the town of fernie is divided by a highway that, in itself, connects two parallel highways. this perpendicular cut, made possible by the elk river valley, also serves as the passageway for dozens of coal trains.
on any given night, especially crisp, sub-zero ones like today, a faint echoing train whistle can be heard on either of the far sides of the valley. never both at once however. that result would be far too exciting for everyone.
our house, next to this highway and in the very middle of the town, is a straight shot of five or six blocks from the tracks. i particularly hear the train coming around the bend after early nightfalls of occasional restlessness. once the initial warning blast is sent, i know that i have just enough time, if i so desire, to make a brisk walk towards the tracks in order to approach the final block by the time the first dark and raging car comes storming between the two, last brick buildings.
the beast moves swiftly and yet glides surprisingly quietly across the narrow path on the snow. however, the weight and heavy momentum does not go unnoticed- especially if i can make it to the last building. sometimes i lean against the streetlight pole or put my back against the brick. the ground trembles and i imagine a derailing and subsequent swinging and smashing of steel and wheels and then the destiny of any unfortunate thing that might have been sleeping near or, better yet, previously admiring the raw energy that had now spread as strong as a hurricane.
one. two.. three... four.... the longest i've counted was one hundred and forty total pieces. through the valley, across shadows, and past houses, this linked army marches without any recognition to any shivering observer. grey and neutral. mighty and serious. another night, another town.