Cities and suburbs, real and imaginary.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Julia, tell me, where did all your father’s trains go?

I walked around Vancouver, and found nothing but train tracks and not a single train came to drive back the blackberry bushes from the side of the tracks. I tried pushing my way through some bushes once, when I thought I could get between them, and it cost me a shirt and a little bit of blood.

Hungry things, those blackberries, nibbling on anything that comes their way. Their fruit is the color of blood. I imagine the birds that swoop in, and the dogs and squirrels, pay the price for what they pluck, just like the kids do when they get greedy and dig into the deeper places in the bush.

And the trains, I suspect, lost the will to fight against the blackberries. Steel may be stronger than a single branch, but branches heal and steel does not. The trains won the early battles, but every little scratch built up until the trains pulled their jagged cheeks from the port city. They ceded their realm to the cars and the boats and the blackberries.

Even your father retired from the business to a house surrounded by blackberry bushes in Burnaby. He had said that originally, the train engineers liked planting the big bushes because it kept drunks and bums from lingering in the shadow of the tracks. Fewer people got hit by trains when the tracks were wrapped in blackberries. And, the neighbors liked it, because they liked plucking off all those berries in late July.

I think the blackberries are part of the conspiracy. They are not a native fruit. They came to this island with the trains and the waves of sailors from all over the world. The fruits were originally from Norway, or Germany, or some other cold, damp place full of old nightmares.

Your father knew something, Julia. Your father retired from the trains before you were taken. He built a huge fence around his house. He planted poplars and roses that shot up from that volcanic soil like weeds. Everything grows in Vancouver, even vampires.

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