Hi again SB,
This is as far as I got. I have to admit I couldn't decide where to take the story after this. Any suggestions - apart from down the nearest toilet?
Peter waited on the end of the platform at Worms End station watching butterflies begging for nectar from the purple flowers of a scrawny Buddleia bush. The plant clung to life in a pile of builder’s rubble dumped there two years previously when the ticket office was demolished to make way for a sterile room containing a row of automated ticket dispensers which frequently failed to dispense tickets. He was the only human on railway company property.
‘Life never knows when to give up,’ he muttered.
The Buddleia, eking sustenance from the small amount of organic matter in the pile of broken bricks and mortar reminded Peter of TV documentary he’d seen about an island on a reef near Haiti: built up by generations of poverty-stricken inhabitants from piles of Conch shells. The unfortunate occupants providing the only food source.
Thank God my ancestor’s owners were not French, Peter thought, without giving much thought to what he had just thought. He strolled back along the platform towards the graffiti adorned entrance hall. An illuminated information screen suspended above it told of his train’s impending arrival. He didn’t look at it. The signal at the end of the platform changing from green to red indicated the same thing. One minute later a twang of the overhead power-cables preceded the rumbling appearance of a three-coach, purple and green suburban train.
It stopped and hissed air. A compressor hummed from somewhere underneath it. Nobody disembarked and Peter had to push a glowing red button next to one of the doors to make it slide open and let him in. Inside the grey plastic interior Peter selected a seat near the middle of the coach, distancing himself from the other three occupants.
I hope that man asleep in the corner and the couple at the other end of the coach don’t bother me. I’ve had enough of strange people for one day. He thought.
The train moved off. Peter looked out of the window preparing to be semi-hypnotised by the blur of weedy embankments and suburban back-yards while the little train sped toward its next stop.
‘Hey, listen to this,’ the middle aged man at the back ordered his wife. He shook the local newspaper open for his wife to see while he read to her out loud . . . very loud.
‘Giving evidence at the trial of accused pickpocket, Mr. Thomas Mann, Mr. X stated,
“I received a phone call from a man professing to be a Detective Preston. He told me they had picked up a thief and they believed he had my wallet in his possession. That was the first time I realised it was stolen. He said they had found a credit card with my name on it and asked for my PIN number to confirm it was mine. I gave the number without thinking and he told me to come to the police station at my convenience to pick it up. I went the next day. The Police told me there was no detective by that name and advised me to cancel my card. I immediately cancelled it, but by then £1600 had been taken from my account.”’
The news presenter laughed even louder than he’d been reading. ‘What a cretin! No wonder he didn’t want to give his name in court.’
Peter hunched down in his seat and shook his head. My God, now there’s an orator on the train. I hate those rude idiots who read out loud to their wives or friends in public like everybody in the entire world is interested in the same things they are.
Lucky for Peter, when the train stopped at the next station megaphone voice and his unfortunate wife left the train. He may have been loud, but he was also thoughtful. As he passed Peter he offered the offending newspaper. ‘Hi, I bought this to read on the train, but now we’re off to visit a sick relative, so I can’t finish it. Perhaps you’d like to read it.’
Peter took it even though he didn’t really want it. ‘Thank you, that’s very kind,’ he said, feeling more than a little guilty.
The newspaper, folded open at the page the man was reading, showed the headline, “Pickpocket’s Police Pranks Prevented.” Peter intended to put it on the seat next to him, but the jovial summary seemed to beg him the read the article.
The report included several more testaments from people duped by the police impersonating pickpocket, all reported as personal accounts. Gradually Peter became aware he was reading in the first person. He gasped when he realised he actually thought in the first person. His “block” was transferring them into speech.
Why didn’t that idiot psychiatrist ever ask me which grammatical form I think in? Too wrapped up in his own s-s-s-sexually b-b-b-based p-p-problems I suppose. Plus the fact he’s incompetent. Peter remembered, The Wolf. I wonder if that Wolf fellow thinks in the first person? He put his hand in his jacket pocket and felt for his notebook with The Wolf’s number written in it. I’d better call him after work.
Looking up from the newspaper, he noticed the sleeping man had evidently woken up and removed himself from the train at the last stop. Now alone in the grey plastic atmosphere of the carriage Peter read anything he could find written in the first person out loud.
Peter heard The Wolf, on the other end of the phone. ‘Hey, The Wolf’s your DJ today, he’s the one to ease your stay.’
‘Good evening, a personal request for music is not forthcoming. You are speaking with Peter, a meeting is required at your convenience. Some important information needs to be imparted.’
‘Is that Peter De Silva?’
‘As indicated, yes.’
‘Are you telling The Wolf you’ve something to tell him and you wanna meet?’
‘As indicated, yes.’
‘Unless there is no alternative, preferably not.’
‘One moment my man.’ The Wolf spoke over the dying words of Eleanor Rigby. ‘That little tear jerker was for Mr Arnold Smidgeon in Milkwood ward. The Wolf hopes your gonorrhoea will clear up soon. How about a clap for Paul McCartney for writing such a beautiful song. Any of you guys down there seen Dylan’s ghost yet? Wooo-hooo. Okay. Time to get those bed-pans a-rocking.’
Peter heard the intro to “Stairway to Heaven.”
‘Sorry about that, The Wolf’s on air. He’s usually free most days, but next week The Wolf’s got a work gig. He gotta drive the bus that picks up the old folks for out-patient visits.’
‘Would you be free for a visit over the weekend?’
‘Sure thing, where do you live?’
‘East Hawkswood .’
‘Man, that’s an upmarket neighbourhood.’
‘Not all the inhabitants are wealthy; most certainly not this one’
‘The Wolf can come by train, he gets free travel on account of bein’ a voluntary hospital worker. What time?’
‘Approximately midday would be constructive.’
‘Cool, where do we meet.’
‘The station exit seems sensible.’
‘Sure . . . sensible. See you Saturday around noon outside East Hawkswood station right?’
‘Yes. One thing.’
‘Is it wise to publicise Mr Smidgeon’s somewhat embarrassing condition?’
The Wolf chuckled. ‘Hey man, that’s DJ talk. There ain’t no Mr Smidgeon in Milkwood ward, but the other patients don’t know that. They’ll all be nervous now, wondering which one of ‘ems got a dose.’ The Wolf laughed. ‘Best part is, it’s a geriatric ward. They’re all too decrepit to get it up anyhow. Gotta go, the records about to finish.’
The Wolf entered the ticketing hall on Worms End station on Saturday morning. All six, graffiti smeared ticket machines wore scruffy pieces of A4 paper with the words ‘OUT OF ORDER’ scrawled on them in blood red marker ink. Actually four said, ‘OUT OF ODDER.’ On one of these a joker had added an F in faint blue BIC ink. On another someone had written: "for a good time call Annie 0789 458921." Yet another bore a childish representation of a phallus spurting semen.
‘Nice.’ The Wolf thought, as he passed through.
On the platform, the illuminated information board informed The Wolf, in flickering orange lettering, the 10.24 would arrive at 10.56 due to the driver forgetting to set his alarm clock last night. This message was, of course, written in the secret railway code: "due to technical problems." The Wolf wasn’t concerned, he was very early because the trains stopping at East Hawkswood ran every two hours.