Locomotive by Brian Floca


“People and mail are traveling by rail, words are traveling by wire –
the world is speeding up.”


Last week I was nauseous for five days in a row. I’m not an unreasonable person. I don’t expect superior health all the time. But five days of being on the verge of vomiting does not improve my mood.

Because I’m not a doctor, I turned to the Internet to narrow down my diagnosis. It’s either:

Pregnancy. Which would be awkward, since M had a vasectomy several years ago.

Ebola. I know I don’t live in West Africa, but I have read all the online articles, which might be just as deadly.

Quinine poisoning. I drink a lot of tonic water. And though the symptoms of quinine poisoning are actually blindness and a bunch of other random stuff, not nausea, I could have a RARE form of quinine poisoning, right?

Situational vertigo. M has been home all week with the kids while I’ve gone off to work every day and I feel a bit like I’m looking at life from the moon’s end of the telescope. It’s dizzying.

Barno and I read a picture book on the couch Wednesday afternoon and I realized it had been a long time since we had performed this sacred act. We read at bedtime, every night, but a book on the couch – it’s been months. The book was one of those I would have hated reading to a three-year-old. At least to all the three-year-olds I’ve lived with. My three-year-olds would’ve been bored. Or else wanted everything repeated, and as there’s already loads of words on each page that would’ve driven me insane.

But a six-year-old is a different story. A six-year-old listens closely to most of the words and then asks meaningful questions. Mostly meaningful questions. He only interrupts when it’s absolutely necessary, like when our cupful of M&Ms has run dry. A six-year-old allows room for me to enjoy the book too, for me to pause and think what it would be like to travel by train across the country and alight in a new life in California.

I don’t think I’d have read that book on that couch if I’d been home with the boys all day that day.

I might not have sat and read the book if I hadn’t been nauseous and useless for anything else. There would have been dishes to wash and dogs to walk. Carrots to peel and email to answer. A life populated by nonboy demands.

Today I haven’t felt sick at all. We went to a company picnic at a pond and the boys (and girl cousin) helped build a series of iconic, ancient architectural achievements. I ate lobster, and sweetened my ice tea almost exactly right. Luca spent hours diving off a diving board and I remembered my grandfather sitting in his chair teaching me how to dive. “Like a hinge, pretend you’re a hinge!” he shouted long ago. It was a good day.

But poor M. He just crawled onto the bed beside me. Apparently, he’s caught the nausea. Hope he’s not pregnant. Because that would be awkward.

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