Train Tracks

train tracks

Each day after school, a little brown boy grabbed his backpack to begin his journey home. As he exited the main doors, he would look down at his sock with the blue stripe, near the top, slouching around his ankle. He would reach down and pull it up. As he began to walk, it would fall back down, again. Each time, he would stop and look at it with dissatisfaction; His expression was a perfect imitation of disappointment his teacher would always give him, when he did something she didn’t like.

The loose fitting sock was an uncomfortable feeling; an annoyance that also brought his attention to his untied shoelaces, another annoyance. The little boy thought to himself, “No day ever goes right for me.”

The way home always felt long, especially when would get in trouble, and he”d gotten into trouble again at school. His teacher caught him passing notes, singling him out from the other kids involved. Always under her hawkish eye, she waited for him, high up in her tree, surveying all, swooping down to snatch up scurrying mice looking to play and behave like children are want to do. Maybe she’d forgotten what it was like to be a child, young and curious. Your only care in the world, to run, dive, and jump into each and every pile of fun. She had become fond of rules, discipline, order; Looking for the comfort of sameness out of her daily routine. Looking for the comfort of sameness out of her students.

Little Brown boy.
Little Brown boy.
You aren’t like the other children,
Don’t you come ’round.
You are not here to play,
No messing around.

He stepped off the bus. The doors closed behind him as it pulled away from the curb. Walking the sidewalk, he came across a set of train tracks. He crossed these particular tracks every day on his way home from school. They cut through wild fields, parting brown barked trees and green brush as they raced over and through the motley colored gravel, stretching out into the imagination. Pink and purple, prickly blooms topped gangrel looking weeds. Resisting the push of the wind, their heads bobbed in the early spring sun. As he approached them, he watched the tracks extend far off into the distance, converging into a tiny pinpoint, too far for the eyes to see.

He walked across these tracks every day. And each day he paused as he stepped onto the gravel. Turning to look down their length, he wondered at what places and what stops there were in the distance. Would there be carnivals? And gypsies? Dragons? Cotton candy? Ice cream and Lego people? Would those places have children like him, who just wanted to play and have fun? Children who ran around with wafer cookies and ice cream, while they played tag.

“Kid, don’t stand so close to the tracks.” Said a man in passing. “It’s not safe. Head on home.” The little brown boy didn’t immediately respond to the man. “Kid, did you hear what I said! Head on home!” He crossed over the tracks and continued walking.

He was a misunderstood little brown boy. A brown boy who was watched and harangued for missteps regardless of the intent in his heart. Just a few looked into his eyes and saw the soft and kind spirit; Brilliant of mind and outrageously creative. The little brown boy’s mother and father saw all of this within him and loved him. He walked up the steps to his house and closed the door behind him.

His mother and father greeted him with hugs. From the street, you could see them in the window. He hung his head low as he explained the note he carried.

The count of bad days continued on; more getting into trouble with the teacher; more office time; more teacher scolding. He told his mom and dad, he didn’t want to go back to school. He didn’t like it there.

Little Brown boy,
Little Brown boy,
Don’t cause me no problems.
Baby, you are not cute to them,
When you are just being a little boy.
When your imagination calls you to dream of,
What isn’t and act on what could be.
They see you as a challenge to their authority.

School let out as it did everyday. He exited the bus as usual. He looked up at the falling rain and pulled down the brim on the hood of his raincoat to shield his eyes, while he walked the same sidewalk. When he approached the same set of train tracks, he looked down their length, just as he had many times before, and paused for a few moments to imagine what fun was happening somewhere, down there, far away from school.

As he began to cross over them, he heard children’s laughter on the wind. It sounded like children at play. At least, he thought that was what he heard, but he must have been mistaken, had to have been mistaken.

“Come on!”
“Let’s go!”
“Tag! You’re it.”

The sounds were coming from some place along the tracks. The little boy was curious, so he began to walk toward the sounds.

“Can’t catch me!”
“Ha! Ha!”

He walked faster and then began to run toward the voices, down the tracks, and into an open field – filled with sunshine. He could see a carnival, off to the side, with red and white tents and flags blowing in the wind. There were children running everywhere, playing in the grass, under a summer-recess sun.

He ran over to an ice cream cart. The man serving the ice cream twirled about as he scooped one, two, then three scoops of ice cream out and into a waffle cone. He extended his hand with the ice cream to the little brown boy.

A couple of children yelled over to him, “Come on, we’re gonna play frozen tag!” He grabbed the ice cream and forgot to say thanks to the man, because children bursting with excitement usually are forgetful of their manners, too busy showing their gratitude with their enthusiasm.

He licked the ice cream and ran around behind a tent. Strawberry and chocolate ice cream ran into his sleeve and down his arm, staining his shirt. They ran in between carnival tents and six foot tall sugar canes and trampolined from strawberry topped mushroom to strawberry topped mushroom. The laughter was contagious and he was happy.

The children began to run further into the carnival and away from train tracks. Just then he heard his mother and father calling out for him. They’d been searching for him. “I have to go home. My mimaw and didaw are calling me.” He told the other children.

They replied, “You don’t want to go home. Stay with us. We can play forever and no one can tell us we can’t!”

