Elizabeth Kerper


Stopped Train

We’ve been stopped for two hours, ten miles outside
Dwight. Earlier it looked like we might outpace
the November snowstorm all the way to Chicago,
a nineteenth-century pioneer racing home across the prairie
with Christmas candy tucked inside his coat and a blizzard
snatching at the tail of his foaming horse, swallowing
hoof prints, spitting hailstones, never quite getting them
in its teeth. But the snow will be on us any minute now,
or maybe it already is, wet flakes spiraling down, invisible
in the featureless dark outside our windows, the train

a halted chain of light and all of us inside it—my sister,
laptop long dead, watching a lecture on the structures
of the kidney on her phone and the toddler running laps
of the car, front to back, back to front, and the woman
behind me, reading the same three picture books over
and over to her infant son while her husband sleeps
in his seat across the aisle. Earlier, my sister and I walke
the length of the train to the dining car for pretzels
and two Diet Cokes and now I think about all the people
we passed, about how it is one thing to be hurtling together
toward some certain destination and another to be stopped,

doubly suspended, within and without. Behind me, the mother
begins Where the Wild Things Are for the fourth time. His mother
called him WILD THING, she says, and I can picture them
out there in the harvested fields and the tremendous stillness
of early snow, everything reduced to outlines and abstractions
in white—a fury, a panther, slinking ever closer. Or just
power lines, a barbed wire fence, one tree left to grow tall
at the boundary of a farm, the fallen tire swing tangled
in its roots. When the conductor announces that the brakes
are fixed, loudspeaker squawking shrill before the words
come through, there will still be two hours of track to go.



Elizabeth Kerper.jpg

Elizabeth Kerper lives in Chicago. Her work has appeared in the Nancy Drew Anthology from Silver Birch Press, as well as in Eclectica, NEAT, Midwestern Gothic, Gingerbread House, and No Assholes Literary Magazine, where she is an associate editor.