The Train: Part Four.

by | Oct 11, 2023 | Uncategorized | 0 comments

“Oh yes. They have earthquakes there!”

“So, young Ron. Let me ask you a question,” Brett finally uttered, after a period of silence. He slapped his hands on his crossed legs.

“Sure, go ahead,” the boy replied passing the watch from hand to hand. The glow had retuurned to his face and he didn’t look at the stranger.

“How well do you know New Zealand? Give me a few facts.” Brett, who also stared straight ahead, rocked back and forth.

“No more prizes, right? This is mint but I don’t know how I’ll get it past me mam and dad.” Ron caressed the screen with his thumb, raised his eyes, closed them and thought. “It’s made up of two islands, North and South. The rugby team are called the All Blacks. The national symbol is the Kiwi and Lord of the Rings was filmed there. The director is a New Zealander.” He opened his eyes, and hesitated again.

He shuffled on the makeshift seat and, as if something had just been planted in his head, he called out.

“Oh yes. They have earthquakes there!” Ron brought his knees together and rested his chin on them. A look of satisfaction on his face.

“My, you are a clever one, for sure,” the man replied, turning to the boy. Ron noted the way he said ‘cleevah’ he loved accents. An interest that had won him a two grand watch. He fully expected to wake up, at any minute, in that cold bedroom.

Just then, he recalled the bizarre object that lay to Brett’s right. Leaning over, he noticed that the head was that of a pantomime cow. He’d seen one before, at Christmas. Jack and the Beanstalk with Alvin Stardust. His success bolstered his confidence along with the relisation that the head wasn’t real.

“Whats with the head, Brett?” Ron felt settled and was rather enjoying his unexpected encounter.

“Ah, well. I’ll come to that later. How are we for time? After all, you’re the one with the watch and the timetable for a brain.” He chuckled but it was a reserved almost melancholy laugh.

‘Twenty minutes and we’ll have to be gone. The driver has a radio in the cab and the chocolate cops could be here in minutes.” Ron answered, looking at the watch.

“You’ll have to be gone, I’m going nowhere. Anyway, back to my story. Well done with the earthquake thing mate. First of all, I have another question. You may be too young, but you haven’t let me down yet. How much do you know about love?” Brett looked serious but there was humour in his eyes.

Ron felt his face flush. He immediately thought of Mandy, who had moved up to High school in September. That alien feeling returned to the pit of his stomach. He recalled her long slim legs, her yellow hair, the colour of ripe wheat and the small swellings of her breasts under the tight school jumper. Above all, he recalled her beautiful smile, the cause of the very sensation he was experiencing now.

“Not much, really. I don’t go in for that kind of stuff. Why do you ask?” He lied, wrapping the watch in his PE shorts and placing it carefully in his bag.

Brett laughed again, that slow languid chortle, bereft of humour. “You’re a dark horse. I can tell by looking that you’ve experienced first love. I’ll carry on. You see young Romeo, there is a theory, to which I hold. It’s said that, in life, we only truly love three times. After that, nothing.” A far away look spread over Brett’s features. “I, my young friend, have experienced all three. Hence my presence here, next to this railway track.”

“I don’t understand,” Ron said, looking up at the man for the first time. He noticed Brett’s eyes were full of tears. He shuffled uncomfortably on the cloth.

“I’ll enlighten you my young friend. You mentioned earthquakes. I lost my first love in one such event in 2011, along with my family. Our house was completely destroyed. It was my brother’s birthday and I’d been sent to the shop for candles, a chore that saved my life. Since then I’ve been living on borrowed time.” Ron watched in shock as the tears rolled down Brett’s cheeks, burying themselves in his thick blond beard.

“Then came love number two after I started university in the North. She was something else. Inside and outside. I thought I’d never get over my loss but she did everything to make it easier to live with.” He breathed, wiping his eyes with the back of his hand.

‘What happened? Why was she number two?” Ron was hooked. This man could certainly tell a story and, if it was true, his life was tragic indeed.

“I’m coming to that. Time?” Brett replied.

The boy pulled out his phone, activated the screen, and tapped it several times. “It’s ten minutes late, so we still have twenty.”

“In that case, I’ll carry on. Ten minutes is a gift indeed in my position,” The man responded, heaving a huge sigh.

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