Binocular Vision by Edith Pearlman

from "Inbound"

On the subway Sophie recited the list of stations like a poem. Then she read the names from the bottom up. Saying something back ward made it easy to remember, sealed it in.

When the family got off at the Harvard Square station she frowned at a platform sign. “Outbound?” she asked her mother.

Joanna was bending over Lily’s stroller, adjusting the child’s harness. So Ken answered. “Outbound in this case means away from the center of the city,” he said. “There are two sets of tracks, coextensive.” He paused. Coextensive? Sophie had learned to read at three; her vocabulary at seven was prodigious; still . . . “They coextend,” he tried. “One set of tracks carries trains outbound and the other carries them . . . ?”

“Inbound,” Sophie said. “Then when we go back to the hotel we’ll go inbound. But why aren’t the inbound tracks next to these ones? Yesterday, under the aquarium . . .”

Ken inhaled deeply; for a moment Sophie regretted getting him started. “This Harvard Square station used to be the terminus,” he told her, “the last stop. When the engineers enlarged the system they ran up against the sewers, so they had to separate inbound and outbound vertically.” He had invented this explanation, or maybe he’d heard it somewhere. “Inbound is one level below us.” That much he was sure of.

Excerpted from Binocular Vision by Edith Pearlman. Copyright © 2011 by Edith Pearlman. Reprinted with permission of the publisher, Lookout Books.