I have a little leather pouch that lives inside my glove compartment; inside of which are 42 pennies, 1 nickel, and 1 quarter that have been flattened by trains long past. Way back when, my friends and I would drive to a deserted dead-end road in the canyon behind our neighborhoods, where a small trestle overhung some train tracks. In retrospect, the purpose of this structure was unclear. It had red/green signal lights on it, but was mainly an open-weave catwalk that was constructed over the tracks in the middle of nowhere. There didn’t seem to be any functional need for a walkway overhanging the tracks. It was constructed high enough so that it would be an inconvenient access to the roof of any train, and the lights could just as easily have been on poles. I would like to think that it existed only for my friends and I, and flickered into non-existance when we weren’t there.
At any rate, we would often go “down to the tracks” and: walk along them a la Stan by Me, sift through the whatnot and wherefores that always end up by the rails, and just generally hang out. When nighttime found us down there, we would line up dozens of pennies on the rails, climb up onto the catwalk past the No Trespassing signs, and wait for a train to come by. Eventually, one always would, and it would come screaming out of the night in a rush of hot air and sound and vibration, drowning out our war-whoops and excited exultations. It was an easy way to get a cheap rush off of several hundred tons of steel moving at great speed only a few feet beneath you. After the train would go buy, flashlights and lighters would be retrieved from our cars and we would commence searching for the glinting of flattened copper. Then, we would divy up the spoils amongst us, differentiating between “good ones” and “bad ones”, and rewarding them on a sliding scale of deserving.
I suppose in a lot of ways my pile of destroyed legal tender is a symbol for the times I had with my friends. I often wonder if they still have theirs, as I somehow know that I will always have mine. Any specific memories associated with any one particular coin have long since been forgotten; but, I do remember the notable things: the rat as big as a small dog cut clean in half, the numerous hobos and their wayward dogs that would scream invectives at us as they passed, and that endless-moment feeling as you were suspended above your own mortality with the people who would care the most beside you. Mostly, though, I remember the feeling of friendship, the laughter, the contentment, and the seemingly infinite possibilities for the future.