Andrew Siegrist ~ Tracks

We wait­ed for the trains. The stolen match­es we struck burned out across the tracks. Our father packed sleeves of crack­ers in a plas­tic bag and told us to come home in the morn­ing. Mother was away again. This time, maybe Memphis. She’d tak­en the cord to the tele­phone. She’d tak­en the hinge pins from the front door and left it lying in the uncut grass. We car­ried rocks in our pock­ets and felt with our feet for the rails to shake. We knew our father was smok­ing Reds in the emp­ty door­frame, too far away to hear the sound of stone against met­al as we dropped the rocks and wait­ed for the trains.

Our sleep­ing bags were rolled tight and tied with shoe string. They were singed with holes from the match­es we flicked. It was sum­mer and all around the insects wor­ried loud­ly from the tree leaves. We bal­anced crack­ers on the rails like coins to flat­ten. We imag­ined Memphis in the morn­ing. Wet streets and bot­tle caps pop­ping beneath the tires of tired cars.

She’d been a singer once. We knew that much. And we knew our father was smok­ing Red’s and would laugh when he found his oth­er match­es miss­ing from the kitchen draw­er. The evening clouds were the col­or of ash left in a glass of water. If it start­ed to rain we’d let the unlit match­es ruin in our pock­ets. We should have stolen the cig­a­rettes too. A bot­tle from beneath the sink where we knew it was hid­den. Instead we knelt between the rails and ate the crack­ers with our hands behind our backs. We took our shirts off and tied them around our heads. We watched the night for some light to promise itself in the dis­tance and for the rails the shake. The clouds kept qui­et. The skin of our fin­ger­tips smelled of sulfur.

The grass beneath the door in the front lawn was already begin­ning to die. That’s what our father told us as he tied the neck of our crack­er sack shut. And we knew the house would still be wide open in the morn­ing when we came back. The lights on all night, our father light­ing cig­a­rettes off the kitchen stove and laugh­ing, walk­ing bare­foot out into yard and step­ping over the door there. He’d sleep on the couch and leave the bed made. She was some­where in Memphis with those hinge pins clink­ing in her pock­et as she danced to boo­gie-woo­gie piano and flirt­ed free drinks from the bar stool saints.

We imag­ined a patch of yel­low grass in the shape of what our moth­er left there. We struck the last match­es. And they burned and they smoked and we wait­ed for the trains.


Andrew Siegrist has pub­lished sto­ries in the Mississippi Review, Wigleaf, trampset, Baltimore Review, Arts & Letters, Greensboro Review, Pembroke Magazine and else­where. He is a grad­u­ate of the Creative Writing Workshop at the University of New Orleans and lives with his wife and two daugh­ters in Nashville, Tennessee.