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Henri spotted Clementine lying on a patch of mixed-color scenic ground foam. “This one’s still alive,” he said, with a professional confidence based on his background as an ambulance driver.
Henri lifted Clementine LaBelle in his arms. She was dazed, that was all. She soon came round. She clung tightly to Henri, resting her head on his shoulder. He felt her breath against his cheek. He felt her warm body through her shredded clothing.
“I knew you would rescue me, mon cheri” she whispered in his ear with her knock-out French accent.
There was no hospital in Normanville. Nobody had thought of putting one in. There was only one choice, Henri decided. He carried Clementine away from the wreckage, carried her down into the valley and alongside the murmuring river, carried her under the majestic bridge and past the sipping deer. He knew this layout like the back of his hand. He carried her up a narrow almost-hidden footpath that led into the mountains. The hobo shack will suit us nicely, he figured. A pair of lovebirds could live there for the rest of their days.
Already the healing had begun. “I noticed this cabin from the train,” Clementine remembered.
In Normanville, chaos reigned. Several citizens had keeled over when the toxic fumes hit town, others were storming the bank. “It’s a state of emergency!” Norman declared. He fulminated over the town like an angry thunder god, knocking people down and propping them back up, as Larry climbed the stairs and let himself out.
Foolish, getting all worked up about toys, Larry reflected as he stepped into the slanting crimson light. The sun had finally poked through, altho it was only an hour before sunset. The world always looked uncanny the first minutes after you emerged from the world of the model railroad. Everything, the buildings and people, looked sharply defined, everything looked both super-real and unreal. The houses and shops were like painted cardboard boxes, the people were like figurines placed in stereotypical postures by an invisible hand. The factory worker swinging a lunch bucket, the mom pushing a stroller, the young couple smooching on the bench. And Larry too, he was your stereotypical old guy shuffling along in shaggy jeans. A three-train pile-up, you don't see that every day. But Larry didn't figure he would ever go back, no matter how much the railroad needed him. From somewhere a pine-scented breeze had entered his head and he felt particularly liberated at the moment.