A number of years ago, the wife of a local farmer died in an accident on the level crossing beside a cottage where we sometimes holiday. There follows my revision of a short piece I wrote that summer while we were staying in the cottage.
The eye conspires with distance to play a trick on the mind: two lines, fixed feet apart, appear to converge to a single point on the horizon. The distance between them steadily decreases until they vanish together from view.
The trains rumble past slowly, barely faster than a man walks, where once they sprinted and thundered and shook the walls of the little house. The house, really just a cottage, stands by the gate and keeps watch over the crossing of lane and track. The gate has been replaced, along with the fence. They are visibly new, looking very neat, and strong.
A sign, white on red, sternly instructs both drivers and walkers to “stop, look, listen.” He doesn’t need to be told — he knows. Every single day of his life he parks his tractor, opens the gate and stops. These days he’s a bit thinner, looks a bit older. Across the track and up the lane are the fields that he tends, but he’s in no hurry to get there.
From where he stands he can look left to the curve around the base of the hill, or right to where the track carries on straight for as far as he can see. While he waits he hears a train approaching. He backs away, closes the gate again. The driver works the horn of the engine on the way past, but the farmer doesn’t lift his hand.
When the train is gone he steps back up to the track and looks at the twin lines running off together into the distance, converging, disappearing.
Two smooth metal rails, always together. They have a common purpose, a common destination, until they meet their vanishing point together.
The man looks down at the rails by his feet. Two, together. One without the other would have no use, no meaning. No, they are together here and they vanish together on the horizon. That’s how it’s supposed to be: parallel rails, tied together, ending together.
Not like this.
He lifts his head and looks around again. This must be his vanishing point. Two rails, two lines running one alongside the other, never alone and ending together.
Yes. All he has to do is sit down and wait.