Canal Town

September 19, 2008
By Jaclyn Harr, Fairport, NY

No one in that little town knew how much it moved. To them, it seemed like a place in stasis, but they were all lulled to sleep by the sound of the trains that rumbled over their houses and roads and baseball games and convenience stores night and day cutting the air with their headlights, and they all stopped their cars on the way to the grocery store to wait for the rusty bridge to lift itself up on its ancient wheels and cogs to let a boat pass underneath, the town’s iron gatekeeper. On the concrete shore, teenagers in last year’s fashions of stripes and jeans that fit too tight huddled around the gazebo where bands played on warm Thursday evenings. The boys on their skateboards made a racket, coasting over the bricks to show off to the girls, who were oblivious to the contest to win them, like a jousting match with a princess as prize. I paused to watch them, a pile of books forgotten in my arms. Even inside this building made of brick and industrial carpet and bookshelves, pervaded by scholarly quiet, the beat continued in silence. The children’s librarians (both blond; one young with piercing studding her lip, and the other middle-aged and bespectacled) sat and stitched bright orange book bags that had come apart at the seams. I stood still and felt the rumble and bustle and rhythm associated with cities act itself out in this Victorian village, grown modern.

The rhythm is such that we don’t always notice it. Awakening, school, work, soccer practice, sleep, but everyone took for granted the background sound, the sloshing of muddy green water pulled by decorative barges, and the roaring arrival of graffitied boxcars. My town, my own little town, where I have spent almost every day of my life, is such an adventure. It’s a place with dentists’ visits and commercial television and schoolwork, but at any time someone could go, or someone could come, and though the slosh and the rumble and the buzz would all be the same-- it could make all the difference.

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