We’re on a train. Shirley Temple is here. Everyone is quiet. The program is to go back to 1939 to make a film called Cosmopolitan. Shirley Temple will be young again—she’s seated here right now up near the front, in black buckle shoes, a pleated above-the-knee skirt. The others are similarly dressed and everyone is ready: we are going to go back on arrival. We will find ourselves in the old time. We will revisit our youth. The process is still new—this is just after the first test rides—so we’re all completely quiet, remaining focused, hands at our sides. The train claps and rumbles through the old countryside, forcefully, as if it’s burning out a trench in the land. It is very late in the night, and we’ve been told that by dawn the wide circuits will have finished, that all will be done.
We remember fishing out in the woods. At the cabin. When Dad was there. The place was idyllic. There was a great silver mirror, a lake. Pines ringed the far end. The air was always so moist—and clean, as if it came out of the ground. We stayed in the cabin. Most of the long summer nights there were cool. You could hear crickets. Dad wore red flannel shirts. I was so young. Life would not end. We took pictures there.
This is what presently happens: hours go by and I am not moving. Shadows roll high on the ceiling and walls. I just know that in time my life will begin.
In the dim fog there are pines that stand out like sentinels, that appear as the view quickly whips past, that stand frozen alone in the half-hidden dark of the land. I keep wondering when someone will talk. My mouth and the land are both dry. We are on a slight steady incline. The train keeps pushing forward. Out there on the land there’s occasional rocks—I can see them—but otherwise the ground remains red-brown and dusty and barren. There are dark lonely pines, sometimes alone, sometimes in small clusters, occasionally grown heavy in green-blurring groups. We pass a small station with smeared white-tile walls, a few empty wood benches all rotted and sagging beneath the low overhang—there’s no electricity, the place is abandoned, there’s no one around. The train does not stop. I think it keeps moving. We are emerging now from the fog. I can feel a great pressure, a dull nudging ache, the rest of me lightweight and fluid. I’m living in hope. In just a few moments the dawn will have broken, and I will be young.