I was in the Buffet Car on the 17.00 to Swansea, staring out of the window at the glorious ochre sunset over the Severn Vale. It was so beautiful I tingled a little.
There was a noise. A squeaking, uncomfortable sound. A mixture of pain and resistance. Then I saw him. Hairy chap. Face like Velcro.
He carried a bucket with a squeaking handle. He placed the bucket on the Counter. The Manager, a tall athletically built Spaniard called Julio, smiled and said,
“What would you like?” I detected a Castilian burr.
“Do you sell Krill?”
“Krill?” Julio said, his tone rising in surprise, “No.”
“Plankton?” He held the bucket toward Julio in the style of Oliver Twist.
“Sorry sir. No Krill or Plankton. A variety of hot and cold snacks, beverages, crisps, nuts and savoury fancies along with a fully licensed bar consisting of wine and lager beer.” Julio smiled. He had good teeth.
“Squid?” The man was becoming anxious. I have an ear for anxiety. It is why I excel at Loss Adjusting.
“Sorry Sir, no squid. I do have a Tuna and Sweet corn sandwich you can buy,” Julio beamed again. He really did have good teeth.
“Never mind,” the man replied. He picked up the pale and walked away. I observed from his movement that he had one leg slightly longer than the other. The squeak of the bucket accompanied him through the sliding door and into the next compartment.
I ordered a coffee from Julio. He beamed at me. I plumped for some shortbread as well. Diet or no diet I deserved a treat after a hectic week.
As I returned to my seat, several passengers ran past me. A commotion, I concluded, was in the offing.
“Have you seen the Guard?” a perplexed Septuagenarian man, ex-armed forces by his baring, asked.
“He’s in First Class, wrestling with a fiendish super advance ticket promotion query,” I replied. The old warrior scuttled towards First Class.
I am naturally inquisitive. Nosey even. It is what makes me so successful in the world of Loss Adjustment.
I walked down the carriage, through the vestibule and entered Carriage B, where I was greeted by the mammoth arse of a Sperm Whale. The poor creature’s tail was rising and falling in a slow melancholic arc.
“He’s a big lad” I said, thoughts of Ahab percolated.
The hairy man with the bucket stood close by. He was doing whale impressions, presumably to calm the Leviathan. The Whale blew air from its spout and a Hasidic Jew danced in the plume in an overly excited fashion.
“I know. Won him in the fair in Taunton when I knocked a coconut out of its shy. Thought I was going home with a goldfish. Don’t know where the Jewish lad has come from though. The Quiet Carriage presumably.”
“Must have been a struggle getting a Sperm Whale on board.”
“There’s a knack to it. That and strong wrists.”
I wondered how a Sperm Whale could be given away as a prize at a fun fair. What with all that Greenpeace palaver and whatnot. Not to mention the price of fresh coconuts these days. More money than sense some people.
“God knows what I’m going to do with him when he dies.”
The man had a point. Bit tricky flushing this lad down the toilet.
“He’s already swallowed a couple of passengers. An old girl and her fella. Bit like Jonah. She’s still in there now. You can hear her.”
We pressed our heads to the side of the whale and indeed could hear an old woman in a posh accent exclaim “Have we passed through the tunnel yet Giles?”
“Not yet your Majesty.”
My coffee was cold by the time I returned to my seat. Not surprising really.