The Crossing Guard

I was not home, earlier this spring, when the suicides happened. I had neither followed the news in the local papers nor known about the subsequent municipal answer to the town’s existential crisis—a council vote to fund a twenty-four-hour watch at the railroad crossing. It’s only now, upon my return here, in retreat from a string of difficulties in graduate school, that I see the Help Wanted notice at the site of the deaths. Track guards needed for nightshift at grade crossings. Beech and Main, Willow and Main, and so on, four familiar intersections, each a block or so from a school, each with a three-way pedestrian crosswalk where the railway track shares the urban space with the three-lane road that runs north-south through the spine of our town and separates the football stadium and its vestigial organ, the university, from the residential neighborhoods. I tear one of the fluttering numbers from the sign, return home, and place the call.

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