The Crossing Guard
A Storyby Sara Houghteling
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.