Tyson’s Grandpa Joe bought him a Hornby Collection Br Class 5MT 4–6–0 Era 11 Model Train and a small, unique village to accompany it for his eighth birthday. Tyson’s dad, Roger, put the old locomotive model set together for his son. They sat alongside the living room couch, sprawled out on the cool hardwood floor, creating what they believed to be art. Tyson looked on in amazement, eager to commandeer the train from his dad and shout “Vroom-Vroom” and “Choo-Choo” as loud as he could. The village had little trees, people, railroad crossings, businesses, and tiny homes cramped in five separate boxes. It also included a conductor and engineer — in their very own boxes.
When Roger finished, he stood up, signaled his son to do the same, and they each ogled the scene before them. They salivated in wait, invigorated by a deep passion and connection between father and son. Roger gave Tyson the thumb’s up, and he jumped straight into action. He stepped away from his son, satisfied with his endeavor.
Alone with his prized possession, he bid the conductor to conduct, the engineer to navigate, and looked in on his village people and their families. He was animated in his voice-overs and fancied every piece before his eyes.
“Attention all passengers, this is your conductor speaking. We have several stops ahead of us and the first will be Quantum Row. Please have your tickets ready for verification and do enjoy the ride.”
Tyson blew heavy breaths from his thin lips, giving his best impromptu steam of the engine and roared on with a deep, guttural whistle from his belly. An avid fan of The Polar Express, he pulled on the hem of his t-shirt and threw a baseball cap on his head. He tapped the bill just as a conductor would. He channeled Tom Hanks as he continued.
“Tickets, please. Tickets, please. Have your tickets ready.” Just as he was beginning to fake verify tickets, the train moved on its own. The conductor sprang to life. He looked into the homes of the village people, and they were alive as well — moving on with their days as planned.
He rubbed his eyes. He shook his head. He stood up and looked down at the toy set and all its pieces, then kneeled back down for a closer look.
“What . . . what did you say?” Tyson looked at the conductor with both fear and excitement in his eyes.
“I said, tickets, please, young man! Where is your ticket?”
He sprang up quickly as straight as an arrow and fumbled around the living room for a piece of paper. Surely, the conductor wouldn’t care about his fake ticket — he just needed to have one. He chewed the inside of his cheek, nervously bent back down to the conductor’s eye-level, and handed him a small, ripped off piece of paper.
“Thank you, young man. You may take your seat.”
He sat down, slightly overwhelmed by the actions of his toy train set and its accompanying pieces, but he was definitely curious. He peeked into the windows of the village people. A family of four — mother, father, son, and daughter, were having breakfast. His gargantuan head and pool-sized eyes frightened them as he stared at their seemingly normal life. The mother screamed and pointed directly at him. The father bolted upright from his seat and raced toward the window — shouting boisterously at Tyson.
“Hey! What are you doing there?! What in heaven’s name? What are you?!”
Tyson backed away from the window and crawled a few inches to his right. Another family seemed to settle in for the evening. A mother, a daughter, a cat, and a dog. No father. No son. Just a quiet evening for them — or what looked like it. He lingered on and noticed the mother and daughter resembled his mother and sister. He leaned in closer and gasped unexpectedly.
“Mom! Celia! What is go-in-g on . . . What’s happening?”
He searched each room of this home with darting eyes. If his mother and sister were there, surely he and his dad had to be around somewhere. But how could he be in two places at once? This place didn’t even look like their actual house. He lifted the roof of the tiny home and searched each room, growing even more curious as he scanned the area. He found a strong, stout, and handsome man clearing boxes from the family room’s floor. He also found a little boy standing next to him.
“Dad? Hey! Hey! That’s me! How is . . . What is . . .? This can’t be happening.”
Little him looked up and nodded in his direction. He moved closer and opened his mouth to speak. Tyson pulled himself together, eager to hear what this tiny version of him had to say.
“So, you can see us? Can you hear us? Can you hear me, I mean . . . Can you hear you?”
Tyson nearly fainted. He rubbed his eyes in a hurried motion, bit the inside of his cheek once more, and fell back on his bottom.
“This can’t be real. I’m asleep. I’m asleep. Wake up. Wake up, Tyson!”
“You’re not asleep, silly. This is our world. We created it. Didn’t you know this would happen when you and Dad began setting up this place?”
“But, how come Dad can’t hear me or Mom or Celia? Why only you? I mean, me. I mean . . .”
“Grandpa Joe made us. He blew magic dust behind my ears and gave me the ability to hear and see you — me. I’m the only one in our family who can.”
Grandpa Joe was a jokester, but magic dust? Talking miniature versions of him and his family? A conductor who sounded and looked like Tom Hanks?! He would have a talk with Grandpa Joe, but first things first.
“Will you always be . . . you know — um, alive,” He asked Little Tyson. He twiddled his thumbs as he waited for the answer.
“As long as you are, I will be.”
“But, I’m gonna grow up. I won’t stay eight years old forever. Will you?”
“You must ask Grandpa Joe about that. He whispered nothing to me about growing with you — me.”
Tyson could hear his dad’s footsteps coming toward them. And as quickly as the action started, it phased into nothingness. The train stopped. Families froze in place. And Little Tyson stood by the window, a clever smirk covered his face.
Tyson placed the roof back onto his family’s house. “What a strange, unforgettable little world,” he mumbled.
Roger was interested in knowing what his son thought about his birthday gift. He patted his belly lightly and brushed his left hand over his beard to smooth it before speaking.
“So buddy, whachu’think?”
With an intense interest in his eyes and a glow all about his small body, he repeated — this time, so his dad could hear, “What a strange, unforgettable little world.”
Originally published in The Weekly Knob via Medium.
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