Friday, October 31

track talk

'. . . But I'll tell you, Luśnia — here Wawera lowered his voice as if about to part with a secret — 'that there is also another thing that keeps me here. That it exists, I am sure, I can feel it deep in my breast. I just can't express it, can't put a name to it. But it's here, that thing, that strange reason.'

Luśnia was now looking at his friend with eyes wide open, his curiosity stirred.

'You mean now that it's not just this yearning-like for the trains?'

'No, no, that's something else. It's something that connects in me with that yearning but it exists beyond me, and without me, out of itself.'

'What's that, Wawera?'

'Shush. It's a secret. The secret of the dead run.'

They both fell silent, suddenly struck by a strange intangible fear, their eyes following the line into the already darkening mouth of the gully. In that bottomless silence of an August evening quiet but clear rustlings and murmurings began to waft towards them from the tracks: muffled lisps, fearful whispers, hollow knocks and clangs . . .

'Hear that?' the lineman broke the silence. 'Track talk . . .'

'Sure they often do of a summer evening. They shrink from the cold and so they clang.'

'Track talk,' repeated Wawera, ignoring the blacksmith's explanation. 'They talk in the evening, after the day's toil.'

'Track talk . . .' Luśnia echoed.

'Oh aye,' continued the lineman dreamily. 'Do you think they don't live like we humans do, like animals or trees?'

The blacksmith glanced at him quickly, surprised by the question.

'They do, Luśnia. They do. But they live their own lives, different to all the other creatures.'

That was a little too much for Luśnia's imagination. He looked at Wawera as at someone deranged, shook his head, spat from the corner of his mouth and moved a little to the right.

'And this line, do you think it doesn't live?' Wawera pressed on, goaded by Luśnia's passive resistance. 'And this gully, this station with the signal-box, this whole run?'

'It's a dead run,' dropped in Luśnia in a half-voice.

-- Stefan Grabiński "The Dead Run" (from In Sarah's House)
Tr. Wiesek Powaga

Stefan Grabiński