I crouch in the shadows by the tracks, ‘cause that’s where I can hear it ringing.
The train comes by every day, but if you stand up, you can’t hear it. Sure you hear the rattle, you hear the clacketa clacketa, you hear all the metal sounds of it jumping along, but you don’t hear the bell.
I guess maybe the tracks make the bell. I’ve been waiting here about ten minutes. I don’t have to wait too long, since I know when the train comes. I settle in, every time. I don’t stand shifting foot to foot. It’s not long enough for the deer to come back. Stupid deer, not even afraid of the train anymore. But they mind a person, they mind if I walk in, so they are still gone. I might see a newt, or a snake.
I’ve seen a woman here, too, sometimes. She’s got a long white dress. Not white like Mama’s white dress. That’s white like inside a potato. This lady has a dress white like the shining bits of a cloud. White like chalk rock. White like old cow bones are white. She likes the trains too, I know. She comes and waits, and the trains pass and make the rails ring. It’s a crunchy ring, and it has a whole set of voices in it. I think she hears it too. I’ve seen her crouch down.
One time my sister broke the cheese bell at the store. It’s a glass bell, or it was, and she tried to sneak her hand under to steal a bite, she’s crazy for smoked gouda, but it was heavy as a cannon and she dropped it. That rang too, hidden under all the sound of smash.
Sometimes I hear the clacketa clacketa and I know the train will be here before I get close enough to crouch down and hear the bell. Then I just freeze and listen wherever I am. There’s no sense wearing a white dress, really. White is just yellow that ain’t yet. I don’t know why she comes. Maybe she can’t hear it at all.
Dinner bell is cleaner. It rings two times and if you don’t come, no dinner. It’s a simple sound: now or never. But the train rings the tracks and tells ten stories, all at once. Story about a white dress, story about the tracks. Story about the cheese bell. Story of a gunshot. Story of my dad whipping us all with his black belt. It’s a long belt, and it cracks, not rings, well, sometimes the tongue on the buckle rings a tiny ring against it, if he’s really mad and using the business end, but it’s a complicated sound, and you can hear it in the bell of the rails and the train.
Sometimes I can’t stand it at all and go home.
Leslie Ingham is a founding member of the Portuguese Artists Colony. She is currently at work on a novel.
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