Part III: Directionless
“No time to dillydally. We’ve got to keep moving!” The conductor takes out his compass — a shiny, gold contraption that ticked as it moved. He treasured it. His eyes focus on the direction points, he blinks quickly as the needle lands on “N.” He is beside himself with glee. The next stop is just four miles ahead, north. “Due North!”
Tyson kneels down to eye-level with the conductor and smiles at him. He is intrigued by this man who is engulfed in his role, so much so it seeps into everything he does. He spies the compass and satisfies his curiosity.
“Whatcha got there, Mr. Conductor?” He leans his gigantic head closer to the windows of the toy locomotive and awaits an answer.
“Why it’s my compass, my dear boy! I never leave home without it. I’ve been railroading for twenty-three years now and this baby has been by my side. It has never once steered us wrong.”
Tyson flops his body down on the hardwood floors, lowers his head onto his hands, and props up his elbows. He can feel a story coming on.
“My pop gave me this compass when I was about your age. He was a conductor too. He’d seen so many beautiful, interesting, and unbelievable places. I’d see him two, maybe three days per month, but upon every visit, he had something for me — some new thing I couldn’t wait to get my hands on.”
Tyson could feel himself smiling, but getting sad too. Two or three days out of each month? He knew he couldn’t go that long without seeing his dad. He felt encouraged to ask the conductor how this made him feel.
“How’d you feel growing up not seeing your daddy a lot?”
“Oh, I don’t think I minded as much. They kept me pretty busy. My mom had me in so many activities after school, I barely had time to miss him. Plus, it was like a special occasion — this grand adventure whenever he came home. We all filled to the brims of our hearts with delight and anticipation.”
The conductor flips open the compass, smiles earnestly, bats a few tears from his eyes, and continues with his story.
“My pop conducted his train like no one else. The passengers loved him and the engineers depended on him. That train ran like clockwork — dependable and on time. Folks used to say, ‘You can bet on Smitty’s train. It’s one thing that’s sure in life.’ And they were right.”
Tyson watches the conductor. He feels himself shedding a few tears and wipes them quickly before anyone can see. The train slows down, approaching what Tyson thinks is the next stop. The conductor slaps his compass shut, twists his mustache by the ends, and hurries to the front of the train. Tyson looks on, enraptured by the magic.
To read the rest of this story, please click here. Originally published in The Weekly Knob via Medium.
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