The little brown boy paused. He thought long and hard about staying. He enjoyed playing with the other children, with no one chasing after him, telling him what to do, and sending him to the office. His eyes widened and brightened. He looked up and smiled. “Wait! Wait for me!” He started running to catch up. He made it a few more steps before he heard his mother and father calling out to him again.

The pull of his mother’s voice and his parent’s love for him was much stronger than his desire to play. He yelled back to the other children, “I’ll come back again tomorrow!” He began to run back toward the train tracks.

The little brown boy came running out from the wooded tracks, wearing his raincoat. He came running into his mother’s arms. “We’ve missed you so much. We thought you were lost! We’ve been searching everywhere for you.” She said through her tears.

The little brown boy grew into a man. He learned to dress his “otherness” in outwardly appealing garments of conformity. He got good at blending in, at becoming comfortable for others. He smiled, the same smile, at them all. When they smiled in return, he got a tiny sense of calm; knowing in that moment, in those seconds he had permission to belong. He grew to understand his role would always include the need to make them feel comfortable with him around. He achieved. He went on to college and graduated. He excelled.

Little Brown boy.
Little Brown boy.
This fun isn’t for you.
These rules are for you.
You must achieve.
You don’t have the luxury of being mediocre.
You must always exceed one hundred and ten percent.
Nothing less is acceptable.
This level of excellence,
To be seen as exceptional,
Is your average,
Is your ticket to entry into this world.
And though you will achieve far and away,
it’s your only pass to be allowed to stay.

On days, where he happened across train tracks rolling off into the distance, he looked and wondered if he should have stayed that day at the carnival, along the train tracks, where all the children played frozen tag and ate ice cream, that ran down their sleeves.

“You’re it!”
“Can’t catch me!”

But now that little brown boy who grew into a man, who learned to make everyone else comfortable around him, now has a little brown boy for a son. A son who came home from school with a note that read, “Your son has been misbehaving in class. An incident occurred that resulted in him being sent to the office and having to apologize to another student because he teased her.” A little girl in his class, with whom he was very fond of and whom was also very fond of him. “He will not be able to participate in science studies anymore this year.”

The little brown boy who had grown into a man, took his son to speak with the teacher. Minutes went by as the father and teacher talked. “All I’m asking is that my son get a fair shake. He shouldn’t be continually punished over and over for an incident. And kept from learning. No child should be treated as a criminal unless our goal is to make criminals.” The teacher was visibly agitated and uncomfortable, but she agreed to give his son a fair chance. “Ok.” She said.

Little Brown Boy,
Little Brown Boy,
You are so precious and special to me.
I will guard your spirit,
Nurture and water your curiosity.
It never stops, It never ends.
I’ve achieved
I’ve experienced,
I’ve made it, they tell me,
I understand,
What you are experiencing
Just look to me.

As they walked away together, the little brown boy said, “Thank you, Daddy!” The little brown who had grown into a man said, “You are welcome, son.” He looked down into the boy’s brown, little eyes and with a smile he said, “Let’s go get some ice cream.”

by malakhai jones
(c) copyright 2016


      1. It’s okay….I use my pen name here, so a lot of people call me Mary. But there are some I tell my “real” name. 🙂
        As time permits, I will return to your blog and read more. You are very gifted. Not all have the ability to do word magic.

      2. I just followed your blog too. I read a bit of “Birds of a feather” and “Eye of the Beholder.” Bookmarked them both to come back to read. I’ll steal a moment to read through them when I’m not in the office. 😉 I want to absorb it all and learn.

  1. Malakhai you are a master storyteller! I particularly love the way you weave in poetry — a very distinctive style that really works to put the reader in the souls of the characters. Thanks for following “The Fairy of Disenchantment” so I could find your work! 🙂

  2. I literally went ‘awwwwww’ out loud after reading it! What a beautiful story to tell our children, and our parents too.

    I liked this part in particular, mostly because I can relate a lot: ‘He learned to dress his “otherness” in outwardly appealing garments of conformity. He got good at blending in, at becoming comfortable for others. He smiled, the same smile, at them all.’

    Wonderful piece – this makes me keep coming back for more! Thank you 🙂

      1. I really feel connected to the story. When I am a parent, I’d like to be like the man the little brown boy grew up into.

        Also, I think I could tell it was personal 🙂 Every great work of art is after all.

      2. I’m so glad you mentioned the part about the “otherness.” The boy had grown up and everything wasn’t great for him, even though he had a loving home. Thank you again freedom on this one! It feels good when the meanings are understood. 🙂

  3. That was really really great- so endearing and heart felt, and yeah I can see that you understand were I am coming from, and you are right about other people and there inability to see past their ignorance. I am not one of those people, and I am very grateful for it. Whether it is hardship life-experience or born intelligence, I don’t know, but some people are born with the ability to see through the cloud of bullshit that is put in front of us. It’s awesome that you are able to push that shit away from your son, and that you had the ability to push it away from you. I never back down from a challenge, and I will never accept that I cannot do anything that I have set out to do. That is how I have survived in this life. I can tell that you have done exactly the same thing.