Top Hat Boy

The train door slid shut. All by itself. Barry was fascinated – like a sci-fi film he thought. This time yesterday he was gripping an udder – squeezing it like a milky stress ball. He needed it. Family business or not: the bright lights of London were in sight. Feeling like a Hollywood Star: Barry loosened his tie, undid the two buttons on his blazar, sat down, exhaled. His lumbering, farmer frame – squeezed tightly into the cramped, double seat.

Barry scanned the carriage. Grey, plastic walls, soft blue seats and a Samaritan’s poster (reassuring him). The train smoothly glided from the station – the rolling green fields and freshly laid dung still lingering through an overhead window. In a flash – the sleepy streets of Kintbury were gone.

A brittle metallic ring-pull hissed. The beery aroma – calming Barry’s tight tummy. A scrawny, youth guzzled and burped the frothy liquid, scowling like a petulant child: black baseball cap perched on his head like a top hat. The lad threw his phone to the floor – ‘nicked it anyway’. Barry looked away – his focus was on the interview.

Twitchy and bored – Barry gazed at his watch, out the window, at top hat boy, out the window. Only thirty minutes in and the world had changed: concrete on concrete, burnt-out old bangers on bricks, upside-down smiles on sun-starved faces; a cold, grey, smoggy dankness, clinging to boarded-up buildings like toxic gas. Barry was having second thoughts.

The crunch of crushed tossed, beer cans echoed through the narrow aisle. stopped. Hell broke loose. Beerless, toothless, phoneless – top hat boy became loud, aggressive – jumped up: charged at Barry – ‘gimme your phone!’ The country gent’s patience had finally hit boiling point. In an ebullition of rage, Barry leapt up, scooped up top hat boy, span him high – like fresh pizza dough. An-applause-of-sweaty-palms, whistles, hoots and cheers, permeated the carriage like a marching band. The procession continued to London – they carried top hat boy like a saint – into the arms of the nearest Policeman.

Barry got the job.

A.T Hawthorn – 18.1.20


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