The Royal Blue

Subject:    My Train
From:       Robbyboy@yahoo.com
Date:       07/06/2007 1:32 AM
To:         EsterM@shotguns.com

Dear Mom,

The other day I was downing a few cold ones at McCarthy’s and got to thinking about that American Flyer train Pop got me for Christmas. Leroy came in spouting his usual bull about how he’s going to take over the dealership and move into a Beverly Hills mansion. Normally I tune him out. But that afternoon he dragged me outside to see his new Monte Carlo. It’s painted deep blue, not exactly Navy, but a little warmer, like Navy with a touch of cream.

Anyway, it started me wondering about that blue train, streamlined, right out of the ’40s. Pop let me hold the engine and tender in my sweaty little hands. I remember how heavy it felt and what good times we all had watching it run. Do you know what happened to it? In all the commotion I sort of lost track. Let me know. I’m driving up to Sacramento in a couple of weeks and can swing by on the way back.

Your son,
Robert


Subject:    Your Train
From:       EsterM@shotguns.com
Date:       07/06/2007 3:42 PM
To:         Robbyboy@yahoo.com

Dear Robby,

I don’t hear from you in months and then all I get is a little bit of a note asking about a childhood toy. But what should I expect from a son who still hangs out with the likes of Leroy? I wished you’d talk with me as much as you do with your bar buddies.

Yes, I remember when your father set up the train tracks around the Christmas tree in the rumpus room. I was surprised he let you touch any of it. He always gave gifts that he cherished himself, and sometimes he was an Indian giver.

I think George bought the American Flyer in 1955 while he still worked at the Firestone plant. It surprised me that he’d spend so much money because he hated the color blue. All his suits and slacks were brown or black and he liked red a lot. Remember that crazy hat with the red band and yellow bird feathers? He’d wear that damn thing to church, for Chrissake. Sorry, it’s been a long time since I thought about your father.

No, I don’t know where that train got to. You might check in my garage on the shelf above the washing machine. There are some boxes of stuff from the old house, but they’re too heavy for me to lift down. Sorry for the crack about Leroy. It’s just that I’d hoped you’d have moved on by now and not still be hustling auto parts at your age.

Come for dinner and I’ll cook Polish. I haven’t made placki since your stepfather’s funeral. Bring some bottles of that French ale with the funny name. It’ll be nice, just the two of us.

Love,
Mom


Subject:    My Train
From:       Robbyboy@yahoo.com
Date:       07/08/2007 2:35 AM
To:         EsterM@shotguns.com

Dear Mom,

I’ll bring the ale and a big appetite. Nobody makes placki as good as you. Hell, nobody knows what it is. When I told Lupe at the Encino IHOP about your fabulous potato pancakes, she served me some soggy gut bombs that tasted horrible. But I didn’t complain because I eat there most mornings and the waitresses are my friends.

I’ll be in Sacramento to pick up a shipment on Friday, July 22nd. I should pass through Stockton around 5 and will stop for dinner, if that’s okay with you.

I didn’t remember that your apartment had a garage, but I’ll be happy to rummage around for that old train. I’ve been thinking about it a lot. Strange, huh? I can see Pop taking it out of the box. It was wrapped in that old-style corrugated cardboard. Watching it run round and round on its shiny steel tracks somehow made me feel, you know, good. I imagined that we were all on that train, blasting through the night, heading to some new city where there was no shouting, no tears, no boozing it up.

You’re right, Mom. I should be way beyond this auto parts job and the likes of Leroy. Maybe that’s why I need to find that train. It reminds me of when we were all together, when something as simple as a blue train could make me happy, when I could become more than just a fat Polack sitting on the end barstool.

Sorry to get all weird about the past. We’ve never much talked about it, and we probably should. Anyway, I’ll see you on the 22nd unless I hear differently from you.

Your son,
Robert


Subject:    Your Train
From:       EsterM@shotguns.com
Date:       07/15/2007 1:50 AM
To:         Robbyboy@yahoo.com

Dear Robby,

Ever since your last e-mail, I’ve struggled to decide whether to tell you the truth straight out. I’m afraid that if I do, you’ll stay away and I might not see you again. I figured if the blue train could get you here, then I could explain everything over drinks and a nice dinner. But it’s better that you know ahead of time and I trust that you’ll do the adult thing.

There is no blue train. Well, there was once, but it’s been gone since after Easter, 1956. The night your father left, we got into a real donnybrook. We were both pretty well ripped and I’m sure you heard some of it from your bedroom. Hell, half the neighborhood did. I felt jealous about how much you loved that train, how you loved your father for giving it to you. I thought he was trying to buy your affection and I couldn’t stand that coming from a man who beat me, ignored you. I couldn’t expect a seven-year-old to understand. I hope you can now.

I took that train to the LA River and heaved it into the concrete ditch. It’s long gone, Robby. The winter rains probably washed it to the sea. I’m sorry and ask your forgiveness. Can you do that, Robby? I was hitting the sauce pretty hard back then and wasn’t thinking straight. You know how that goes, those “Days of Wine and Roses.”

Please come to dinner and we’ll sort things out. We still have time to make it right, or at least better.

Love,
Mom


Subject:    Lost Train
From:       Robbyboy@yahoo.com
Date:       07/17/2007 2:35 AM
To:         EsterM@shotguns.com

Mom,

The one thing I don’t have is time. I’ve wasted most of my life wishing I’d done things differently, that you and Pop hadn’t been such sopping boozers. I was just trying to grab onto one tiny thing from my past that had made me smile. The Royal Blue’s not the only thing that ended up in the L.A. River.

Christ, Ma, was it really that bad? Was I just a pawn in some fucking power trip between you and Pop? I get better treatment from my alky buddies down at McCarthy’s.

I’ve got to get my head out of my ass and start looking for things that make me smile. Got to do something new that leads somewhere, makes me feel good, makes me feel. The only thing I feel when I think about you is anger. I’m damn angry, Ma. Maybe it’s not your fault. But I’ve got to find a different way forward. Hope you do to.

Robby


Subject:    Dinner
From:       EsterM@shotguns.com
Date:       07/21/2007 2:50 AM
To:         Robbyboy@yahoo.com

Dear Robby,

I know what I did hurt you. I’m truly sorry, but after all, that train was just a toy. You’re an adult now, and we can talk, make things better. Are you coming to dinner tomorrow? Please let me know. Please.

Love,
Mom


***
Terry Sanville lives in San Luis Obispo, California with his artist-poet wife (his in-house editor) and one skinny cat (his in-house critic). He writes full time, producing short stories, essays, poems, an occasional play, and novels. Since 2005, his short stories have been accepted by more than 110 literary and commercial journals, magazines, and anthologies including the Fifth Wednesday Journal, Birmingham Arts Journal and Boston Literary Magazine. He was nominated for a Pushcart Prize for his story “The Sweeper.” Terry is a retired urban planner and an accomplished jazz and blues guitarist – who once played with a symphony orchestra backing up jazz legend George Shearing.

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