Frederick Torse couldn’t believe it...5:30am already. He stretched out his arm, swiping with futile effort at the alarm as it buzzed just out of reach.
“Fuck.” He cursed, and slowly raised himself to a seated position. The alarm on his phone continued to ring and with one hand furiously rubbing his eyes he mashed the keypad into submission. It hurt the skin on his forehead to keep his eyes open at this stage of his morning routine so he plodded blindly through the morning twilight, feeling for the frame of the door and the cool of the bathroom tiles. He turned on the shower and took a piss as it warmed up. He opened his left eye just enough to stare through the haze of sleep dust and tangled lashes and make sure not too much of the piss was missing the bowl.
He flushed the toilet and with the grace of the Frankenstein monster he walked back to the shower and stood under its blissful stream, motionless for 5 minutes straight. He didn’t care to wash his thinning hair or thickening body, instead using the next 3 minutes to remember some of the images from the porn he watched before going to bed. His climax was rather anti-climactic but that had become his expectation over the years. What was once his shame and joy was now neither, instead just an over worked tool at his disposal for tension release and chemical induced pick-me-ups – no caffeine shot ever matched the buzz of coming.
He dried himself hastily and cursed again as he realised he had forgotten to do his washing again. He fished out a selection of used underwear and decided on the red ones which, although going in for their third tour of duty smelt better than the remaining less experienced troops. He put on his pants and work shirt and hand ironed it over the curve of his gut. He made a large bowl of cereal which boasted to be full of energy (sugar) and thought about making a sandwich before eventually deciding to get takeaway in his lunch break.
Around 30 minutes later he arrived at work at the train depot just not far from the Greater-North Terminal.
“Heya Fred, looking good as always,” said a friendly voice.
“Cos I just love my job more and more every day, Bob.”
“Too right, mate. You better be careful though. You keep bringing them smiles they might promote you up to the kingly ranks of toilet cleaning so you can be smiling along with Walter Wallace.”
“Kid better look out.”
The two men laughed. It had become the joke of the rails lately to mention Walter and a cynical pride for their work. Fred had long grown tired of it, but like they say: ‘You can choose your friends and emancipate from your relatives, but co-workers will always be there to suck you dry with relentless fucking small talk.’
And then it came. Like a wave sudden recognition, Fred was swamped by a cruushing depression. As he trotted over to his locker his face scrawled up in a grimace which then turned to a snarl. He began rubbing his eye furiously with the palm of his hand cursing to himself in a hoarse whisper, “Fuck! I just don’t wanna be here.”
“What’s that Freddy? Talking to yourself again.” Another friendly voice spoke.
Fred broke out into a series of coughs, buying time as he recomposed himself – First rule of depression club. You do not talk about depression club.
“Thommo. How you going?” Fred swung around with a tired smile on his face.
“You know me, buddy. Another man, another day. Just like the rest of them.”
What the fuck did that even mean? Fred laughed as though he understood the jibberish, “You mean the rest of the Thommos or the rest of the Walters?” When in doubt...
“One in the same, mate. One in the same.”
The two men laughed and Thommo departed. Fred felt pain creeping through his neck and shoulders, as though he were carrying a sack of potatoes. He twitched his neck side to side, producing two muffled cracks for a moment’s relief before it seized up again. He trotted out of the lockers wishing to make a lucky run all the way to his cell in the driver’s seat of the rickety old Torquay Z8.
He thought he had made the stretch undetected when a stranger in maintenance uniform exited from the compartment dusting off his hands. He was short man with an honest, yet a completely unrecognisable face.
“Fred. Just fixing some of your troubles.” The man said in a friendly voice.
“Wha-” Fred was caught off guard as he racked his brain for an idea of the stranger’s name.
“Said I’m just fixing some of your transmission problems in there.” He pointed to the driver’s compartment of the Z8.
“Mate, you could do me an extra favour by fixing the transmission problems up here as well.” Fred indicated his own head.
The two men laughed. “Don’t worry Freddy, it all gets fixed up sooner or later.”
“Sooner I hope,” Fred replied. The man smiled knowingly. Fred didn’t know what he knew, but knew it was knowing and thought it best to leave it at that as the two parted ways. He felt a little better despite the conversation. It was as though that was a little bigger than just small talk. “Maybe there is more than one Walter on the rails,” he mused to himself. He started the engine on the Torquay Z8, an intercity model that would be making the long journey from City Junction to Newport Haven. Fred knew that at that same coastal town the real Walter Wallace would be appearing for the seventh leg of his national tour. What he didn’t know was that by the time the train was due to arrive he would be dead and the derailed Torquay would be up in flames along with half of Newport Haven Terminal and he would never have to wake up small talk and dirty underwear again.
Notes to the Text