SECOND PLACE: The Sound of a Train

By Kimberly Bailey Huwiler

The sound of a train. I’d like to be able to say “in the distance,” but it is so close that I can hear the rhythm of the rails as the metal wheels speed across them. I can tell something about the personality of the engineer, or whoever is in charge of the whistle. One is loud and long in his notes, the next short, and almost wistful. They call it a train whistle, which seems rather odd to me. It doesn’t seem like a whistle, but it’s definitely not a horn. And yet, there’s something alluring about it …

It’s warm again, especially for January, and my windows are up. Makes me very aware of its sound. When I’m on the phone with someone, I expect them to ask me — “IS THAT TRAIN IN YOUR BACK YARD?!?” — the way Dad did the night he called to give the news. I remember moving to the kitchen to escape the madness of the whistle, and the incomprehension of what I was hearing on the other end. It was such a loud, barreling train.

For weeks, I couldn’t hear a train and not think of that awful moment in my kitchen, holding onto the counter to keep from collapsing. Then it got so cold, and with the windows shut, and my heart in such a state of anguish and confusion, I couldn’t hear the train. Not really.

Just now, it passed by. My windows open, the whistle, and the sound of the tracks … I wondered where it was heading, and wished I could jump on.