The Train: Part 3

by | Oct 10, 2023 | Uncategorized | 0 comments

“Congratulations mate, you’re now the proud owner of a Tag Heuer Aquaracer.”

The boy stopped in his tracks, taking two steps to his right, into the hawthorn that bordered the line. The figure didn’t move, but peeking through the dense foliage, he observed that it wasn’t a person of authority. He knew them to his cost, having felt their wrath on the side of his head several times.

Even in these days of child protection, when a teacher couldn’t look at a kid the wrong way; Railway Cops preferred to dole out gratuitous violence to young boys rather than apply the full extent of the law; thus avoiding a mountain of paperwork.

On closer scrutiny, he identified the individual as a man a few years younger than his Dad. Probably twenty-something, he thought, although all adults looked ancient to him. The fella was sitting on what looked like a pile of clothes or a cushion. The lad steadied himself, leaning to get a better look, breaking a small branch under his feet in the process. The man turned slowly towards him and, without a trace of surprise, smiled.

“Good morning young fella. A fellow trespasser,eh? What brings you this way?” He didn’t attempt to stand but turned his body towards the boy and put out a hand. “Brett, Brett Marchant is the name. Pleased to meet you.”

The lad stared at the outstretched limb for a few seconds before recovering his composure. He stepped out of his cover and towards the man. He shook his hand, his own disappearing into its big but gentle grip.

“Ronnie. People call me Ron for short. What are you doing Mister?” Ron pulled his hand away and looked at it. He shoved it deep into his coat pocket, the feel of the man’s grip lingered.

“Please, call me Brett, Ron. I’m waiting for a train. Care to join me?” He patted the spare material next to him. It was then that the boy noticed the cow’s head lying on Brett’s other side. His head began to fill with crazy thoughts. Was he a paedophile? Animal killer? Terrorist? He froze to the spot like a deer in the hunter’s sights. He could turn and run but the ballast was loose and slippery. He could tell the man was tall from his hands. He would run him down in seconds if he chose to. Brett came to his rescue, however, with his next comment. “Don’t worry, I’m harmless. Do you know the train times?”

“Yes Mister, erm, I mean Brett. There isn’t one in any direction for thirty minutes,” Ron answered, checking his smartphone.

“Thirty Minutes, eh? You seem to know your stuff fella.” Brett tapped the watch on his left wrist. Ron’s eyes opened wide at the sight of the elegant timepiece. Spotting the boy’s expression, he continued. “Like what you see? She’s a beaut! Got it from my late mother.”

“I’m sorry to hear that,” Ron said. He recalled people saying that about his late granny. “It must have cost a few bob mate. By the way, the train doesn’t stop here. You’re about a hundred years too late,” he responded to the man’s earlier question. He felt at ease enough to sit next to Brett. “These days, you have to get on at a station. There’s one that way, about ten minute’s walk.” He nodded in the direction from whence he’d come.

“You don’t say. Just as well, I don’t want to get on the train. Isn’t it?” Brett loosened the strap on the watch and slid it off his wrist. He handed it to his young companion. Ron slid his fingers through the stainless steel strap of the timepiece and held it up to his face.

“It’s beautiful alright.” It was as if the watch had shone a light on the boy’s features. The brightness faded as he reluctantly handed it back to Brett.

“Tell you what Ron, I’ll do a deal with you. You guess where I’m from and she’s yours.” The man pronounced, taking the watch back and holding it aloft. A broad smile appeared on the boy’s face. He’d won his own personal lottery.

“That’s easy, New Zealand! I can tell by the way you say, isn’t it,” Ron said, triumphantly. Brett held the watch in front of the boy and looked apprehensive. After several seconds, he placed it in Ron’s still outstretched hand. He then slapped him on the back.

“Congratulations mate, you’re now the proud owner of a Tag Heuer Aquaracer.” He rubbed his wrist where the watch had been as if erasing its memory.

“Wow Brett, are you serious?” However, the boy’s elation turned to concern as he pondered the man’s motive. “I’m not doing anything for it, erm. I mean, I think you should have it back.” He tried to return the watch, but Brett held both hands in front of him.

“No mate, you won it fair and square. No conditions. Let me tell you my story.” He turned away and folded his arms. Looking up as if to seek inspiration, he began.

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