The acrid, creosote ties, and the steel-mill-symmetry of the tracks, led Brandon’s eager eyes directly to his locomotive friend.
A five-year-old boy has to yawp, raw and guttural, once he’s clear of the church parking lot. He has to loosen his collar, scratch and wiggle, find something in the frenzied world of things--not of words--and climb it.
“Percy!” Brandon said, lunging against the lap belt, and freeing the shoulder belt from under his right arm. “I see him, Uncle Galen!”
Segments of track were enmeshed into pavement, all leading toward a behemoth of steel, smoke smudge, and mechanical power—sleeping, for the moment, and perfect for the nimble legs and roaring imagination of a small boy.
“Hey, Percy,” Brandon said, climbing the ladder and walking along the footboard, the spat of his little hand smacking against the hull of the engine.
For 15 minutes, New Albany was the Island of Sodor, realm of Thomas the Tank Engine.
This was celebrity. Brandon’s eyes swam as his voracious mind connected myth and life. He rested his forehead against the green hull.
“Where is Sir Topham Hatt?” I asked Brandon. My nephew stood on tiptoe, trying to peer into the cab windows. He knelt, wondering at the menacing wheels, pinions, and gears. He loved this greasy goliath.
“Bust my buffers!” Brandon said, tracing his hand along the cab and stomping on the catwalk.
Brandon climbed down, leaping off the last rung of the ladder and crunching into the limestone. He peered northward, down the line, at the other cars, docked and silent.
“It’s like Tidmouth Sheds,” Brandon said. I nodded.
“Think Diesel 10 is down there, or Skarloey, or, Salty?” I asked. Brandon walked a few steps down the tracks, and asked if we could go farther.
“Better not,” I said.
I pointed to the back of the electric engine. “What’s that?” I asked Brandon.
He didn’t speak for a moment.
“It joins the trains to together,” I said.
“Coupler!..Coupling hooks!” Brandon said, and slapped me a high-five. “Bust my buffers, Uncle Galen!” Brandon said. His tennis shoes crunched the limestone as we talked about where to eat lunch.