A Night at the Station

Uploading a story I’d written a few years ago, because I’m stuck with a case of Writers block.

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Travelling alone by train can be boring, and its worse when the journey’s long. Like last week. I had to attend a friend’s wedding, and another one bites the dust was the song on my mind all the way. But hey, I wish the guy well. Wait a minute, didn’t tell you who I am did I? Name’s Michael Kane, 5’10’’, medium build, late twenties, got me? Good….
So there I was on the train, overnight journey and boy was I tired. The meeting at the office didn’t go too well. All I wanted was some shut eye but sleep eluded me. The train pulled up at some remote station somewhere at round 2 am. Since it didn’t look like we were going to move for a while, I thought I’d stretch my legs for a bit. I’m sea sick so walking on a moving train makes me rail sick I guess. I had to take a leak so I went in search of the restroom. Curse my luck, when I got out I was just in time to see the train disappearing over the bend. I checked the schedule; the next train was at 6 am. I had to wake the station master to inform him about my luggage. That done I had 4 hours to kill. And not a soul awake………
With nothing better to do, I thought I’d take a nap on a bench. I was just about to settle on one when someone startled me.
“Dude, that’s my bench!”
A quick glance around revealed no one, just a stray black dog who seemed unperturbed by any voice. Logic told me my tired mind was imagining things. I needed sleep.
“You deaf?” that voice again. Now I was beginning to get spooked.
“Who’s there?” I asked
“Don’t tell me you’re blind too. Look around dufus who do you see?”
“No one. Just a dog.”
“Just a dog? Excuse me!!”
“You’re telling me you’re a dog? Hog wash!! Dogs can’t talk!!”
“ True, most dogs can’t talk. I can though”
You must be thinking I’m nuts. I thought so too. But I was tired and convinced I was imagining things. A talking dog?!! That’s rubbish. I just needed sleep. I hear voices and I see a black Labrador. So I make a crazy assumption that the dog can talk.
“What’s with the incredulous look on your face?” asked the lab.
“I ‘m talking to a dog. You think I should be excited about it?”
“Ah! Humans….” sighed the lab. “You talk to a bit of plastic, watch glass screens and yet rubbish the thought of a talking dog. Didn’t you watch cartoons? Don’t the animals speak there? Anyhow, what’s your name?”
“Mi…Michael” The hesitation was for fear of going crazy. “What’s yours?”
“The name’s Bond. James Bond”
Yea right, a dog named Bond. By now I was convinced I had to see a shrink ASAP.
“So this is your bench?” I ask Bond.
“Just my favourite seat Michael. You hungry?”
“Umm, yea a little”. A little was an understatement. I hadn’t had anything since lunch so I was famished. But having scraps from the garbage can wasn’t my idea of a meal.
Bond barked twice, as if to summon someone. A genie appearing wouldn’t have surprised me by now but I was expecting too much. A rat came scampering out of a hole in the wall and bowed before the dog!!
“At your service sire!” squeaked the rat.
Bond turned to me.” Michael, meet Max, better known as the rat that inspired the movie Ratatouille. He was a student of the renowned chef Cristan Klumenthal. He’s worked with Mordan Lamsey as well. Max, Michael’s our guest today. Why don’t you cook him something special?”
“Would you like some lasagne?” squeaked Max
Too stunned to reply, I just nodded yes. First a talking dog, now a rat that cooks. Maybe my mother was right. I’m getting too involved in my work. How else do you explain it? Garfield’s just a comic strip right? Max was off to cook. Bond was staring at me intently. And that was giving me the creeps.
“What?” I asked him.
“Oh, nothing. So Michael, what do you do?” This was one inquisitive dog.
“I’m a journalist. I work for The Times.” Feeling bolder now, I asked Bond, “If you guys can speak, then why not do it every time?”
“Some things in life are not meant to be known my friend”, said Bond with a very regal air. I was about to pester him further when out came Max followed by a lively bunch of rats carrying a platter of mouth-watering dishes. Corn soup for starters, followed by lasagne. And to finish it off, a delectable black forest cake. I won’t lie. Rats may have cooked it but it felt like heaven.
“Wow Max! That was totally out of this world” I gushed like an awe struck ten-year-old.
“Now that we’re watered and fed, it’s time for some entertainment”, declared Bond and led me to an alley behind the station. The place looked packed as if for a concert. From what the cat sitting next to me told me (yes, now a talking cat), the Pussycat Dolls were going to play today. Oh and this group had real pussycats no humans.
The concert was awesome but by now I was really tired. Just as I was about to doze off on my seat, Bond nudges me awake and rushes me back to the station.
“Hurry!! Its 6 already. You’ll miss the next train!!” Bond and Max made sure I made it to the train. Just as it started moving Max scrambled atop Bond’s head and thrust a packet into my hand. “It’s the black forest cake. There was some remaining. Thought you’d want some in case you get hungry again”, said Max. “Thanks Max”, was all I could manage. I soon drifted off to sleep thanks to my weariness. By the time I woke up. The train had reached my station. On checking I found my luggage intact. I realized I’d most probably dreamed up the entire episode. I was on the same train after all so there was no way I’d missed my train. I gathered up my luggage and began to make my out. And that’s when I found the packet containing the black forest cake………

