The train journey had been quiet and uneventful. I was glad of this. It had been a difficult weekend. The kids were upset that the Goldfish had died. It was their first experience of death and my wife had to remind me to bury it, rather than flush it down the toilet, as my childhood lore would have dictated.
And so Malarkey a carp with a grudge, at least to my mind, received a burial which in Goldfish terms was on a par with Kirk Douglas’ final farewell in The Vikings. Though without the flaming longboat or Janet Leigh to sob in the background.
He had a fin missing too, rather like Tony Curtis’ missing hand in that classic fifties adventure yarn. The similarities were uncanny.
I had an urge to roar “ODIN!” at the top of my lungs, but as I was sat in the Quiet Carriage and surrounded by signs encouraging silence and consideration towards other passengers, thought better of it.
“Is this seat free?”
An elderly lady was standing in the aisle. She was on her own. A sturdy leather case rested by her leg.
I stood up to let her sit by the window and then stowed her suitcase in the overhead shelf. I sat down and returned to analysing the spreadsheets on my laptop.
She unwrapped a Werther’s Original butterscotch and proceeded to suck and slurp on it with the vigour of a thirsty heifer.
“I like your shoes,” she said to me.
“Your shoes. I like them. Always admired a man in Brogues.”
“Thanks.” I was unsure of what to say.” I’ve always felt you know where you are with laces. Sturdy, reliable. Requires effort. Not like a slip-on. My first husband was a slip-on man. Needless to say the marriage didn’t last.”
She fell silent with only her ongoing mastication to be heard.
Without thinking I looked down at her feet to see what shoes she wore. A pair of grey sandals with Velcro fastening.
“Long or short socks?” she asked.