The trains didn’t stop at my hometown anymore,
but on firefly nights with windows wide open,
I could hear them rolling all the way down along
the Hudson, south to Grand Central or north to Albany,
then west to places I had never been. It was my world
then, the tract house neighborhood full of kids, the A&P
and Western Auto, the Tastee-Freeze, and our elementary school.
We played softball all summer long, games of ghost runners
and poison fields, bought icy, little green bottles of Coke
at the Sunoco station on the bike ride home. Our dads were back
from the war and the G.I. Bill to computer jobs at IBM
and highballs before dinner, tomato gardens in the backyard.
Moms kept house on coffee and cigarettes, served meals
like clockwork with church every Sunday.
But the summer games became summer jobs scooping ice cream
or painting houses, then the kids all scattered for college, or jobs
in Houston, Charlotte, or Atlanta. I heard the A&P got torn down
and the school closed, came to realize my parents were forgetting
any news I gave them on the phone, ran out of good excuses
for not getting home more often. They had our house air-conditioned
a few years before they sold it and moved down to Tampa for good
and died soon after. I came home the last time to get my yearbooks
and baseball glove still up in the attic, and I’m sure that down by the river
the trains were still running like always, but I couldn’t hear them anymore,
my bedroom windows now closed up tight.
– David J. Thompson