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This work has reached the exceptional level
A man eats his breakfast on the train
The seven twenty-four to Cannon St.
Breakfast on the seven twenty-four by snodlander
 Category:  Humor Fiction
  Posted: May 20, 2008      Views: 951
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** The Young Demon Keeper reached the semi-finals of the 2011 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. Buy it now on Kindle**

Snodlander was an IT trainer, but it wasn't not as glamorous as it sounds. He was bitten by the writing bug in the Au - more...

The Seal of Quality committee has rewarded him with 1 seals.

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The commuter train was packed, as usual. People were standing in the aisle already as the train pulled into the station. June sighed. The commute was boring and it was uncomfortable. She could stand it if it was one or the other, but the two combined robbed the summer day of any joy. The same old journey with the same old people to the same old job for the rest of her same old life.

Well, not entirely the same old people. Today there was a new traveller, or at least new to this train. Standing in front of her on the platform was a small, middle-aged man dressed in a neat city suit, a large briefcase in his hand. He looked a veteran of the daily charge to work, but June had not seen him on her train before.

The train sighed to a halt and the doors wheezed open. The newcomer turned, smiled, and stepped aside, inviting June to climb aboard with an outstretched arm.

"Um ... thank you," she muttered, stepping aboard. Perhaps he wasn't a commuting veteran after all. Perhaps this was the first time in his life he had caught the train into the city. No-one stepped aside to give a rival commuter an opportunity to step aboard. Never mind ladies first, you pushed and elbowed your way into a prime position, even if it meant shoving aside a pregnant grandmother on crutches. It was every man for himself.

June crossed to the other side of the carriage and turned, her back to the trackside doors. She was suspicious of this strange behaviour. Was he some sort of dirty pervert that liked to ogle women's backsides? Or worse, to use the crush to push himself up close to a woman? And he looked so genteel, too. Well, you never could tell.

The city gent stepped aboard, and remained on his side of the carriage. There were two other people standing by the doors, regulars that June had seen for years, but never spoken to.

The doors wheezed closed and the train reluctantly pulled away, straining to reach a decent speed now it had picked up the last of its passengers bound for the city. June opened her bag, and silently cursed. She had finished her paperback last night, and had forgotten to replace it this morning. Oh well, she would just have to tough it out this morning, and grab a bodice-ripper from the newsagents at lunchtime to numb the homeward journey. Instead, she leant back against the doors and looked at nothing in particular.

The city gent busied himself with his briefcase. He opened it, and from its depths produced a long thin cloth bag, the sort in which a fisherman might keep the segments of a rod. As June watched, he opened the end and produced a bundle of metal rods. My goodness, was he some sort of nutter? Was he going to go fishing on the train?

He gave a flick of his wrist, and the poles flipped open, joined at one end by a triangle of cloth. It was a canvas stool, the sort used by middle-aged couples whose approach to camping is to take their sitting room outside. He arranged it in the corner, hitched his trousers up at the knees and sat down.

So, not his first time commuting, then, thought June. It was quite a good idea, now she came to think of it. A ticket did not guarantee you a seat at this time of the day, so bringing your own seemed fair enough. It was a shame it was so inelegant for a woman to use, though the city gent looked almost prim perched there.

The gent reached into an inside pocket and produced a handkerchief. With a flourish he snapped it open and laid it across his lap. He produced its twin, snapped it open and tucked it into his collar. He delved into his bag again, and produced a thermos flask. He checked his watch, studying the face intently. He started to nod, as though counting down, then at zero hour he unscrewed the cup on top, unstoppered the wide mouth and poured the liquid into the cup. June could smell the fragrant scent. Tea, with a hint of perfume. Earl Grey?

