trains and kings

The campground was overgrown and in poor repair. Just ten years before, it had been quite pleasant and well kept.

We were eating wood chips and sawdust soaked in water. They were good, but not very tasty. You had to be out of the camp every morning at seven-thirty, but they let you back in at eight-thirty. You learned not to ask why.

Unlike me, the other young people in the camp had grown up this way. They knew nothing else. We were always on the move.

The birds were free, I thought, and so were the chipmunks and the squirrels. Why weren't we?

"How far can you take this path, anyway?" I asked, pointing to a footpath outside the camp. "All the way down the coast to Florida, I guess," I added, answering my own question.

Changing the subject, someone said, "She's from Denmark." He pointed at a woman sitting on a log.

That was her cue. She sang a capella, "Trains and kings/And satin and things." It was her song. She had a beautiful, rustic, untrained voice. She was young and not so young, pretty and plain, not so well groomed.

When she sang, her heart opened up. She looked straight at me, the new person, and sang, "Trains and kings/And satin and things."

Why "trains," I thought. Well, the song was about being on the road. Why kings? Was she royalty, or did she come from a country that had a royal family? Or did she put this word in the song just because she thought it would make people pay attention? Ditto, the word "satin." And why "things?" It rhymes, I thought, no other reason.

"Trains and kings/And satin and things."

We packed our belongings and left.

I awoke from the dream. That's a beautiful melody, I thought, much too good to let go.

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