It was only appropriate his guestroom held trains. Hundreds of them. In specially built shelves they lined the walls floor to ceiling, a miniature world spread out over the whole breadth of the room. Sitting on the ancient couch put us at eye level with the train table. Craning our heads 90 degrees allowed a view of the TV. It never occurred to me to question the expediency of such a set-up.
Grandpop’s trains were center stage, the best guests.
To my sister and me, the train world was not fragile, not expensive, not the offspring of faithful labor, love, and vision. Despots see their kingdoms the way we kids viewed Grandpop’s guestroom: How can we best exploit this for our pleasure? The three tracks of varying sizes begged to be raced upon. Everyone knows, if you run a train too fast around a bend, it jumps the track. But racing grandchildren don’t care a wit.
“Never, ever push the lever hard over,” Grandpop would wag a stern finger. Hard over was the first thing we’d do when he left our sides.
Grandpop, whose ears were trained to hear the sound of a model train wreck, the clack and crunch of precious engine hitting the miniature buildings, the table, the metal tracks… he’d come trundling in before the train had even finished crashing.
“Gald dern it,” he’d grumble in phlegmy despair. And wedging into the tight space between table and bay window, he’d gingerly, lovingly right the engine, holding it like a woman, fitting it back onto the tracks. I’d gaze in horror at the deep cracks in his thick fingertips, filled in with the blackness of years and labor. I didn’t understand how skin could get carved out like that: like a lake basin in drought.
Now I know.
*A new flash fiction contest: Microcosms. Every Friday they provide character, setting, and genre, and you have 300 words with which to play. Today’s were: grandson/guest house/memoir. I accidentally used guestroom instead of guest house, so perhaps I’m disqualified. Still, it was fun. If the chosen words don’t inspire, writers are free to spin until the muse strikes. Feels kinda like Vegas. 🙂 This is a mutt of truth and fiction. Mostly truth.