The tracks coming into Galleton wind down the mountain walls that hold the valley in a giant vortex, the town at its center. Once on the valley floor, the skein is lost in a web of swirling bands and innumerable junctions which converge, at last, upon the yard and then the shed, a great steel-ribbed maw, hollow, echoing, a skin-covered skeleton without muscle or viscera, no heart, and an empty womb.
Gabriel sat with his cheek against the train window, one foot on his suitcase. It was dusk and the lights outside were coming on. When the conductor opened the door, the smell of the dinner in the car ahead sweetened the conditioned air. His stomach muscles grabbed, sore and knotted from motion sickness in spite of the bitter pills he’d swallowed. He turned his face to the window and saw his reflection, saw it and through it to vague moving masses and figures in the yard. His face in the window was a smear of black eyebrows unbroken over his nose, and a Iong oval jaw and cheek line that might have hung from hoops on his ears like a false whiskers, an easy face to caricature. The noise of the clacking wheels thundered an instant before the conductor closed the door again. The little boy across the aisle got up again for water. He’d kept on his hat all the way down from St. Louis, an imitation pith helmet, straw painted white, with Lion Tamer stenciled across the crown.