Time to leave
by Cath Barton
I’ve still got the paint on my finger nails. I’ve scrubbed and scrubbed and still can’t get it off. And now I’m picking at it as I sit here waiting for this train to move. Getting more and more irritated.
Getting irritated won’t help of course. Won’t change a thing. The train will move when they decide it’s safe for us to go on and not before. The last balloon has passed overhead now so it shouldn’t be long. I don’t think we’re in danger from them myself. The real dangers are much more insidious. Wouldn’t do to publicise them because people would freak out. But personally I wouldn’t - don’t! – drink water from the tap any more. If you look at it through the microscope you see all sorts of things wriggling in it. More legs than you want to know about. So boil it.
“What did you say?”
Oh no, did I say what I was thinking out loud? “Sorry?”
“You said something about danger. I think we should talk.”
“Ssh...” I dig in my pocket for a scrap of paper and a pencil and quickly scrawl a note, which I pass to the person next to me. Without turning my head.
With a sigh of the brakes being released the train starts up again. As we glide into the station only ten minutes late, I see Martin on the platform looking at his watch. No paint on his hands. Well, he’s got me to do his dirty work for him, hasn’t he?
“State the obvious, why don’t you?”
This is the kind of irritable exchange which has defined our relationship since Martin joined The Movement . You’re doubtless wondering why I stay with him. Very simple, actually. I get a lot of information. Which is why I’m not frightened of the balloons. They’re a diversion. Like I say, there are much more dangerous things.
Martin’s prepared a meal. Everything’s from cans, of course. Pretty bland. We eat in silence, listening to the day’s messages on the machines. I know Martin has a meeting at 20.00 hours. He doesn’t say goodbye.
I open a can of Goodness beer (as if it had any of that in it!) and think about my encounter on the train. A little swish of sound makes me turn and there’s the person from the train. We share the beer. I see she has traces of paint under her fingernails. It’s time for us both to leave.
Martin will return at 22.00 hours. I’m almost sorry not to have had a chance to say goodbye to him.
Cath Barton lives in Wales. You can read more of her work out there in the ether, including in Short, Fast, and Deadly and The Camel Saloon.
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