An Explanation of and Justification for the Salary Increase of Class II Engineers Following the August Sixth Amtrak Derailment Near Sioux City, Iowa


Someone who is not your mother sits beside you on the train and complains about
your behavior. You have not done anything terribly wrong, of course, as you have not
done anything terribly wrong many times in the past, but neither has your behavior been
exemplary. The only real answer to her complaint is, of course, your father, who this
woman who is not your mother has never met. A young child, who is neither you nor a
representation of you, gives the woman a balloon and she acts surprised, though she is
not. You have, of course, grown into a very large and dignified lamb in disguise, who is
responsible for the progress of this very train on which you have not really chosen, but
been required, to ride, as a symbolic gesture of your competence. The young child begins
a rather lengthy discourse on the advantages and disadvantages of modern modes of
transportation and there is really nothing left for you to say but toot toot. You cannot
bring yourself to say it, so the train refuses to move. The child, who is not you, offers the
woman, who is not your mother, several orange slices, and you still cannot say it. The
oranges are very sticky and the balloon string gets very sticky and you cannot say it.
The woman, who is not your mother, lets go of the balloon string. The child, who is not
you, is outraged and huffs and puffs and chugs out of his berth. The train still is not
moving and the child goes looking for prophetic grasshoppers. “Toot! Toot!” whispers
the child as the grasshoppers go whirring across the tracks. You look to see if the woman
has heard the child, hoping to tell her the amusing thing the child has said, but she smiles
and whistles for the conductor, who takes your ticket and waits like everyone else for the
train to move, which it does now, as if it had heard the child’s whisper. You, however,
are not waiting for the train to move. You never really were. You are waiting only for an
adequate explanation of why the train was not moving. The child understands this and
hands you the balloon as the train begins moving. You write “Toot toot” on the balloon
and release it into the overheated air from the passenger window. You have no idea why
your laughter is chugging away into the night. You have no idea how much you will pay
to sleep next to it. You have no idea why your mother is not the woman who acts like
your mother.

Rich Ives is the author of Tunneling to the Moon: A Psychological Gardener’s Book of Days currently being published in serial @ Silenced Press everyday in 2014 and forthcoming in paperback. Begin from the beginning, catch up, read daily. Just refer to the Burrow Guide.