Hello Floor Jawers! I thought I would publish my first published short story here. It appeared in issue of Jungle Jim magazine in 2011http://www.junglejim.org/?p=391
This is the first of two parts. Enjoy!
Story from the tracks
“Dad, wait!” I screamed running after him. He turned around, hardly seeing me as I ran towards him. “You took my bag this morning?” I asked angrily. “I nearly missed this train” He had been battling with the flu, but it was no excuse to mess up like that. He just looked at me lazily with heavy bloodshot eyes and sniffed. I gave him his bag and ran past him with the rest of the night shift crowd up the huge concrete staircase to the platform.
We were the new South African dream. At least that is what the government made it out to be. It formed part of the new plan to revive the economy. A twenty four hour work force; everyone who applies for a job will get one. We were a part of the new night shift. No longer the realm of just security guards and party goers, we took the train at about 7pm and headed to the city centre, ready to complete a shift.
It was paying off though. The new trains, with an upstairs level were of a European standard and were clean and efficient. However, true to form, they were as segregated as ever with a second class being implemented for those who could not afford the first class and were too lofty for the paltry third class.
This still did not account for the fact that I was a 28 year old man still saving up for his own place and living with his parents. Dad and I took the taxi together to the train station and then the long ride to our place of work; he, the manager at a small export company; me, a junior manager at a delivery company.
I made it to the front of the train and ran up the short staircase to the upper level to the four-seat compartment at the front. We sat in the same seat every night like school children on a bus. I got there just in time. There was Stacey, Nobz and Grant. My “train friends” as I secretly called them. We had met on this boring journey and had become closer as the rides seemed to become longer. Nobz was facing the front of the train and sat at the window looking down at the world. I sat next to her on the aisle, with a bird’s eye view of the train cutting into the night air as it forged its way forward. Stacey usually sat next to me and I would find a reason to look over at her as she spoke. Or I would look out of the window at the “scenery”, and just stare at her. I always wondered why she never just asked me to swap seats. But today that smug son of a bitch was sitting next to my girl. He had his leg crossed over and his hand trying to force its way past her shoulder. Stacey was too nice to turn him down, but was clearly uncomfortable. Her face lit up as she saw me, his did not. Nobz was laid back as usual.
The sky was rapidly darkening and turned a murky grey as it engulfed the amber sun. “Are you OK?” said Stacey as I settled into my seat, still slightly out of breath. “Where were you? And where is your dad?” she asked as I usually arrived with him as we all met at the platform to board. “He missed this one. He will get the next one though”, I said, trying not to show that I was too upset. I flopped down and was soon coddled by the gentle rumbling of the train. No one said anything at first.
The train continued, relentless. We went past the usual “non-scenery” as we called it; the under belly of the country. Stations piled with rubbish and rubble, industrial areas, electrical distribution centres, factories, spaza shops, huge lots of abandoned cars. We went past a “Sleeperworld” used car lot. I could make out brown cars and brown people using welding irons taking the rusted cars apart. I just saw the figures coming to life as the bright spark of light shot up every so often melting the chunks of metal. There was a fat white man shouting orders at them. Some things never change. I smiled at the name, Sleeperworld. That was like us, riding into the night as the rest of the world slept.
“I’m just so sick of his shit”, I suddenly said. The others startled. Grant had given up trying to make small talk but had forgotten to take his hand down from next to Stacey’s shoulder so it was in an awkward bent shape like he was stretching. “What? Who are you talking about?” she said, leaning forward looking genuinely concerned. “My dad”, I said. He is such an asshole. “Hau”, said Nobz now paying attention. “That’s your father you are talking about”, she said in her deep voice. “Have some respect”, she added. “I do”, I said. “I try, but he treats me like I’m a 5 year old. I hate living at home. I hate it!”, I said. “Ah come on”, said Stacey. “It can’t be that bad. I mean we all still live at home. It’s just a matter of time until we save enough and fly the coop, she said with that sweet smile of hers”. I looked at her and wondered when I would build up the nerve to ask her out.
“I just think it would be easier if he was dead, then I wouldn’t have anyone to explain myself to”, I said, realising too late how childish and dramatic I sounded. Stacey’s mouth dropped slightly before she quickly closed it. She looked down at her hands. Grant just smiled smugly and looked away. No one knew what to say. A few minutes went by as the world outside grew darker. “Oh come on, you don’t mean that”, said Stacey pleadingly. I said nothing. I looked past Nobz at the world silently drifting by outside.
“In my culture, we respect our elders”, said Nobz. “You Coloureds have no culture”, she said, her head still facing the window and now slightly turned towards us. “You must be careful when you say such stuff. Have you heard about the train people?”, she asked us. “Oh God!” said Grant, rolling his eyes. “My dear Nobuhle, we are not interested in your township tales. What next? You going to tell me to step off the train backwards so I don’t take the spirits with me?”, he said as he chuckled to himself. “That’s only after twelve o clock at night when entering your house, you idiot”, said Stacey. He looked at her surprised. “According to the folk stories my parents told me growing up”, said Nobz, not concerned with the bickering, “the train people used to live on the tracks. They were a family who lived under the bridge and would collect scrap to recycle. Then while playing with their dog, the little boy ran into the path of an oncoming train and was killed. According to the legend, if you see a little boy at night, it means that someone close to you is going to die, so watch what you say wena”, she said rather abruptly looking me square in the eye. I just looked down. Feeling a little awkward, and really guilty, I asked, “Do you guys believe in that stuff?”. “I do”, said Stacey. “You have a ghost story?”, asked Grant, back to his smug ways.
“Well, I don’t know if it counts as a ghost story…” she started. “Oh go on”, Grant interrupted her. “Just give it to us. Scare us shitless”, he said as he looked at us all with that crooked smile and raised eyebrow. She gave him a side glance, extremely irritated, but continued anyway.
<p>Author <a href=”https://plus.google.com/102128103971030481396” target=”blank” rel=”author”>Jerome Cornelius</a></p>