Sunday, April 10, 2011


by Gita Smith

Each night, the porter went through the train car, pulling open the double decker bunks and lowering the ceiling-to-floor  curtains that offered visual privacy between strangers. I was seven years old, traveling across Canada from east to west.
I crawled into the dark, womblike space of the lower berth and drew the curtains around me. A button on the wall turned on a tiny blue nightlight, and in its glow I fell asleep. Rocked by the train, soothed by the white noise of the steel wheels humming over tracks, I felt none of the fear I usually felt at home in the city. The men and women sleeping all around me were simply benevolent fellow travelers on the Canadian Pacific Railroad whose tired faces I would see over breakfast in the dining car.
Sometime past midnight, I awoke to complete stillness. Deeply accumulated snow had blocked our train's progress, and in the brightness of moonlit frozen ground I saw prints indicating a scuffle between some animals. I could make out various paw prints and a place where the top powdery layer was stained with blood.
Lake Superior, vast and lonely, stretched away from us forever and, in that moment, I understood that only the thin tissue of the train's wall separated me from the brutal North.


1 comment:

Salvatore Buttaci said...

Gita, I like the way what began with a pleasant description of a child's train ride ends in a kind of a child's epiphany about life and its possible dangers. Great piece!

Sal Buttaci