The Train Leaves the Station

We spent hours every day in the hospital courtyard planning. The sun made the green leaves glow and we’d sit on a bench, always glad to see each other. We had it all up in our heads because paper would be too risky. We’d test each other: “Now, how are you going to remember that?”

“I’ll remember it because it sounds like ‘barn door’,” Meg would answer. We’d often start our meeting off with a quick review. When one of the nurses passed by we’d shut up or do the thing where you’re suddenly talking about Uncle Ernie or something trivial. “Yeah, Uncle Ernie was telling me there’s a sale of melons back in Carolina.” Neither of us had an Uncle Ernie.

In the back of my mind I thought we’d never actually do it. But for Meg it was dead serious from the start.

When it came to the day we’d long determined as the first day, I strolled down to the bench absentmindedly like I always did. Then I saw Meg’s face. It was very intense and somewhat reddened, her eyes burning. She walked over to me briskly. “I took the first one,” she said. “Here,” she said, looking away and handing me a blue pill. I stared at it dumbly. Then she turned back to me with such intensity that I stuffed the pill into my mouth as quickly as I could.

I said, “The train has left the station.” She grinned a nervous, crazy grin.

Then we sat at the bench without talking. She appeared to be trembling, or at least vibrating beside me. I picked at my fingernails. One of the orderlies passed and Meg said “Hi!” too loudly. Plus we never said hi to these guys. The orderly looked at her strangely and continued on out the other end of the courtyard.

Several hours later the sun dropped behind one of the buildings and it got colder. We both still sat there, twitching. Then I felt my arms getting rough. Soon there were tiny little feathers poking out. Meg noticed the same thing and started laughing. Her nose grew into a beak and minutes later we were flapping our arm-wings and flying straight up out of the courtyard. When we were a few hundred yards up, flapping furiously, I grinned with my weird beak-mouth. There was no turning back now.

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