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The Spirited Passenger

By

D. G. Richards

Copyright © D. G. Richards 2000

   

Many years ago, when I was still a mere youth rather than the old wrinkly dinosaur that I am today, I used to commute to work and home again each day on the train. As I had no attachements and no cares in the world, I would often work late, or do shifts. This meant that I would often travel back late at night (I bet you think you can guess where this is going already!). This didn't bother me, as I liked travelling on the train. In those days the trains were real trains, with wood and leather, and not like the plastic and metal things we have now. Anyway....

One night I was travelling home late as usual, and shared the beginning of the journey with a handful of people. One of my travelling companions was a little old lady with a very large shopping bag. As soon as I saw her get on, I had the sudden thought that she would be the talkative type. You know, the one who has to sit next to you and talk to you during the whole journey. I instantly thought, 'Don't sit next to me! Please!' She didn't, she sat facing me.

As the train stopped at each station, a few people would get on, while a few more would get off. Each time, the little old lady would look round and watch them, then she would look back at me and smile.

This process repeated itself until there was only the two of us left on the coach together. The only slight difference on this occasion being that her smile broadened.

To say that I was feeling a little bit unnerved by her behaviour would be an exaggeration, but I wasn't comfy either. Anyway, now that we were alone, she spoke.

"I'm glad we're alone at last," she said in a Miss Marple voice. "Because there's something I've just got to do."

At this point she reached into her large shopping bag and leaned forward. What she withdrew from her bag was the largest screwdriver I have ever seen in my life, and as she held it towards me, I noticed that the flat blade had been sharpened to be even flatter than it would have been. Just when I thought my life was over, she spoke again.

"I'm sorry about this, young man, but I've just got to do it. These children are terrible! They're always undoing things!"

And with those words she suddenly turned and began tightening up all the screws in the door next to us. Once she had completed her task, she put the screwdriver away in her bag and sat back in her seat with a most contented look on her face. She didn't say another word, and got off at the next station.

You would probably think I crapped myself at this point, but no. However, I must have looked decidedly pale, because the guard who saw me when I got off at Manchester Piccadilly noticed me straight away.

"Are you alright, mate?" he asked as I walked very gingerly towards him on the platform.

"No, I'm bloody not!" I replied, and proceeded to tell him my story. He wasn't surprised at all.

"Oh, her! Yes, we know all about her!" he said with a smile. "Harmless she is."

He then went on to tell me her story. Apparently, she had been left in charge of her grandson while his parents were away on business overseas. He had to go to school, you see, so he couldn't go with them. Tragically, the lad fell to his death from a train on the very route that I travelled. His grandmother felt responsible because the boy had been in her care, even though the accident was nothing to do with her. And since then, the grandmother had travelled the train tightening up all the screws in the doors hoping to re-deem herself of her assumed blame, and also to prevent any further tragedies.

"Very sad!" I said when he had finished, not being particularly sympathetic. "But she still frightened the life out of me! Can't you stop her?"

"We tried," the guard said with a smile. "British Rail took out an injunction preventing her from travelling on the route, but it doesn't stop her anymore."

"Why not?"

"Well, after she realised that she couldn't do it anymore, she died, and that was three years ago."

And that's when I crapped myself.
 

The End


Copyright © D. G. Richards 2000

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