I was parched and decided to buy a cup of tea. The Buffet had no chocolate chip cookies for sale, so I had to settle for shortbread. You can’t have everything in life.
As I walked back to my seat, I noticed a rifle, with telescopic sight, peeking from a toilet cubicle. The gun was being held by a man bedecked in camouflage. The sound of quacking emanated from within.
I thought it wise not to investigate further, but made a mental note to report it to the Guard the next time I saw him.
I reached my seat and sat down. I let the tea stew for a few minutes, I like a strong brew. I removed the bag and added two cartons of UHT milk. The tea was hot. Too hot to drink.
The train approached Kemble station where a large number of commuters alighted. Itching to dunk my biscuits, I took a sip of tea. Still too hot.
Was it the Hunter again?
A family of Mallards; Hen, Drake and seven ducklings waddled passed me and stopped at the Carriage’s automatic door.
“Quack! Quack!” the Drake said with authority. The door opened and they all trooped through, save for a dawdling duckling who became trapped on the wrong side of the door. The chick called for its parents.
“Quack! Quack!” The door slid back. The duckling was given a ticking off by the Ma Duck.
I took a sip of tea. Still too hot. I popped to the loo. As I returned to my seat after completing my ablutions, I heard, “Quack! Quack!”
The Mallards were perched on my table. The ducklings were taking turns to hop into my cuppa and paddle, oblivious to the risk of a scalded bottom.
Pa Duck had caught his bill in one of the empty milk cartons. An incongruous sight. “Mwack” he cried balefully before shaking himself free.
An old woman was throwing bits of bread into the cup. She smiled at me and said,
“Aren’t they delightful! I love their annual southward migration from the Arctic. Reminds one of the cyclical beauty of life and nature. Do you think anyone would notice if I butchered the Hen?”
“Quack! Quack!” ordered the Drake. The Duckling in the tea hopped out and returned to its parents, leaving a trail of tiny webbed prints on the table.
I felt cheated. My tea had cooled but was unfit to drink. Several tiny sodden balls of bread bobbed in it too. The old woman walked away muttering to herself about Duck death.
“Ladies and Gentlemen the train is now approaching Stroud Station. For the Ducks in Carriage C, please note you should alight for the Wetlands Centre at this station. A bus is located outside the main station entrance which will take you the rest of the way.”
“Quack! Quack!” instructed Pa Duck.
I watched them wander to the waiting bus, where an officious Pink Flamingo, standing on one leg, checked their names against a roster before letting them board. He refused entry to a Peacock who had tried to disguise itself as a Puffin.
I returned to the Buffet for another cup of tea.
The hunter’s gun still poked from the toilet cubicle.
“They’ve gone,” I said to him.
“Shit. Three weeks I’ve been here as well. And this toilet is backed up.”
The Buffet was closed. I will keep my biscuits for the next trip.