scene at a station

scene at a station

A Story by Barry Simiana

part of a group of stories all connected through the rail




          Use any cliché you like, there’s a million of them. Hot enough to fry an egg on asphalt. Hotter than Hades. It was hot. Very hot. And it wasn’t going to get any cooler until the sun swung around behind the Goodman silos to cast shadows across the tracks. At least another couple of hours before that happened, though.

          He dropped the brim of his hat lower to shield out the worst of the sun. He’d known people with sun cancers, and many of them had come off second best. No sense fooling around. The sun will win eventually, pretty much everytime. Slip, slop, slap. Cover up where you can.

          The dry heat of the mountains, so different from the humidity of the coast. The sweat came freely, staining his shirt with dark patches where it rested on his skin. He squinted and wiped the sting of it away with his handkerchief, the piece of material itself something of an anachronism in this day and age of disposable this and that. And realistically, who wanted to keep a soggy piece of linen in their pocket all day, anyway? An affectation to the old days and the old ways.

          That thought gone, he stowed the handkerchief in his pocket again and looked up and down the tracks. The air was as clear as glass but for the heat-haze that rose off the ballast and the iron lines. There, the air shimmered. Way off in the distance, down to the south where the twin rails merged into one, then into nothing, the sky darkened. Rain coming. As if to prove it, the ants were busy at his feet, disorderly lines moving left and right, workers herded by warriors. Ants always swarmed before rain. His father had said so on more than one occasion. There was something about black cockatoos as well, but he couldn’t remember.

          A shadow passed his eyesight, blocking out the sun for a moment. He tilted up the brim of his hat to see a tall man standing there, facing north, lookin goff to the horizon along the tracks. He was thin, but not skinny. Bib and brace overalls on his frame, an engineers cap on his head. There was something written on the cap, but only the letters STER were visible. MonSTER, disaSTER, miSTER maybe?

          “ G’day,” said the man, without looking away from the northern distance.

          “ Being polite, he responded as he’d been taught.

          “ G’day.”

          “ Hot one, isn’t it?” said the man in the hat, staring intently north, as though waiting for signs of invasion.

          “ Yep. Especially for this time of year.”

          “ Too right,” the man in the hat agreed.

          They stopped at that for a moment, each to his own thoughts. The man in the hat turned and looked south, toward the darkening sky.

          “ Rain’s coming,” the man in the hat said.

          “ Saw the ants,” he replied.

          “ Black cocatoos about last night, too. Right on dusk. They always sing before the rains,” said the man in the hat.

          “ That right?”

          “ Has been since I was a pup. Kookaburra’s laughed to. That’s always a sign.”

          “ Fair dinkum!”

          The man in the hat bobbed his head on his thin neck.

          “ Fair dinkum.”

          The man in the hat turned so that his face was visible. The word on his hat was STATIONMASTER. One mystery solved. He had an identity.

          “ You waiting for the train?” the Stationmaster asked.

          “ Yep.”

          “ Been waiting long?”

          “ Couple of hours.”

          The Stationmaster bobbed his head again, up-down-left-right sort of all at once, and curled his lip as he mulled something over.

          “ You know the train hasn’t run here in seven odd years?” he asked.

          “ I know.”

          The Stationmasters head bobbed about again and did the lip thing.

          “ You know?”

          “ Yep.”

          The Stationmaster grimaced.

          “ Fair enough, then.”

          The Stationmaster turned and walked back the way he had come, stopping at the gate.

          “ Make sure it’s tidy when you go, eh?”

          “ No worries.”

          The Stationmaster nodded and wandered off, muttering something to himself about fools and mad-dogs and the sun. Or not. Kept on muttering until he was out of earshot. The it was quiet again, except for  some birds off in the distance, and a cow lowing out behind the station. It’s good when it’s quiet, he thought to himself. A man can think when it’s quiet. And sometimes thinking is good.

© 2008 Barry Simiana

Author's Note

Barry Simiana
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i really liked it, it was definitely a different style from what i'm used to. keep it up.

Posted 15 Years Ago

1 of 2 people found this review constructive.

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Added on February 6, 2008


Barry Simiana
Barry Simiana

South Grafton NSW AUSTRALIA, Non US or Canadian State/Province, Australia

Writer, creator. First published in Next Stop Hollywood: Short Stories Bound for the Screen, 2007 with the short story "Gone to Mum's." Still chasing that one around to get a movie made. 2011 saw the .. more..