Grindel’s Ride Home
An icy-blue glow fell over the elongated rectangle of light that shone through the lace-curtained window of 1924 Meow Street, Kitty’s home and hearth. The snow, that only hours before had swirled in blinding spirals, now lay peaceful and serene in the suddenly harsh moonlight, special tonight, for it was Teedymas Eve.
Grindel stood in the icy-blue glow, her striped socks wet to her knees with cold slush. Clicking! Clicking! Clicking! The street was alive with clicking! She turned to see two black steeds pulling a navy blue curtained carriage speed by her, sparks flying from their hooves.
“Where’s my map?” She frantically searched her bags and her suitcase. “Where’s my map? If I’ve lost my map I’ll never find my way to S-S-S-S-S-Slooha Badooha.”
(In a small valley near the very heartland of Slooha Badooha a hen drank in her odd chickenesque way, her gullet pulsed as the cool water trickled into her belly. Overhead a flock of green-blustered rickspammers did an aerial formation that imitated the shifting pattern of the earth below.)
“S-S-S-S-S-Small s-s-s-s-stinking map. Too s-s-s-s-s-small to lose. Lost my map. And it’s Teedymas Eve.” Grindel resigned herself to a path without a map. “Have to make up my own map, find my own p-p-p-p-p-patterns, crazy-quilt it!” That was the modern version of riding the rails.
She heard the lethargic honk of the locomotive as it slowed in Walla Hebaha and knew it summoned her to ride. The purchase slips in her luggage were going to get the ride of a lifetime; a small menagerie of toy figurines comprised the rest of Grindel’s personal effects. But, never mind.
“That’s why they call them ‘p-p-p-p-p-personal’” she admonished a hobo just the other week.
A block over from Meow Street ran the railroad tracks. The train rumble, the clattering of horses and the noteworthy harmonizing on the Teedymas Eve hymn by three inebriated scuffbums lined up along the corrugated wine track all filtered through to Grindel. She opted to board away from the ruffians. Today was special. She would make her getaway to Slooha Badooha and no one’d be the wiser. That was her plan.
A woof of the engine, an irritated brake and the train stopped. She yanked back the handle, slid the boxcar door open three feet and peered inside. It was empty as far as she could tell. She tossed in her three plastics bags and her beat-up old suitcase and climbed in after them.
“This is the train to S-S-S-S-S-Slooha Badooha. I know it is. My cold feet know it. And my cranky knee is s-s-s-s-s-saying it better be.”
Grindel piled her bags into one corner of the car, leaving the door open for a bit of light and air. She plopped down, took a deep breath and relaxed. The boxcar was empty and full of shadows. The train shuddered into motion. Soon the clickety clacking of wheel and rail song lulled Grindel into a deep sleep.
Smidgens of cotton were getting up her nose. Floating seeds from the big cottonwood tree tickled her face and brought her to the street where she grew up. That’s where Grindel awoke.
“Clark the Clerk got a Click in his Clue
Who Knew? Who Knew? His Clue!
Who knew what Clark’s Canoe
Who knew? Who knew? His Click! His Clue!”
Grindel recognized that singsongy voice – it was her sister Colloquia singing a silly song they’d sung when they were kids. Grindel blinked and her sister’s face appeared before her surrounded by the sun, her mouth moving to the song, her lithe body swaying on the sidewalk on Aspradresia Street where they lived.
It wasn’t a memory.
Grindel began harmonizing with Colloquia; the sisters linked arms and did their funny shuffle down the street, singing as loud as they could. Behind them, an angelic swirl of cotton outlined their wake. The air was thick with floating seeds from the old tree, a trillion beads of hope.
Aspradresia Street was lined with elegant old maple trees that drooped lazily in the summer heat. The big cottonwood tree stood in the large front yard of the Shooshins family. They were circus folk, trapezers. They packed up their kids and stuff each spring and took off with the show, returning tanned, pumped and flush each autumn. Grindel and her siblings never spent a summer with the Shooshins children. There were no other children on their block so the three Squareaway children – Grindel, Colloquia and their brother, Cheyenne whom everyone called Chey – had to entertain each other all summer.
Their parents, Angel and Harvey, owned and operated Hotel Yesterday, its motto was “Let’s get tomorrow!” Both parents spent most of the day running the hotel, leaving the children with a nanny.
The sisters collapsed in a laughing heap of frilly skirts and pigtails as always-rambunctious Chey ran past them.
Grindel’s right eye flickered open briefly.
Plink! Grindel’s right eye opened, staring. The left followed shortly, staring in the dark.
She knew she wasn’t alone in the boxcar any longer.
The darkness cleared a little and she saw someone, rocking with the motion of the train, steel wheels harmonizing below.
Plink! Plink! Plinkity Plink Plank!
“Chey?” Her voice was a clothesline hung with drying question marks. “Is that you Chey?”
It was the sound a pick makes running over tight mandolin strings just below the tuning pegs.
Plinkity Plink Plank! Grindel began to make out a moving figure in the dim car, a lean shadow dancing to its own disembodied music, dancing as if the floor kept dropping two inches every few seconds.
“It is you! Cheyenne! Cheyenne!” Excited, Grindel rose to her feet with some difficulty and, arms open wide, ran toward her brother. Her face lit with impossible bliss, she threw her arms around…absolutely nothing.
This startled Grindel from her sleep. The rails crooned as the train slowed. It was morning, the sun was warm, the snow melting to skiffs and the sign said “Welcome to Slooha Badooha. You can dance here.”
“G-G-G-G-Good old train,” said Grindel, patting the rough wooden wall of the boxcar. She jumped carefully to the ground and stood among her bags, peering into the dark boxcar.
“Thanks for waking me up, Chey. Meet you by the big cottonwood,” she said. Gathering her bits and pieces, she shambled away toward Aspradresia Street.