The silver Santa Fe bolted through the station, letting out a scream on its whistle. A dozen passengers stood on the platform, watching impassively. The train crossed a slow, wide river past a snow-capped mountain, veered around a fishtank and disappeared into a bookcase.
“Mother, this is worse than your Chippendales.” Juliana pulled the engine to a stop. “But it is fun. How does it go behind the books like that?”
“Not behind, dear.”
Juliana pulled out Anna Karenina and found it lower back corner chiseled out.
“Once again, the arts fall prey to big business. Who the heck did all this, anyway?”
“Rico,” said Margaret. “My main marketing guy. When I saw the track in his garage – a scale replica of Hawaii, would you believe – I just had to have one.”
She took the transformer and backed the train into the station. The vibrations sent a briefcase-toting businessman tumbling off the platform. The train hit him square in the head.
“Geez, mother. Didn’t Rico glue down the patrons?”
“They don’t usually display such suicidal tendencies.” She picked up the victim and set him next to the newsstand. “Here, young man, read the Wall Street Journal and behave yourself! So,” she said to Juliana, “Not to sound like I’ve converted to Judaism, but you nevah call me anymoah!”
Juliana slid Anna back on the shelf. “Just busy. Fetzle’s planning a designer’s showcase for next May, and it’s up to yours truly to find the designers.”
“Yes, and it’s difficult sleeping around besides.”
“You’re being a mother.”
“Well, I’m sorry. But just when I get used to being number two in your life, some schmuck comes along and cuts in line. And I miss seeing you.”
“I’m sorry, Mother. I promise I’ll do better. But it’s such a grind.”
“Is the husband making trouble?”
“No. He’s his usual absent self. And when he’s around, he’s too preoccupied – which is good, because Scootie’s wearing me out. And I certainly don’t mind that, but it’s more the combination. I have to maintain this exterior semblance of wifehood, keep Scootie entertained, and meanwhile try not to be swallowed up by my responsibilities at Fetzle. The fly in the ointment is that my growing duties at Fetzle means a larger and larger network of volunteers, trustees and staff – hell, half the population of Hallis. And if just one of those buggers figures out my secret – poof! – It all goes away, and I’m demoted to the town recycling committee.”
“A worthy cause,” said Margaret.
Juliana sat next to the station and picked up the businessman, peering under his fedora to see what color his eyes were. “Fetzle’s a dear place to me. We make magic there. Not that I don’t make magic with Scootie, but the pressure of having it all and keeping it is pretty intense. I think Scootie feels like that, too. We’ve got our little hideaways, but we never get the chance to relax. Between Scott and me, we simply know too many people in this damn state.”
Margaret said nothing, the surest sign of all that she was getting an idea.
“I think I know a place.”
Photo by MJV