April 2012, Harper’s Magazine, New York. ‘ Train’ : a story by Alice Munro . Commissioned and published linoleum cut illustration series.
“He heaves his bag, and sees it land just nicely, in between the rails. No choice now—the train’s not going to get any slower.He takes his chance. A young man in good shape, agile as he’ll ever be. But the leap, the landing, disappoints him. He’s stiffer than he’d thought, the stillness pitches him forward, his palms come down hard on the gravel between the ties, he’s scraped the skin. Nerves.
The train is out of sight, he hears it putting on a bit of speed, clear of the curve. He spits on his hurting hands, getting the gravel out. Then picks up his bag and starts walking back in the direction he has just covered on the train. If he had followed the train he would show up at the station there well after dark. He’d still be able to complain that he’d fallen asleep and wakened all mixed up, thinking he’d slept through his stop when he hadn’t, jumped off all confused.
He would have been believed. Coming home from so far away, from Germany and the war, he could have got mixed up in his head. It’s not too late, he would be where he was supposed to be before midnight. But all the time he’s thinking this he’s walking in the opposite direction. He doesn’t know many names of trees. Maples, that everybody knows. Pines. He’d thought that where he jumped was in some woods, but it wasn’t.”
“Climbing over the rail fence, he waved in what he might have considered a reassuring way.
That was too much for Margaret Rose, she had to put on a display. Jump one way, then another. Toss of the wicked little horns. Nothing much, but Jerseys can always surprise you in an unpleasant way, with their speed and spurts of temper. Belle called out, to scold her and reassure him.
“She won’t hurt you. Just don’t move. It’s her nerves.”Now she noticed the bag he had hold of. That was what had caused the trouble. She had thought he was just out walking the tracks, but he was going somewhere.“That’s what the trouble is. She’s upset with your bag. If you could just lay it down for a moment. I have to get her back towards the barn to milk her.”
He did as she asked, and then stood watching, not wanting to move an inch.She got Margaret Rose headed back to where the pail was, and the stool, on this side of the barn.“You can pick it up now,” she said. “As long as you don’t wave it around at her.” You’re a soldier, aren’t you? If you wait till I get her milked I can get you some breakfast.
“She calmed down and cheered up once they got to their turnoff and were actually in the city. They found themselves on Avenue Road, and in spite of exclamations about how everything had changed, she seemed to be able on every block to recognize something she knew. There was the apartment building where one of the teachers from Bishop Strawn had lived (that was only the pronunciation, the name was spelled Strachan, as she had told him a while ago). In the basement there was a shop where you could buy milk and cigarettes and the newspaper. Wouldn’t it be strange, she said, if you could go in there and still find the Telegram, where there would be not only her father’s name but his smudgy picture, taken when he still had all his hair?
Then a little cry, and down a side street she had seen the very church—she could swear it was the very church—in which her parents had been married. They had taken her there to show her, though it wasn’t a church they were members of. They did not go to any church, far from it. Her father said they had been married in the basement but her mother said the vestry.
Her mother could talk then, that was when she could talk. Perhaps there was a law at the time, to make you get married in a church or it wasn’t legal.”
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Excerpt are a copyright of Alice Munro and Harper’s Magazine 2012
original linoleum cut . linogravure originale . linóleo grabado original . incisione originale . Copyright © Raymond Verdaguer 2014