The Conductor

It has been a normal train journey thus far as I look out of the window at the back of a biscuit factory. My journey should only take another fifteen minutes. I look down at my bag, which on the way back will be filled with several months worth of books. I hope the conductor will not come I think as I could do with saving some money. I smile and nod as the woman across from me vaguely notices me and she nods with the motion of the train and seems content on her i pad. I feel pretty good today and am nice and relaxed and as my stop is the last one I go into a slight doze in the warmth, but knowing I will not fall completely asleep.
“Tickets please,” says the conductor at the far end of carriage. Damn, that will be a good two pound fifty. The other woman across from me, the older one who has been nibbling at a sandwich for ages reaches into her bag with one fluid movement brings out her purse then takes another tiny bite of her sandwich again. While this is going on I am struggling to get my wallet out of my jeans pocket arching my back and failing until finally I have it out and get some coins out in my hand, nearly dropping them. The conductor takes a couple of minutes to get to us, but there seems little chance now of getting to the final stop before he can see or sell us tickets.
“Tickets, please,” he says disinterestedly, his hair is uncombed. The two women opposite show their tickets quickly, he looks at me and I say
“One return to Manchester please.” I offer my coins but as he leans over his ticket device I look, then look again in nauseous terror as his fingers are ten perfectly formed chicken eggs pressing the buttons. I break out in sweats, shrinking down into my chair. THERE’S NO ESCAPE FOR ME THIS TIME.
But then I look again and in a rush of air to my head his hands are normal and he tears off the ticket normally and hands it out to me. I take a moment to reach and take it and a very slightly impatient look crosses his face. He then quickly carries on past me, going through the electric doors into the next carriage. The young woman with the i pad has stopped typing and the sandwich lady has stopped nibbling and her sandwich is near her mouth, they both have an very odd look in their eyes that I don’t want to fathom. I raise my eyebrows and shake my head slightly, beads of sweat running down my face. I am breathing heavily. My forehead and T-shirt are soaked. I straighten up and look out of the window and soon everything calms down and goes back to normal, the woman tapping away on her i pad and the older sandwich lady still on the same triangle of sandwich, but I hardly look at them again. And then a few minutes later we get to town – I am already at the door with my finger ready for the exit button to light up and I jump off and stride away down the platform, past WH Smith, past Burger King my shoulders hunched and a bit tense, I am leaning forward as I walk quickly and go out through the main doors into the grey cloudy daylight.



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