Beneath the locust tree Zoe circles and circles, gathering courage to flex her legs and collapse into the deep shade. But there is no comfort and soon she is dragging herself through the sun bleached yard, stiff-legged, panting, waiting for me to make up my mind. “Hip dysplasia,” the vet said. “You’ll know when it’s time to put her down.” In the blue air a turkey vulture circles, its swift shadow flickering, then glides over the ridgetop, and I find myself walking to the phone.

But if time were circular—like the twin tracks of the Lionel electric train of my childhood, its sturdy locomotive pulling a string of silver cars into a toy town with a crossing guard and a railroad station where I was waiting for the conductor to call out “All aboaaard”—I would climb the oil smelling stairs to the dining car where a vase of purple sweet peas was set in the middle of each spotless tablecloth and the waiter in his crisp uniform would bring me strawberry ice cream and root beer in a frosted glass.

Outside, the world would glide by in its green loveliness. Cows would stand in the tall grass beside a curving river and a red barn, and a man on his tractor would be waving at me. Beside him, black and white paws a blur, Zoe would be trotting, her tail going round and round like a propeller.

Some nights I slide my electric train under the bed and start the engine. As I fall asleep the town vanishes, the cows leave the meadow, and there is only the sound of something moving below me where Zoe went into the ground.

“Time is a Long Train Disappearing Around the Bend” appeared in the 2007 edition of the Labletter and as a Monthly Note in September 2009.

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