The Railroad Men


excerpt, A Killing at Easter Hill, autofiction by Alex Rose

On a street pitched past grief, we sat in a bar for the railroad men 

Days of glory gone.

Peeling sepia prints of mighty locomotives and cheap gin now, terry cloth and memory

One old man in the corner.

Thorkild and I had been hired to edit an academic report.

“Straight forward,” he said. “Another pipe-bender, granulated dogshit for Professor Land. Lard it up. You know.”

“Want to hear some music now?”

Thorkild’s 17th floor apartment fronted the Fraser River; we stepped out on the balcony to take the afternoon air.

Look hard and look true, he said, everything below us moving fast.

No, not just the current and churn of back eddies, rafts of boomed-up logs, serious-looking tugs, speedboats pitching wildly in a sloppy grey chop.

Along the quay a parade of joggers, flaneurs, hobos and the young in one another’s arms.

A Max Beckmann painting, he said, with everything set in motion, everywhere aslant, so much detail in the torqued contrast of a September afternoon, all coming apart.

More drinking. Spoonerisms. Scabrous vituperation. Couldn’t beat Thorkild when it came to close editing. Detail, detail. King of commas, master of the semi-colon. Thorkild picked LPs for the gramophone: Arvo Part, Steve Reich, Sonny Boy Williamson and some early Stones:

“Since I was young I’ve been very hard to please/And I don’t know wrong from right…”

“Want to show you something,” he said, disappearing into the bedroom.

To re-emerge wearing a Viking amulet around his neck. Pewter. Bit of runic. And in the palm of his hand, a hedgehog named Taavi. 

My tiny dappled thing — “though in no way diminished” he said — bending down to release it on the carpet after shutting the patio door. We watched Taavi for a while. It crouched at his feet before working its nose across the dirty carpet to hide behind a bookshelf stuffed with dictionaries and reference texts.

We drank more beer, listened to more music and I began to think, at some point, Thorkild might tell me how much he loved Taavi— though he never did. Not a word.

Lee Bacchus photo


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