Literary Journal – Spring 2017

Two on the Railing

By John McCabe

It was surprising to look over at the woman talking to me near the beach at Cape May New Jersey. She was an enormous lady with wild blowing hair, and the very deepest eyes that seemed to own the seashore, matching the rolling waves and low skies over the surf.

At first I didn’t want to pay attention to her, but her voice was more than a match for my indifference.  The first words heard clearly were, “The autumn has its stillness that hushed calm.”

I said, “Sorry, what did you say?”

As if she didn’t hear me, she kept talking, whispering actually. She was leaning on the same railing, so she needn’t talk loud.

“It also brings its sounds; winds bringing sweeping intrusions, that rapping on our windows. We know time as a swift current, deceivingly slow when watched all day, but a rapid ghost no less. We are all fast travelers, our flights move against the cosmic grandeur, and tragedies of the universe.”

I was smoking and she looked at my cigarette with regret. I said, “Go on please, what were you saying?”

“Well, we are also what we were, and magnificent in it all. I was young like you dear… tall, stunning. What’s your name?”

“Alice.”

“That’s my name!”

“Oh, gheez, that’s remarkable. You enjoy the autumn…  Alice?“

“Yes I come here every year, Alice… to watch the migrants, the birds.”

“Always Cape May?”

“Yes dear, and you?

“The same, ‘Wings in Odyssey,’ the pamphlet says, ‘Visitors in magnetic navigation.’”

“Do you think about how their worlds are filled with waiting, calling out to the wind, voices from mysterious eternities?”

“I should.”

The grand woman, like a bird on a rail, rose up and waved goodbye. I never saw her again.


John McCabe, a lifelong writer in all genres, is an active member of the Writers Guild at the Pearl S. Buck Writing Center. His novel The Sanctity of Remembering centers on his experience as a young soldier undergoing atomic bomb testing in Nevada and is actively seeking a publisher.

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