Train Man Short Story

This post is an example piece, copyright Danny Dourado. It is about a delusional man who cannot stand to see who he really is in the eyes of other people. Or it is about a connoisseur of fine art trapped in a self-destructive loop. Read it for yourself and see.

Photo credit: Paolo Margari / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

Photo credit: Paolo Margari / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

The haze was beginning to clear.

Every time I so much as tapped my nose the haze exploded outwards like a smoke bomb across my eyes, and I was enjoying doing it. My fingers were still sticky and my lips were starting to swell, begging for attention, but it was much more interesting watching the fireworks I could make.

My nose was definitely broken. I had become a Picasso and all it had taken was one swift punch to make me into a glorious piece of art. The following stream of blood had been spilt paint on my masterpiece, but I still wasn’t ready to wash it off. It flooded the trenches of my face pleasantly; a congealing war-paint.

The train rocked and the pain flared up again. I stretched out over my two empty seats and relaxed.

Had to get off at Derby, then jump trains. God knows where to, but they’d have payphones there, so I could ask. Maybe they’d have a bank too. I had nothing but cards.

The itch of the blood was beginning to bother me, so I wiped it off on my sleeve. I couldn’t remember whose leather jacket I was wearing, but I certainly didn’t mind getting it dirty. My reflection in the window told me that the worst of the blood was gone, but that there were still wasted splashes around one of my eyes. I didn’t spend long looking at that tired reflection, with that dishevelled sandy hair and those gaunt cheeks; my gaze soon fell on the glass itself, and the crack along the outside of it.

The train hissed to another halt and the passengers went through that strange dance as the momentum caught up with them, like wooden puppets that had been dropped and caught. The most awkward, and most shameful, part of every train ride was coming up. The new passengers were boarding, dazed and confused from the light of the platform, while the old ones clung to their chosen seats like limpets and tried to retreat into their shells, avoiding eye contact as best they could and spreading their luggage around to clog up space.

But the swarm of lost newborns traipsing down the train became too much, and nearly every seat was taken. I was watching the solemn parade go by with a crooked grin, trying to tease a response from any of them. Soon the entire carriage was full and there was only seconds until the train would leave. Only my seats were still available. It felt all too good to shake up the system a little.

My unlucky co-pilot was to be a student. He had a lean and hungry look, and was pinching his cheeks in as if deep in thought. It was a good mask to wear, but one that cracked too easily. His sharp eyes widened at the sight of my seats, and for a brief second a paralysis took him in its grip.

The train had begun to crawl away from the station, leaving him with little choice. He swept up his coat around his waist and sat with all the grace of a falling statue.

I would not have paid him any attention if not for the obvious stick up his arse.

“’Scuse me,” I mumbled. His eyes widened again. They were full of expression. “What’s yer name, son?” My inebriation had not quite lifted.

“What?”

“What’s yer name?”

“Derek,” he spat.

“S’nice to meet yer, Derik.” I offered the hand that was bloodless. The way he looked at it reminded me of how deer react to being offered food. “C’mon, shake, there’s a good lad.”

He did.

“No problems, see? I thought you kids were all tough these days. I seen some right gits, some right gits, who were like, twelve, with bats ‘nd hoods ‘nd were scarin’ ol’ geezers like me back to our rabbit holes.”

I was laying on my inebriation a bit, but I felt a spark in my chest as I watched him squirm. It was mean, and I should have stopped there. “What you studyin’, Derik?”

“English Literature.” Again, the strange spitting of his words. “Shakespeare. You know, that boring lark.”

I had picked up too many things about him too quickly. The way his upper lip curled betrayed a heritage that had never stopped patting him on the back. It was the same way a proud lion prepared to roar, trying to bare its teeth at its foe, but the boy was using a posh accent instead of sharp canines.

In this snide challenge, his weapon of choice was the name of Shakespeare, one that was usually met with rolling eyes and heavy sighs. Instead of making a flash or a bang, it was simply made to perturb. I, however, was the older and more terrible lion, and I felt like shaking my own grizzled mane.

