Excerpt: 'Hausfrau: A Novel' by Jill Alexander Essbaum
ANNA WAS A GOOD WIFE, MOSTLY.
It was mid-afternoon, and the train she rode first wrenched then eased around a bend in the track before it pulled into Bahnhof Dietlikon at thirty-four past the hour, as ever. It’s not just an adage, it’s an absolute fact: Swiss trains run on time. The S8 originated in Pfäffikon, a small town thirty kilometers away. From Pfäffikon, its route sliced upward along the shores of the Zürichsee, through Horgen on the lake’s west bank, through Thalwil, through Kilchberg. Tiny towns in which tiny lives were led. From Pfäffikon, the train made sixteen stops before it reached Dietlikon, the tiny town in which Anna’s own tiny life was led. Thus the ordinary fact of a train schedule modulated Anna’s daily plans. Dietlikon’s bus didn’t run into the city. Taxicabs were expensive and impractical. And while the Benz family owned a car, Anna didn’t drive. She did not have a license.
So her world was tightly circumscribed by the comings and goings of locomotives, by the willingness of Bruno, Anna’s husband, or Ursula, Bruno’s mother, to drive her places unreachable by bus, and by the engine of her own legs and what distance they could carry her, which was rarely as far as she’d have liked to go.
But Swiss trains really do run on time and Anna managed with minimal hassle. And she liked riding the trains; she found a lulling comfort in the way they rocked side to side as they moved forward.
Edith Hammer, another expatriate, once told Anna that there was only one reason the Swiss trains ever ran late.
“When someone jumps in front of one.”