Placing the cup between his feet, he rooted around in the recesses of his bag. Eventually he tracked down his target, and produced an eggcup, which he held tightly between his knees. He carefully poured out the last of the tea from the flask into the cup at his feet, then deftly caught an egg as it rolled out. Wincing and making the short shushing noise of air being sucked through clenched teeth, he juggled the hot egg into the egg cup. He shook his hand hard, trying to cool the singed fingers in the air. Carefully he stoppered the flask again, and replaced it in his briefcase.

June realised that her mouth was hanging open. She closed it sharply and looked away, out of the window, trying to hide her smile. But it was too much, she felt her gaze being drawn to the strange tableau as irresistibly as gravity.

From the bag that seemed to double as his larder, the commuter produced a square of greaseproof paper. Carefully unwrapping it, he laid a slice of bread on his impromptu tablecloth. He reached into his breast pocket, and pulled out a small square of foil-wrapped butter, the sort you often had at restaurants. He reached into his side pocket and found a pocketknife. Selecting the blade with due care and consideration, he carefully wiped it on the corner of his handkerchief and spread the butter thinly over the bread. He folded the empty butter wrapper into a dainty square and dropped it into his lap.

With the precision of a stonemason engraving a tombstone, he ran the knife down the length of the bread, once, twice and a third time, cutting the bread into four regimented soldiers. He cleaned the blade with the hanky again, folded the blade away and returned it from whence it came.

He paused, a satisfied smile playing on his lips as he surveyed the tea at his feet, the egg in its cup between his knees, and the bread soldiers on the handkerchief on his lap. He reached into his jacket, and the smile disappeared. He reached into the other side of his jacket. A worried frown occupied his face as he started to pat himself down.

He looked up and caught June's eye before she had chance to look away.

"I'm most terribly sorry, but would you happen to have a teaspoon on you, by any chance?" he asked.

June looked down at her bag. Of course she didn't have a spoon, but the request was so polite, and the expression on his face so genuine, that she couldn't help but consider, just for a moment, whether she might have one in her bag that she had forgotten was there.

"No, sorry, I haven't," she said with a shrug.

He gave a sad smile. "Not to worry," he said, then suddenly beamed as his hands stopped their frisking. "Oh, look! It was in my shirt pocket!" he said, producing the errant spoon as though it were the Holy Grail.

Still unable to stop herself, June watched as the gent used the spoon to gently tap at top of the egg, carefully prying the shards of shell away and dropping them on the handkerchief. When he had exposed a satisfactory amount of white flesh he ran the tip of the spoon around the egg, lifting the top with the skill of a surgeon to expose the runny yolk inside. He must have timed the journey to the second, to get the egg so perfectly soft-boiled inside his flask of tea.

He took a bread soldier and dipped it deep into the egg. Carefully, so as not to spoil his suit, he lifted it to his mouth. For a brief second he paused, eyes closed, and June knew he was anticipating the taste, tantalising his tongue for a moment, then he bit into the eggy bread. June's mouth ran with saliva just at the expression of satisfaction on the man's face. She knew without any doubt that the egg was cooked to perfection, and the bread the exact width and absorbency to ensure the perfect epicurean experience. The gent smiled to himself, and reached for his steaming cup.

June thought back to her journey yesterday, and the day before, and the identical days before those. Wasted minutes running into hours, into days and into weeks of emptiness. She arrived at work tense and harassed, even before the work day began. This funny little man, with his prissy napkins and odd breakfast and ridiculous stool, probably spent an extra half hour at home with his family, and would arrive refreshed and relaxed in the city. Never mind that half the carriage was laughing behind his back. Who had the bigger laugh, she asked herself.

June wondered where she could buy herself a camping stool.


The book continues with The Next Stop. We will provide a link to it when you review this below.

Author Notes
Last week, fed up of the long daily journey into work either stood up or sat on the dirty floor of the carriage, I bought myself a camping stool that I can sling underneath my backpack. Now I can sit in the aisle, in comfort, my laptop on my knees, and to hell with the smiles from the other commuters. I'm guaranteed a seat. I don't eat breakfast there, though.
Pays one point and 2 member cents.

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