He’s built a railroad in the basement
of his house. A hundred yards
of shiny rails, numerous locomotives,
couches, terminals, waiting platforms,
bridges, tunnels, houses, and various figures:
travelers with luggage, schoolchildren
at a bus stop, a policeman, a couple
of dogs, a group of deer by a small pond.
The layout is carefully thought through:
stations distributed along the loops,
a couple of crossing shanties smartly sited,
tiny cameras fitted inside the coach,
the control panel set next to the entry steps,
a projector aimed at a big white screen
across the room, speakers scattered around,
bundles of wire hidden beneath the structure.
This is the ongoing project: routes being changed,
terminals replaced, dummies added.
He presses a few buttons and everything
springs to life: locomotives are moving,
signals blinking, engines hissing, cars honking,
dogs barking. Images appear on the screen:
passengers sitting quietly by the window
of a car, scenery floating outside.
Over the years it cost him a fortune.
While the rest of his house is neglected,
the world downstairs is neat as a new pin.
He used to invite a few guests — neighbors,
acquaintances, their kids, strangers —
for the show lasting half an hour.
Occasionally he mused about charging spectators
a modest fee, but he never did it.
He retired several years ago, when his wife
got sick with cancer. He promptly put in
a hospital with a chapel at crossroads
and began running an ambulance through
red lights with sirens on. After the battle
was lost, he installed a funeral home
and a cemetery at the foot of the hill.
He also planted some trees along the road.
Nowadays we rarely see him outside.
The lights in the windows are usually off,
which is not alarming; we know where
he is: downstairs, busy with trains.
Everything is running smoothly, everything
is under control. An express arrives, the crowd
spills out, fluent motion, restrained laughter...
The subtle workings of his model of bliss.