display cases ran along both walls,

closed off by windows of durable plastic. I felt, more than heard, the buzz of fluorescence. Worn carpet rolled ahead of me; taking a sharp right out of vision at the far end, calling like a forest trail.

And behind the clear plastic, the trains

made their steady rounds. Trains from every age – they crossed

lakes of blue paint; burrowed plaster mountains with a tiny bulb to light their way. Without trepidation or triumph they whirred through the same loop they’d whirred through three minutes before, and would again three minutes hence. They did not stop for passengers, nor the old model of a coal chute sitting on toothpick-thin legs. Dauntless, humming unperturbed, they carried all the fuel and passengers they would ever want.

Following its own program, the light dimmed and made a nightfall. Streetlamps winked on in model towns; a lighthouse in dignified, solid gray cast a guiding spot towards ships that would never come in, being painted on the back walls. The trains stayed true to course and speed, and soon their constructed world gave them daylight again.

I paused at a placard by a miniature

station; a simple old platform crowded with figurines in fancy dress, top hats the size of a cat’s nose. They stood in jubilant poses. The placard read:

“When a son of the Maffit family of

Chicago fell in love with a daughter of the Hovey family of Lincoln, it was decided to hold the wedding on a train line that ran between the cities, so each family would make a trip to each others’ home. The celebration lasted three

They had not always known each other, but they belonged to one another now, sure, like roosters and barns, berries and cream.

days, time enough for two more members of the families to spark a deep affection for each other. And at the Lincoln station, the families disembarked, leaving bride and groom to their honeymoon in the mountains of Colorado. In 46 years of marriage, they never rode a train separately.”

So many words squeezed onto that

placard; yet the letters seemed to stretch and swell to my vision as I read them, as if straightening up with pride. Night fell on the Maffit and Hovey families, which did nothing to quiet their celebration.

The train tracks ventured into a brown

desert plain, and I followed them. Towering rocks stood sentry along its path, and the rear wall was painted brilliantly blue. A metal button poked out of the display towards me, like a small bud. I pressed it, and a trail of bulbs made the impression of a shooting star, a present for travelers far from the lights of home.

I waited for daylight; pressed it again.

Invisible now, and yet I knew it had happened, and it gave me a strange comfort.


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