Through a Wine Glass, Darkly
by Stephen Parrish
The train rolled along an iron ribbon that cut through hills packed crisp with snow. The train's wheels CLANK-clanked every few seconds in an unerring rhythm, like a mechanical heartbeat.
Inside the dining car the passengers toasted their good fortune. The atmosphere was reminiscent of an orchestra tuning up: clinking wine glasses and the distant clatter of cooking utensils punctuated the static noise of hushed conversations. Shards of light sprinkled down from chandeliers and bejeweled the crowded car.
The maitre d' himself poured the wine. The vintage? Thirty-three. A good one? Never better. One to offer a lady, he said, on a cold winter night.
Now the train rolled out of the hills and onto a plain. The plain was map-flat, as if a giant, oppressive thumb had pushed the hills down and smoothed the valleys over. And with the change of landscape came a change of season. The snow was gone, the trees were dressed in green, and grape vines were assembled in orderly rows for the vintners who pruned them.
The train slowed. Waiters cleared dishes and passengers gathered bags. Outside, guides waited along the tracks to escort the passengers through an arched gate and deliver them to the buildings beyond. When the train stopped and the passengers disembarked, the vintners avoided looking up from their pruning. It was just another arrival. They did not want to admit they had seen it.