Junto Magazine Vol2_Issue2 - Page 54

Junto Magazine, Volume 2 Issue 2 spot. But eventually there weren’t any more kids in the neighborhood who could afford two dollars and hadn’t already bought a radio, so Steve decided to diversify. He built a telephone network for kids who lived in his building using old telephones he had collected from a demolition site on Devon Avenue. By using dry cell batter- ies wired together, he was able to power the ringer in the phones. He used a cou- ple of car batteries to power the network, and charged the kids twenty-five cents a month to be on the network. It could have been a big success, but it didn’t last very long because the landlord didn’t want wires strung outside of his building and Steve’s mother found out there was acid in car batteries. About the time he had to disband his telephone network, Steve developed a serious interest in trains. Or maybe the interest had always been there. The tracks of the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad ran through our neighborhood and Steve had always turned to watch the trains go by. He used his money to build an obsessively detailed scale model of “The 400,”that passed our neighbor- hood at 4:30 every weekday afternoon. Supposedly the train made the run from downtown Chicago to downtown St. Paul Minneapolis in 400 minutes. Dale didn’t “get” Steve’s growing ob- session with trains. She referred to him as “the train nut.” Steve started mimicking a diesel engine horn when he rode his bicy- cle. He would press his lips together and get them to vibrate. The sound was like what a trumpet player would make with a mouthpiece, but no trumpet. In some strained way, it did sound like a diesel engine horn, especially when he would change the pitch and volume to mimic a train going by. Dale reacted by calling him “fart face.” In an attempt to excite in Dale his fascination for trains, Steve led her and a group of us kids onto the tracks of the Chicago and Northwestern. We crawled through a hole in the fence and up the em- bankment to the tracks just before 4:30 one afternoon. When we got up there, he gave us each some pennies and showed us how to carefully lay them along the rails of the northbound track. After he put his own pennies on the track, he put his ear to the rail. “We don’t have long to wait,” he told us. “Get down in the grass so the engi- neer can’t see us.” The headlight on the engine grew brighter. The rumbling of the engine grew louder. Then with a roar, The 400 blew by and the flattened pennies flew. As the train disappeared in the distance, we scrambled back onto the tracks to claim our treasure. Since nobody knew which penny was originally theirs, Steve took command of the situation. “Okay everyone. Two pennies each!” He kept three for himself. Steve stood for a moment and smiled at Dale who was studying her flattened pennies. Then he walked over to her and dropped his pennies, one by one, into her hand. “Keep these,” he said. Her eyes lit up and she smiled broadly in appreciation. That winter, I didn’t see Steve much. He usually went over to Dale’s apartment after school, where her mother served them cookies and hot chocolate. Dale’s mom seemed to like Steve, but my moth-