Haskel shook his head wearily. Anything." He sank down at the kitchen table. "All I want is rest. Open a can of stew. Pork and beans. Anything."
"I suggest we go out to Don's Steakhouse. On Monday they have good sirloin."
"No. I've seen enough human faces today."
"I suppose you're too tired to drive me over to Helen Grant's."
"The car's in the garage. Busted again."
"If you took better care of it—"
"What the hell you want me to do? Carry it around in a cellophane bag?"
"Don't shout at me, Verne Haskel!" Madge flushed with anger. "Maybe you want to fix your own dinner."
Haskel got wearily to his feet. He shuffled toward the cellar door. "I'll see you."
"Where are you going?"
"Downstairs in the basement."
"Oh, Lord!" Madge cried wildly. "Those trains! Those toys! How can a grown man, a middle-aged man—"
Haskel said nothing. He was already half way down the stairs, feeling around for the basement light.
The basement was cool and moist. Haskel took his engineer's cap from the hook and fitted it on his head. Excitement and a faint surge of renewed energy filled his tired body. He approached the great plywood table with eager steps.
Tracks ran everywhere. Along the floor, under the coal bin, among the steam pipes of the furnace. The tracks converged at the table, rising up on carefully graded ramps. The table itself was littered with transformers and signals and switches and heaps of equipment and wiring. And—
And the town.
The detailed, painfully accurate model of Woodland. Every tree and house, every store and building and street and fireplug. A minute town, each facet in perfect order. Constructed with elaborate care throughout the years. As long as he could remember. Since he was a kid, building and glueing and working after school.
Haskel turned on the main transformer. All along the track signal lights glowed. He fed power to the heavy Lionel engine parked with its load of freight cars. The engine sped smoothly into life, gliding along the track. A flashing dark projectile of metal that