Shunt

The boys in the yard ask him to drink with them. Normally he’d be in it. He thinks of Gloria. ‘Whenever you’re in town, if you’re feeling like company…you know where to find me.’

He drives diesel locos. Interstate mostly. He hauls coal and pig iron and shipping containers full of cheap desire. Sometimes he takes passengers—transcontinental tourists and train nuts.

He keeps to himself—up front of a mile-long train you’re on your own. That’s commitment enough for him. He likes his own company. He has no family. No close friends. He has Gloria. A siding off the main line. Tonight he is going to her.

There are potted plants at her door. Music blaring. New curtains where the old polka-dot ones hung, yellowed by tobacco smoke and grime. A girl in track pants opens the door, takes one look and calls, ‘Muuuum.’

‘I’m sorry,’ the woman says. ‘We just moved in. The place was empty. I don’t even have a forwarding address.’

He shrugs. It’s lucky for him he doesn’t care for attachments. He walks back to the shunting yard to listen to the violent clang and creak of steel on steel in the burnt oil morning.

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