Summer Reading: The Joker Hits The Train

This is an extract from the Vincent Writing Centre’s first anthology of short stories and poetry. To get the full story and a stash of others, contact Peter Jeffrey on peter.jeffery@iinet.net.au or call 0481 462 612

I TRAVEL to Perth quite often with my family, and enjoy the ride on TransWA to Mandurah, and then on to the northern suburbs by train.

Because I use a walking frame, on the train, I have to use the seats located immediately inside the sliding doors, that are reserved for mothers with prams and seniors with walking frames.

These seats give me a good view of each side of the long carriage, and I can also observe the passengers, boarding and departing.

The one drawback I have noticed over the years, is that no one speaks to fellow travellers any more.

No – “How you going?” “Are you travelling far?” “What a lovely day!”

And the reason for this is, they, the passengers, are all seated working their mobile phones.

Their heads are bent down, their necks are turtles stretched out of their shell, and their fingers are constantly playing over the face of the mobile.

I asked my son who lives in North Perth, if he could record for me on a small cassette tape, the sound of a telephone bell, ringing very, very loudly.

He gave me a querying look, and asked me, what mischief I was hatching, and I told him:

The next time I travel on the Mandurah to North Perth train I would carry on my walking frame and a supermarket bag, you know the kind I mean. They charge you 99 centre for them, but in reality they cost a dollar.

In the bag I would put the cassette tape with the loud telephone ring, and an old-fashioned telephone.

And when the train has a fairly long run, between two stations, I would activate the cassette tape, let it ring for a while and look around, as if it was nothing to do with me, then throw my hands in the air, and take out the old-fashioned telephone.

As I lifted the receiver I would surreptitiously switch off the cassette.

Then in a loud voice, I would say, “Hullo…yes, I am on the train…who did you say?”

I would look around at my fellow travellers, who I hoped were quite mystified at these shenanigans, then I would look for a man, about four seats away, but only if he was watching me, and then say into the receiver, “Hold on…”

And then say to the watching man – “It’s for you!”

by STELLA VOLTE

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