The racket is intense and he steps off the pedals and the seat of the bike to straddle it, to lean on the handlebars and just watch the steel behemoth roll by; a steel segmented worm on wheels that on several passing cars carries massive steel sets of train wheels—a train carrying train wheels. What luck, Gene thinks. He listens as above the rumble and bells of the railroad crossing signs, high-pitched squeaks emanate from the wheels on the track. He wonders at those sounds; are they the sounds of the wheels pressing into the rails as the train rocks to and fro? He wonders, leaning on his bike’s handlebars, if he can get close enough to the train, lit only by the red flashing lights of the crossing and the sodium yellow of street lamps, if he could get close enough to the train to see where the high-pitched squeaks of metal-on-metal are coming from. He wonders if he can put his fingers between the wheels and the rail and what it will feel like to have them unrecoverably crushed?

He continues to daydream with the behemoth passing, as he looks as the tank cars, painted on with chemical yellow Helvetica letters patterns like “HKKX” and “LMTR,” what would happen if the worm tottered and fell to one side? When the tank cars fell on him in the strobed darkness, tip and stampede like mad 2,000 pound pushing toddlers, would they emit foul chemicals or prove to be empty? In the asphalt beneath his feet he can feel a difference in the weight of cars that pass over gaps in the tracks. He can feel it in his ankles along with the ringing from the bells and the black gaps in the red lights. All the sensations together feel heavy-handed and God-like compared to the digital slide presentations with their diagrams of neural perceptual systems that he’d seen only earlier in the day in a seminar. This was the sight, the sound, the feel of a proximity to chaos, no abstraction. How quaint the equation would look by comparison, with its smooth curves and network diagrams. His neurons were never meant to handle this level of intensity and he felt it in his brain. This was the sense, not the explanation, of things falling only proximately into order.

Then, a few empty hoppers traverse the intersection, their lack of freight or ore reverberating into the warm evening, and the whole mass dopplers into the distance, taking the chaos with it. Another moment and the lights and bells stop and Gene finds himself again in an empty intersection in an industrial part of town. It might as well be a parking lot. No one is here and the place grows more quiet as the train moves on. He smiles, the whole intense length having, in the end, been a moment of sign, of zen, no different than striking a gong and listening carefully to the sound to see where it goes.