When I was young, my mother told me I’d gotten a phone call. I was whining about what terrible news it was certain to be, and she said, “How can it be good news if you don’t leave room for it to be good?”
I think of this every time I’m about to open a SASE. You know, the letter that, incredibly, some very high-end...
The train whistles in the distance. Slanting sunlight filters through the living room window—the train, which arrives and departs Memphis morning and night in the darkness, is late. Seated on the floor, I rub the dog’s belly and confide, “I love the train.” How I can love the instrument of my daddy’s death is beyond me....
I don’t exit well.
Astounded, I stared at the blank space on the dining room table. Last time I looked, my train ticket had been lying in that spot. My “this is not a ticket” information sheet, too, just in case I needed it. Ahead of time, I’d dutifully printed both pieces of paper and laid them in their special place. Which was now blank.
We were many. An overflowing, summer-stuffed, unpracticed group. Even those of us who weren’t novice train-goers were intimidated by the crowd, made nervous by the excess: would I really have a seat?
He was kind, the conductor who did not view his job as an opportunity to inflict minor cruelty on those more ignorant—and dependent—than he....
Without a whistle
without a lurch,
the train moved out.
Stationary at the crossing
doing God knows what,
and went along its way
unaware that three heartbeats before—
one thump thump,
two thump thump
three thump thump,
a boy had been shoving his bicycle
between the cars
then clambering up and over after it,
impatient to get along...
Riding the train from Memphis
watching the tracks go by,
I was struck by the railroad ties
strewn hither and thither
along the way.
Old ties, been there a while—
it wasn’t like the tie collector
was chugging along behind me
ready to recover the rotting ties.
I couldn’t help but think of my
and the wonderful things she could make...
It’s six o’clock. The cab was supposed to be here at six o’clock. I call.
“This is Ellen Prewitt? Y’all were sending a cab?”
“You’re in Harbor Town, right?”
“We’ve got someone coming.”
I stuff the phone in my back pocket.
Two seconds later the phone rings. “I’m coming to get you. You’re in Harbor Town, right? I’m on Park. I’ll be there...
As irrefutable proof of my ingrained belief that the problem must be mine, I retained the title, description, and target audience given to me by a former agent whom an editor said was not marketing my novel correctly. That period is over.
Old Title: Trouble at Big Daddy’s Chicken Palace Emporium
New title: Don Chickote: Or the Strange Adventures...