The Station
[ Issue 24 ]

The Station delights Emily Bronto

Bikwil salutes The Station

The Station

The Station by Lachlan Drysdale is an evocative description of railway platform.  Before the train comes, as it arrives, and after it departs.

Sweat beads in silver speckles on his balding forehead and his heavy eyes squint to avoid the glare. On his lap he nurses a black briefcase on which his fingers drum a nervous tune of anticipation.

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The Station ó Lachlan Drysdale

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A lone gust of wind tosses an empty chip packet down the platform. As the wind dies the packet comes to rest, balancing dangerously on the edge of the platform. In an instant the gust is back and the packet is tossed over the platform edge floating in a flutter of silver to the ground.

From an old grey speaker the distorted voice of Bob Seger floats loosely into the lazy afternoon. The sun burns down from a clear sky, not allowing any object to escape its intense heat; it pushes its fiery golden arms into every crack and corner. As the small shrubs bend and wilt, tiny black ants run wild on the concrete.

An air of boredom and languor hangs like a hot blanket over the small uneventful station. Four long concrete platforms lay side by side like unmarked graves in a barren graveyard. Between the concrete platforms two weathered tracks lay motionless on wrinkled wooden sleepers and together they bask in the scorching midday sun. On the platform itself the heat seems to melt the paint on the red and white benches. A faded station name is barely decipherable under the mat of graffiti and scratched initials.

At the main entrance two rail employees reside in the office. Old white fans speckled with dirt wobble and squeak in an attempt to stir the air in the ticket office sauna. In the far corner one of the guards snores loudly, his grease stained shirt pulled tight over his ample stomach. At the ticket window a female guard flicks through the weekend paper, her feminine features coarse from endless hours spent in the sun. Both appear at ease with the dirty cluttered office.

On the far platform a businessman swelters in the baking sun, his dark suit drawing and trapping the heat. Sweat beads in silver speckles on his balding forehead and his heavy eyes squint to avoid the glare. On his lap he nurses a black briefcase on which his fingers drum a nervous tune of anticipation. He checks his watch for the second time in a matter of seconds and his lips curse silently.

On the next seat a young woman lights a cigarette and draws long and hard. Flicking casually through a magazine on her lap she pauses occasionally to survey her surroundings from behind dark glasses. Appearing much more at ease in the extreme heat she takes a bottle of water from her carry bag and takes a fashionable sip. She replaces the lid slowly, flicks some tiny flecks of fluff from her skirt and returns to her magazine.

From the entrance a carefree youth strolls in, pausing momentarily at the ticket window to purchase a ticket. He then eases his way toward the platform kicking a plastic bottle along the ground in front of him. As he reaches the steps he hoists his leg on to the handrail and slides roughly down the rail. His rubber-soled basketball shoes land with a soft thud on the concrete and he collapses into the nearest seat as if the recent physical activity has left him drained of energy. He has yet to be noticed by the other occupants on the platform. After a minute of staring thoughtfully at his feet the youth gets slowly to his feet and ambles toward the drink machine.

The sound of coins dropping alerts the others on the platform from their daze. The young woman glances up immediately from her magazine and looks at the youth without expression. The perspiring businessman takes a little longer to respond and glances up to see the youth retrieving a can from the bottom of the machine. A look of disgust passes over the manís face as he takes in the long hair and scruffy clothes of the youth. The youth drags himself back to his seat and proceeds to open the can. He raises the can to his lips but suddenly stops and further to the disgust of the businessman, takes a large portion of chewing gum from his mouth and sticks it to the underside of the seat. The youth then raises the can to his lips and takes a satisfying swig.

The sun burns, the businessman perspires, the young woman reads and the youth drinks.

The platform clock reaches the hour and the drowsy station begins to awake. Travellers have now covered the platform and an idle chatter drowns out Bob Seger. The sleepy guard has emerged from the station office and is looking less than happy at having to wave his flag. He leans against a pole, sweating in the fluoro orange safety jacket he is required to wear, and watches the smoke curl from the end of his cigarette.

Suddenly the train appears and its approaching presence sweeps the travellers from their positions. The businessman grunts in relief and moves quickly to stand at the edge of the platform in order to gain quick entry and a seat. The young woman casually closes her magazine and puts it into her bag. She draws the water bottle from her bag and takes a brief sip before standing.

The crowd begins to move slowly toward the alighting area of the platform. Excited children eager for a glance at the approaching train dance dangerously on the edge of the platform. Smokers suck desperately on their cigarettes in an attempt to fulfil their craving for the duration of the trip. An elderly couple stand in silence, taking time to enjoy the simpler aspects of life, while words of warning flow from worried parentsí mouths. As the train nears the stationmasterís voice booms over the loudspeakers informing the crowd of the details of the approaching service.

Only the youth remains seated, avoiding the physical strain of standing until the last minute. He swigs the last drops of coke from his can, crushes it underfoot, lifts his body from the seat and strolls toward the train.

Parents now cling to their children as the train pulls into the platform. The crowd surges foreword in groups around the opening doors. When a path is clear passengers board the train.

The businessman boards and his face breaths a sigh of relief. The young woman boards, surveys the occupants of her carriage, sits and opens her magazine. The youth boards last and meanders toward a seat.

From the end of the platform the guard raises his flag and signals to the driver. The doors close with a hiss and the train lurches away from the platform. When the noise of the train dies down Bob Seger once again drifts from the old grey speakers. The few passengers who alighted from the train make their way toward the exit.

The long platforms seem to relax after the flurry of activity. Between the platforms the rails stretch in a confetti of cigarette butts toward each shimmering horizon. The station once again sleeps in silence and the tiny never resting ants run wild on the concrete.

As the afternoon heat fades a gust of wind sweeps the platform. On a bench at the far end of the platform an old man whom everybody failed to notice cuddles his whisky and tries to get back to sleep.

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