Mary Anne used to love her brother’s Lionel trains. He’d long since stopped playing with them, or rather to tell the truth, he’d never much played with them. Their father had bought them for him when he was 6 years old. Thinking of that Christmas of so many years ago, she could remember her Dad sitting for hours with a bored Jason putting up the tracks down in the playroom in the basement. After a day of seeing the train go round and round on the special table their father had gotten for the set, they just sat there. Strangely enough though if Mary Anne wanted to use them, her brother would shout that they were his and to leave them alone.
It was a couple of summers after that famous Christmas. Dad had gone off somewhere leaving their Mom and them behind. Mom never talked about it and Jason just got mad if anyone said anything about their Dad. He took the train set down, putting everything into a box, shoving it into the back of the garage.
Mary Anne saw where he’d put them and one hot morning she went to the garage and got the train out of its box. Out back of the garden there was a small gazebo surrounded by sand and pebbles. She attached the engine to the cars and began to play.
“Toootoo … all aboard for Westchester!” she intoned, and began her imaginary journey throughout America. From Westchester to New York from New York to New Orleans. She imagined the big cities and imagined walking around them looking for her Dad. Around noon, Mom called her in for lunch. She hid the train under the gazebo’s skirting shouting: “Coming Mom, just a minute!”
“Now, what’s my barefoot girl been up to all morning, haven’t heard hide nor hair of you.”
“Nothing much, I was just playing pretend.”
“And what were you pretending?” Jason asked.
She didn’t answer right off. She knew he’d get mad at her if he knew she’d gotten his train out and she couldn’t tell him she was looking for their Dad.
“Nothin’ much. Just imaginin’ how it’d be cool to travel.” She said in the end. After lunch she put the train away.
When she was 19 she went away to college. Mom had long since remarried and Jason had married too and had a little son of his own. She decided to go by train rather than take a plane. She’d always wanted to take a train trip and so Mom bought her the ticket and off she rode. She got off at her destination and called a porter to help her take her bags to a taxi. There on the street corner near the taxi stand stood a man who looked like her father.
“Daddy?” she said she walking up to the distinguished looking gentleman who so reminded her of her father. The man looked blankly at her … then recognition dawned in his eyes.
“Mary Anne?” he replied looking shy avoiding her eyes, “Well, it’s been a while, you’re all grown up now. You look a lot like your Mom.” A woman came towards him with tickets in one hand a two children tagging along behind her.
“Michael, hurry up! The train leaves in 15 minutes.”
He looked embarrassed at Mary Anne. “Well, it’s been nice seeing you again,” he said formally, “Here’s my card. Give me a ring sometime.” And off he went never looking back with his new family.
Mary Anne felt like she was six years old and barefoot again feeling all the emptiness she’d felt when she’d found out that her Dad had left them. A tear wandered down her cheek. She never called him.
Written for Mindlovesmisery’s Menagerie