It is much the backyard I would have, if I were he. Trees, a ditch that is always full of the water diverted from the "great river", a tadpole pond, and just across that the railroad tracks.

Some might find such an annoyance, but to the man who is no one other than a bright child, now grown, it is anything but. For dog, however, perhaps it is something else altogether, for every time the train is but a mile or so distant Gottfried (the Pet Monster) begins to howl softly.

They drive by several times a day. There is a pattern, of course -- for a portion of the day they are always flying south, during the evening the long sequences of cars flee north. One begins to learn the pattern, to hear the whistle from afar. The melody of two longs, a short, then a long as they approach a crossing.

They no longer have cabooses, as they did when I was a child. The firemen's union has finally lost that final car. It is a pity not to see them, and yet that is merely nostalgia. One "makes do" with the people in the engines, the folk up front that keep the behemoth bellowing along. They still seem to appreciate being greeted as they glide past.

The cars themselves groan sometimes, a low-throated wrench of metal. When there is a difficult place to turn, when they are pinched by their neighbors they cry out in seeming anguish. The empty ones, with doors open to the wind and the countryside, give the loudest moans.

And finally there is the rail itself. It shimmers in the sunlight, it carries the voice of the far-off trains, it tries to hold the world in check with ribbons far too substantial. And yet one begins to understand how marvelously flexible they are. If woman could only learn to be so strong yet pliant it would be a marvel. If man could only pound during lovemaking with the same relentlessness of the wheels, held "on track" so, it would be a wonder.

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