The Railroad

The Railroad by Neil Douglas Newton Read Free Book Online

Book: The Railroad by Neil Douglas Newton Read Free Book Online
Authors: Neil Douglas Newton
accomplish something; to fix things. For me it was slightly ghoulish. “What’s outside?” she asked.
    “The world. Reality. That,” I said, pointing at the TV,” is a rehashing of the same shit. It’s become unreal.”
    She stared at the TV sadly. “Let’s be alive,” I said, trying to get her attention. “That’s what counts.”
    In the end she went with me, though grudgingly. We made our way southward toward Union Square Park. Like everyone else around us, we paused to read almost every handout. I was appalled to realize that I was recognizing almost all of them as ones I’d seen before. Certain of them had planted themselves in my mind’s eye; the young pretty girl with the Italian last name who seemed like someone I might have known; the happy looking Latino man whose family missed him; the elegant older man who’d obviously been a power broker in one of the investment firms in the Trade Center.
    That day the park was a totally different animal. The first thing I noticed was that there were more people there than I’d ever seen. The second thing was that the fences had been trampled and people were sitting on the sacred young grass that was usually off limits. Like naughty children, a hundred people had violated the rules we’d all lived by.
    “Oh God,” Barbara whispered at my back. I turned and followed her gaze to one of the many statues nearby. A stone man rode a stone horse, his sword raised in defiance. I had passed him a thousand times but, this time, beneath him, were what looked like a hundred small memorials. Pictures crowded each other for space. On the ground in front of each of them was a candle. Candle wax was everywhere, flowing in pools around small shrines dedicated to people whose lives had been ended pointlessly. Interspersed with the photos were small messages with personal thoughts about war and terrorism and death.
    We spent a half an hour in the park; I was starting to feel overloaded by all the misery.  “This is depressing. I think I’ve had enough,” I told Barbara.
    She stared at me strangely; it seemed she’d been in mid-rant and I’d cut her off, having stopped listening to her quite a while before. I’d been through enough arguments with here to know that it was something her father had done all through her childhood and that it was crime in her eyes.  She walked stiffly behind me as we made our way west, back to my apartment. I found myself trying to think of excuses to get rid of her, but nothing plausible came to mind. As we passed the entrance to the subway, I saw a carefully hand-lettered sign hanging from one of the park walls:
    If peace were our only option, we’d all be speaking either Japanese or German.
    I laughed, treasuring the cleverness of the writer, though I might not have agreed a hundred per cent with the pat philosophy. Barbara studied me quizzically but I found I didn’t care to share the joke with her.
    *
    That night I watched the news; a bad idea considering I was doing my best to put everything out of my mind. I’d managed to gain a certain sense of stability with the help of some single malt scotch.
    As I watched I began to get annoyed. I had already gotten tired of seeing still another shot of the towers falling, the interviews with the families hoping to hear from their loved ones. As time went by it had come to seem like someone had to cover the story until it played itself out. The coverage was repetitive, the analysis vague and speculative.
    There was one story that was conspicuous for its lack of connection to the towers. A car had been found on a side road in Rockland County, empty of passengers. It had been registered to a Sally Brodman who recently had been involved in a custody battle with her husband. Skid marks seemed to indicate that the car had been forced to a stop. There was no evidence of what happened to Sally and her daughter Taylor, except that the numbers 4, 5, and 1, separated by dashes, had been written in what

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