The New York-New Haven train (three or four cars, caboose, and an engine) leaves my hometown for Grand Central Station by day, by night, by day again, clack, clack, clacking through my backyard. Behind the storage tanks of B.J. Dolan’s Home Fuel Oil Company, the train pushes across the swamp meadows. Not so fast that I can’t see the passengers, though Margaret and Muriel and I hide in the tall grass because our mothers have forbidden, very forbidden, playing on the tracks. But fast enough so that the sticky milkweed and Queen Anne’s Lace bend backward, shocked, in the train’s wind wake. And then it’s safe to come out and look for the pennies we’ve laid on the tracks, thinned now, their presidential faces and patriotic mottos erased. These are the dog days of August, and we are the Lost Girls in ponytails, and though we have made a pact—together forever—I keep one eye always on the caboose as I listen for the fire siren that calls us to our five-o’clock suppers in our mothers’ kitchens.
April 18, 2012 Dispatches