You know — the one about a brave little train that pulls a heavy freight up a hill, chugging, “I think I can, I think I can,” all the way up and, “I thought I could, I thought I could,” all the way down.
As it happens, same moral — “be optimistic” — in both tales too. The main difference is, my story’s true (promise).
Once upon a time, on a cold, stormy night, a lady went shopping in Kinsale.
In a trinket shop, as the sales woman wraps the lady’s purchase, she nods towards the rattling window. Outside, the sky is darkening down to pitch.
“Have you far to go to get home?” the sales woman asks.
“Clonakilty,” the lady replies.
“You’d better get a shift-on,” the sales woman says, “I’d say you’re in for a rough passage home.”
“Pfff,” the lady thinks, “what a chicken you are. It’s only a bit of rain, after all.”
Outside, the lady gets an awful fright as the sky breaks in half with a terrible cracking sound. But the lady is no chicken: she darts in and out of shops until finally, she realises that the pavements are empty.
Which is when it dawns on her that she might be the only person in Ireland browsing in a tempest. She scuttles, wet as wet can be, back to her Litttle Red Nissan.
The wind blows the lady in her Little Red Nissan through Ballinspittle and up a hill. The roads are dark and desolate but then she meets a white van. It creeps past her very, very slowly.
“Eyes front,” the lady thinks, “you don’t need to see who’s sitting behind the wheel. Not when you already feel that life is transposing into a scene from Nosferatu.”
The wind tosses her Little Red Nissan down the hill like an empty tin of beans.
“You mustn’t think about Nosferatu, not now. Or disaster movies,” the lady thinks, as the wind boffs her onto the coast road, “instead you must think, ‘all will be well’, for you have great faith in your Little Red Nissan, even if it looks like junk and no-one else on the planet does.
“All will be well,” she thinks, as the hurricane sweeps her into flood water. “You can’t see where this stretch of flood water ends, but at least you know how deep it is. Pfff! Up to the bumper is fine.
“See?” she thinks bravely, as the Little red Nissan reaches a dry stretch of road, “even though your feet are now wet, and your phone battery has just died, all is well.”
All is well until the lady turns the corner, where she sees a lake, where the road once was.
A jeep approaches. “Eyes front,” the lady thinks (for life has now transposed itself so completely that when the jeep stops, the lady’s afraid its driver might get out and bite her neck.)
He rolls down his window and points to her Little Red Nissan. Sorrowfully, he shakes his head. “I don’t know if you’ll get through it in that,” he says.
But the lady has faith in her Nissan, because it’s always been trusty. In fact, she suspects that if she ever opened its bonnet, she’d find a big, kind heart beating under it and no engine at all.
“I think I can, I think I can,” the Little red Nissan says, chugging through the first lake.
“Eyes front,” the lady thinks, her chest pounding, quite as if a seagull has blown off the sea into it and is flapping about in there. “DO NOT LOOK TO PORT, STARBOARD OR STERN.”
The bow of the Little Red Nissan cuts through the swash and backwash, pushing water right up over the bonnet. “I think I can, I think I can,” it chugs.
But then, the Little Red Nissan’s headlights submerge. After that, the bonnet goes under. Only for two seconds but the lady panics, for she thinks she might not see her four children and husband ever, ever again, and her favourite vintage shoes are ruined.
Then, all of a sudden, the bonnet rises out of the water like a seal’s back. Then the headlights re-emerge. “The lights are still on!” the lady shouts, “how can that be?”
As if by magic, the Little Red Nissan sputters out of the water — bang, bang, pop! — and into Timoleague. “I thought I could, I thought I could,” it says.