“Ah!” I announced. “Alas, poor Yorrick! I knew him, Horatio! People always screw up that line, see. People always forget about Horatio.”

He knew he was in a corner and that he would have to speak. He was still quite happy to look straight at the chair ahead of us though.

“We haven’t read Hamlet, yet,” he said. “We’ve been setting the tone for the semester and will be beginning our reading over the next few weeks. Honestly, I will not be looking forward to it, so I’m sorry to disappoint you.”

“You call yourself a lit student ‘nd ya haven’t read Hamlet?” I hissed. “What are ya, A levels?”

“University.” He sniffed. “Warwick.”

“Blow me but yer a soft one. Hamlet’s the best of the best, lad. The cream of the crop, the fallen prince ‘nd his good ol’ Horatio. How c’n ya even call yourself a student if ya haven’t read it?” I was waving my arms and looking for support from my crowd, but no one joined in. Astounded, I sat back and wheezed. “Hamlet’s where my heart is, son. S’in the graves that the diggers dig and in the lake that ‘phelia drowned, behind the curtain wit’ Polonius’ body and in the poison in Hamlet’s veins! The piece is closest to perfection we’re gunna get, and it’s not bein’ studied in yer schools? Whatta system. What bollocks!”

The boy was still sniffing as if something had got caught in that ugly nose of his. It seemed to be a compulsion. The muscles in his face were quivering constantly. His thin hands were grasping his seat, the knuckles turning pale.

“Yer a pansy, aren’t ya? I’m jus’ sittin’ here, talkin’ with ya about ol’ Bill. What do ya think I’m gonna do to you?”

He didn’t answer, so I pulled the knife out of my pocket and held it out for him to see.

The scream was tremendous. It was exactly what I had been hoping for; the perfect caricature of a spoilt brat having a little spoonful of reality. It was practically a shriek, high-pitched and girly, followed by a spasm of fleeing limbs that hurled him into the lap of a nearby woman. I howled with laughter, following his movements with the tip of my blade as a pointer.

Look at that foolishness! Look what such arrogance has bought him! It was cruel, but it was hilarious. I laughed until I was croaking more than laughing, and no one in the carriage dared move. Many copied the boy’s shriek, but they remained seated, and were watching our little show with dread in their eyes.

Is this a dagger I see before me?” I quipped, trying to catch my breath. I have no idea how I held the knife so still when my stomach felt like it was splitting. “C’mon, pansy, I’m jus’ havin’ a laugh with yer! Put yer bloomers back on and sit back down, c’mon!” I tucked it away again and reclined, chuckling to myself. The reaction was glorious, but the joke was over, and I still had quite a way to go before Derby.

I was replaying the show over and over in my mind, so didn’t notice the guard bursting into the carriage with his heaving chest and his jutting jaw. The boy shouted and waved for attention, and the guard barrelled towards us, throwing himself heroically between me and my pansy.

“Sir, hand over the knife.” He had a clean voice.

I glanced around at the crowd, tasting the fear alongside my own dried blood. I beamed at the guard, drew the knife out into the open and held it flat across my palm.

As a rule, people worry more about what they can’t see than about what they can. The dull blade’s timid appearance seemed to calm the rest of the carriage. The guard swiped it from my grasp and stowed it away, before placing his hand on my wrist.

“There are officers waiting for you at the next station,” he explained, tugging me away from my seats. More of his kind were ploughing through the carriage towards us, hoping to save the day by spitting on my freshly-broken nose.

I was laughing again at the absurdity; I couldn’t help it. Someone had dropped a bomb and a circus had exploded out of it, covering the scene in ridicule and swapping the solemn people with clowns. I was being swept away in the chaos and was soon hissing in pain as the cold air snapped at my nose, and my feet were stumbling on concrete instead of carpet.

I remembered the boy’s shriek and I laughed again.

One thought on “Train Man Short Story

  1. Phil Dourado says:

    Wow. I remember seeing you sitting on the kerb with that guy and then you shaking his hand as i pulled up in the car, and thinking wtf? He looked like an axe murderer

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