We’d nicknamed the old diesel shunter ‘Shirley’. She’d sat patiently in an old siding for years, her yellow paint peeling to brown. My Dad had a saying; as useless as a barnacle on your forehead. The Boy convinced me she had a face…
‘…with the headlamps as eyes, and those two rust spots as nostrils, and the warning stripes as her teeth…’
We’d played in her as kids, pulling the inert levers and honking pretend horns. As we grew from single digits into doubles, as boys and girls entered the scene, Shirley shrank in our eyes. The weeds clambered over her wheels, fencing her away. She became less of a monument, surrounded by new shiny towers, that didn’t even deign to reflect her shabby form over the brilliant sunlight pounding our little corner of wasteland.
But, as I pointed out to my ex, I knew a spanner when I saw one. So, on a mild April night, heads full of terrible cider, we shambled out for one last goodbye before The Real World claimed us.
The Boy always loved trains and, even now in his oversized suit, I saw him shrinking inside it. Half an hour later Shirley purred again. I’d read all the books, passed my Engineering degree, worked towards this moment when I took his soft hand onto a lever and pushed it forwards. Our cabin vibrated and she began to rumble forwards.
I looked into his glowing eyes and said I love… …this.
I know, he smiled.