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Innocence

Happiness, for the vast majority of the human race, is contingent on material possessions. The primal  urge to possess an object, an idea. To savour the sweet hint of victory when you finally own it…….

…..only to move to the next object, as what is owned is no longer desirable.

In simple economic terms, we call it the Law of Diminishing Marginal utility. What can we call it from a human perspective though?

IMG_3754 (2)

The photograph above was taken earlier this year, while I was on holiday in Cambodia. I was being a regular tourist, minding my own business and clicking away at the temple ruins. People don’t interest me much as subjects for a photo. But something about these four children captivated me.

Completely oblivious to the rabble around them, four little humans with some rather interesting interactions. They were siblings, perhaps. Maybe, they weren’t. In any case, what they were not, is strangers to one another. And as I watched them there, sharing a snack and all peering into a phone, I felt a smile creep up my face.

I did not know those kids and I did not approach them. Somehow, I knew that would ruin it. Because it was one of those random moments in time, where everything is perfect, and every other point in time is irrelevant.

What held me captive, was the myriad of  emotions expressed by the children. Let me refer to them by the colours of their shirts.

Little White is content sucking on his candy, whilst watching the girls. Red seems curious, while Pink contemplates, if Red should be allowed into whatever secret the phone holds, like most big sisters do. Yellow looks on, as the protective big brother, like he knew he was born to watch over them.

The picture cannot tell you what happened after, but I can. The two little girls got into a squabble and Yellow had to intervene. With no one watching Little White, he wandered a little further away, tripped over a stone and began bawling. The three older children quit the squabble and immediately rushed over to soothe him.

The moral of the story for me, so I don’t drift away from the point of this post, is that we don’t really need much to be happy, do we?  We could always say we’d like the newest phone, or a bigger house, or more money for a holiday. But what we really need, is to be secure in the knowledge that there is someone out there looking out for us, that child like assurance, that everything will be alright, that all we need are the little things to be happy.

We all know it, but wont admit it.  We’ve worked too hard, we deserve more. Do we really? What makes you really happy at the end of the day? Your 30 inch flat screen television? The new DVD player? Or is it someone waiting for you at home? A loved one, a pet, a book a few moments of peace?

We try to complicate our lives and clutter it with what we believe are essentials. What if we just try to strip those away?

Give it a try, and look at the world with the same wondering, curious innocence that you had a long time ago as a child. And maybe, if you give in it to just far enough, you’ll find a part of yourself again.

Home

I fumble when people ask me where’s home.

I’m never really sure what they mean when they say Home. Is home where my family is? Is home where I spent my childhood? Where I laughed and cried and expanded my world? Where I learnt the joys of being loved or the piercing wounds of loss?

As a kid who grew up in a couple of different countries, you learn a few important things. the first of which is nothing lasts forever. Everyone eventually learns that. But when you grow up in a world where the culture outside of the house is quite different from the inside, you learn that life is fluid, and constantly moving. What’s even more interesting, is how you unconsciously adapt your behavior to your surroundings. You take a step back and look at it from the outside, that’s when you realise you did have an advantage. You learnt to adapt early.

But I digress. Home. For me, that’s where I feel safe. Where I can be accepted for who and what I am, without any expectations or condition. Still working on getting there but you can always create a little bit of home where ever you go.

Not quite sure where I was going with this post