Wednesday 26 June 2024

The Train To London by Henry Lewi, bottled water

He settled into his seat on the London bound train well ahead of its departure. It had been a fun month playing the clubs around Manchester and the North of England; he’d played as a solo musician, played alongside other jazz and blues groups, and most recently had joined up with a Folk-punk group for the last four days of his stay in Manchester.

  He always liked to board his train early, choose his seat, always a window, and always at a table always facing front; he placed his two old battered leather suitcases on the rack above and settled into his seat.

  There were no delays, the train was going to leave on time and the journey would take just under three hours to Euston.  He’d occupy the time reading the latest best-selling thriller he’d bought at the station bookshop. Much better than driving, or being parked for hours on the M6 and M1.

 The carriage began to fill up: a few businessmen, couples, and across the aisle, the four members of the Folk-punk group he’d recently played alongside. Despite their appearance, long hair, heavily mascaraed eyes, T-shirts and leather jackets, he knew that all four were postgraduate students, currently completing their PhDs in mathematics, biochemistry and astrophysics.  Bright lads, but they would probably make more money in their music than they’d ever do following their graduation.

 Two older ladies occupied the two outer seats at his table and an overweight, red-faced young man forced his way into the remaining window seat opposite, and placed his laptop on the table between them.  He hung his jacket on the hook alongside his seat, his red braces stretched taught over his striped shirt and belly.

 The train pulled out of Manchester on time, and began its journey on to London, the steady passage of the train lulling him to sleep whilst he struggled to read his book.  He was woken by the man opposite talking loudly into his phone, with the speaker on, and a lengthy loud conversation ensuing, which involved a lot of swearing, yelling, and discussions on how much money the so-called businessman was going to make. 

  Suddenly the woman seated next to him said to the fat businessman, ‘I’m sorry, could you be a little less loud, maybe turn off your phone and be a little bit more considerate, and possibly tone down your language?’

  ‘Shut up Granny,’ he replied.  ‘This is my business, my job, so don’t interfere,’ and continued to shout into his phone whilst looking at his laptop.

  The train continued on its journey, clickety-clack, clickety-clack; there was still over two hours to go to London. The woman looked as if she was about to burst into tears and looked away; he looked at the fat businessman in his red braces, holding his phone in one hand and tapping away on his laptop. 

 ‘Did you really have to be that rude?’ he asked.

 ‘What’s it to you? replied the businessman, ‘I’m making more money than the lot of you, so zip it OK?’ as he continued to speak loudly on the phone.

‘Your final word?’ He asked.

‘Yes it’s my fucking final word,’ replied the businessman.

 With that he stood up in his seat and brought down the smaller of his two battered cases and opening it took out his trumpet. Taking a swig of water from his ever-present water bottle, he moistened his lips, put the trumpet to his mouth.

He blew a couple of notes and began to play the Mexican Hat Dance – ‘♪♪da-da-da♪ –♪da da- dada♪♪,’ he played whilst the carriage went quiet.

 The fat businessman shouted at him, ‘Oi!  Can it, I’m trying to work here.’

‘So am I, so am I,’ replied the trumpeter quietly.  ‘You do your job and I’ll do mine,’ and immediately launched into a trumpet solo version of When the Saints Go Marching In. As he played on, people in the carriage began to sing along, so he continued, and next played All you need is Love, by which time the whole carriage joined in and were singing the words.

  The four members of the Folk-punk group had by now retrieved their instruments, two banjos, a mandolin and acoustic guitar, and took over, playing their own versions of Vivaldi’s mandolin and guitar concertos, with him jamming along with them on his trumpet, as the carriage now rocked, cheered and videoed the performance.  The music continued as people from other carriages squeezed in, watching, cheering and clapping along to the music, even the train conductors came along to observe and applaud.

 Unable to hear himself think, let alone continue with his phone call, the fat businessman, got up and forced his way out of the carriage to loud jeers; but still the music played on, the passengers listened, and applauded as the impromptu concert continued, as they all travelled en-route to London.

  By the time the train had pulled into Euston, the YouTube video that had been posted and had been viewed well over a million times, and that night the local news reports were showing video clips from the train journey, with one critic stating that the spontaneous performers had ‘played their instruments like Heavenly Angels.’

The news that night was also reporting that the police had arrested a businessman arriving on the same train for fraud and embezzlement, and he’d stand trial later that month.

 As he watched the YouTube video clips of himself playing with the Folk-punk group on the news that night, the Archangel Gideon, spread his wings wide with satisfaction and played one last song on his Heavenly Trumpet.

About the author

 Henry is a retired surgeon and member of the Canvey Writers Group. He has published a number of stories on the CafeLit site. 
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