Tuesday, December 25, 2007

From The Editorial Section of The Seattle Times

Christmas is never a train wreck

The train had been down this track thousands of times before. The holiday runs usually were uneventful, but this morning was different. The giant tree dwarfing the train toppled as if in slow motion. It landed across the engine's path with a thundering crash and a flood washed out the track.

"Uh-oh, derail," cried the boy with railroad savvy inherited from his grandfather and great-grandfather, both roadmasters who started with the old Northern Pacific. The toy engine had jumped the track and its cars were tangled in the branches of the fallen Christmas tree. Only the coal car suffered damage, but the casualty count was high. The Sugar Plum Fairy lost a toe shoe, as well as her arms, which were still hanging on a tree branch elegantly posed in fourth position; the Mouse King's sword landed in a candy dish. A glass-blown cardinal was utterly crushed. Several more ornaments were scattered around the room. A couple of soaked gifts would have to be rewrapped.

The dog's post-traumatic sheepishness gave him away. Investigators deduced the culprit had caused the calamity as he once again barreled between presents to slake his thirst with Douglas fir-flavored water.

Crews arrived and remedied the derailment with a couple of towels, a vacuum, plastic wrap over the tree stand, a spousal argument about what constituted "straight" and a tube of Superglue. The engine was righted, and the cars recoupled. The Sugar Plum Fairy was restored to her frozen pirouette and the Mouse King regrasped his sword. Everything else, save the cardinal, was as good as new. Or so it seemed.

The worried young trainmaster pushed a button. The whistle sounded. "All aboard," the bearded plastic engineer with the red hat shouted, presumably as he stoked the engine. The train resumed its elliptical journey, skirting a stand of gift bags. Relieved, the boy pushed another button.

"Ho ho ho," the tiny Santa shouted from atop the chugging engine. "Merry Christmas!"

— Kate Riley

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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