Mike’s shift was nearly over. He looked through the window of his closet-like booth. Up in the sky, Venus and Jupiter and a crescent moon made a triangle of utmost sweetness. Mike moved his locomotive up the tracks, the first part of putting it to bed for the night. It was early fall. The train, jerking at the junctions of the tracks, rolled by the Dyckman Street platform, past a stone wall, a signal-box, a billboard advertising a drug for depression. It proclaimed Something Wonderful is going to happen. The bright moon lighted up Mike’s window.
The day before, Mike had been to the optometrist. The optometrist had gotten bored in retirement and joined an optometry clinic. He was a Vietnam veteran who had lost an eye to the Viet Cong. He was proud of his artificial eye. It was a blue eye, meant for seeing. Mike asked him how his own eyes looked and he said they looked fine. Mike said he bet he told that to everyone.“No. No I don’t. Sometimes people come here and just looking I can tell something is wrong. Not with you. Your eyes look fine. Let’s just take a peek…..”
The tracks were deserted except for a speck way down. They were shiny with moonlight. Mike’s locomotive trudged forward. He tooted the whistle at the speck. The speck grew bigger and became a man kneeling on the tracks. His eyes shone with moonlight. Mike tooted the whistle again.
Viewed from a height, the tracks would have been picturesque – the kneeling man, his face in moonlight, the lumbering train, the big bright moon, the striated shadows on the track. Each click of the train over the joints in the rails made the man bigger. Mike watched himself watching the man. Time slowed down and hung in the air. Mike’s personality flashed and sailed away, over the ocean towards Pompeii, towards Nantes. The moon cast a wake of silver shadows onto the striated shadows of the tracks.
The kneeling man saw Mike’s face in the window. The kneeling went on for some long seconds. Mike tooted the whistle. The man lifted his arm and winked at Mike. After this Mike didn’t see the man. Then there was a sound such as he had never heard before and would never after get out of his head. Mike fainted in his booth. Two bodies were carried from the tracks to the street. One was dead. The other was Mike.
It was hard to believe.