Thursday, August 05, 2010

The Silver Spike

Here begins the story of the silver spike, in its true and verified form. True by me and verified by my father. It has held my books open for, lo, these forty years.

When I lived in Gloucester, Massachusetts, I used to walk along the tracks of the Boston and Maine Railroad. The North Shore branch ran to, and dead-ended at, Rockport. The train was what I consider to be the highest form of whatever runs with steel wheels on steel rail: The RDC, Budd’s Rail Diesel Car, a self-contained beauty.

As I walked along the tracks one day, I found a spike next to the tracks laying there minding its own business. It was in excellent shape, except for a lot of rust. The next time my parents came by, I made up this story about almost being hit by the train and catching my shoe in the spike and pulling it up. They didn’t believe me.

My father asked for the spike; I tossed it to him and thought no more about it. The next time they visited, he handed me this “silver” spike. Turns out he had performed a little magic, pulled in a favor and produced what may be, if not one-of-a-kind, at least not-many-of-a-kind chrome-plated railroad spikes.

At his machine shop, he ground the rust off, then went down the street to a plating shop. They plated the iron with copper, then nickel, then chrome (copper will adhere to iron and nickel, but not to chrome; chrome will adhere to nickel but not to copper or iron). So now it holds books open and decorates my windowsill in the meantime.


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