Susan loves history, mystery and science, and has published 8 picture books for children. "Whistle at First Light," which first appeared in Boy's Quest more than 20 years ago, was inspired by her father building a model train layout in his basement. It is now a part of Short Édition's series, The Current.

Image of The Current - The Current
Originally published in Boy's Quest

There are mountains hidden downstairs
in my grandpa's country house
with craggy granite boulders
no bigger than a mouse.

Little trees of twigs and moss
hug miniature ravines,
where compact wooden shacks hold
tiny people, small as beans.

There, rattling through dark tunnels
and clattering down the track,
our model train is pulled behind
a small engine, gleaming black.

I sit beside my grandpa,
perched high atop a stool,
while he teaches me the basics
of engineering school:

When to throttle up on hills,
or throttle back on curves,
and how to slow the engine
as it nears the town it serves.

Our hands fly across controls,
throwing switches, turning dials
to send trains along their journeys
through a land of shortened miles.

Sometimes a car jumps the track,
derailed inside a hill,
so we crawl under the landscape—
(which gives me quite a thrill).

Concealed beneath the layout
is a shadowed, dusty place
where countless nooks and crannies
swallow tools without a trace!

We stand inside the mountains—
noses inches from the rails—
Grandpa twiddling with the wheels
and telling wondrous tales

Of his life working the railroad,
the sleeping berths and dining cars,
on trains that cleaved the darkness
beneath a million brilliant stars.

We run our train for hours—
I could happily spend days
enjoying wild adventures
along the secret, winding ways.

I dim the lights for sunset,
shine a flashlight for the moon,
and switch on every lamp,
to turn evening into noon.

When Grandma calls down, "Supper!"
the train's sidelined for the night,
and we'll race down in the morning
to blow the whistle at first light.

© Short Édition - All Rights Reserved

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