Doggone Train – Part 1 March 2019
The pants that Travis’s mother had organised for him to wear scratched his lower back lightly with each step. It had tickled initially, making him skip, but now it felt like sandpaper, and Travis had to reach into the back of his pants with great effort to try and locate the irritating piece of fabric that was scraping him.
As he stopped abruptly in his path to push his hand down his pants a woman walked past him and looked over her shoulder tut tutting, saying something about ‘blerry disgusting men’. He curled his nose up at her. What did she know? Was she wearing his pants? No! She was in a skirt, not these ridiculous chino pants that Mom had insisted he wear so that he could get that job. This stupid job that Mom said was going to make everything better.
Better, because after Travis had barely managed to pass matric, Mom had been fretting about him getting a REAL job. Not a casual job like waitering or bar tending at the local. She said that wasn’t real work and you couldn’t possibly make a real living like that. Travis found it confusing, the difference between his life and Mom’s expectations of real life. Why was his current life not real enough for her? It puzzled him, but it wasn’t worth arguing with Mom. She said it like it was. For a year or more Travis had been working at the local bar on the main road, covering shifts that ran from late afternoon to nearly midnight, and now Mom said that enough was enough. Mom didn’t like that she went to work in the morning and Travis was still sleeping in, even though she knew he had got home late from work. Mom said it just wasn’t a good life for a youngster. She said Travis would end up an alcoholic if he carried on working there. Travis liked it though. He liked it when the regulars bought him a drink. They spoke to him nicely and always told him stuff. It made him feel helpful to listen to their mostly sad stories. He was like a shrink to them.
Travis also liked waking up late the next day and then grabbing his surfboard and going to catch a few waves at Fish Hoek beach or Glencairn beach. Any beach he could walk to or catch the train to, if it was working. He liked to enjoy the day, maybe go to the shops, meet up with a friend. It was a good life for Travis and he thought is was real enough. But not Mom. Oh no, she wanted Travis to earn real money in his real life.
That was how he had ended up here, at the Fish Hoek train station waiting to get onto the train, trying to stand in a way that his body didn’t touch that annoying tag that was scratching his back, holding his ticket tightly. He had his wallet in his right pocket and his phone in his left. Mom said that he should take R100 so he could buy his ticket and get some lunch too. Today was his big day she’d said. The start of his CAREER. Mom had cornered Uncle Ben at church a few weeks back. Travis hadn’t been close enough to hear the conversation, but by the look on Mom’s face, which had been pained, he had guessed that she had made things sound bad. Mom could be dramatic and Uncle Ben, who worked at a big company in town that does printing, found Travis a ‘job opportunity’. All Travis had to do was ‘pitch up on Monday at the office and do what you’re told” was what Uncle Ben had said. It sounded easy, and Mom said even Travis couldn’t stuff this up. All he had to do was catch the train and get to the office.
The voice over the train station intercom sounded, the train was even on time today. It was definitely going to be easy peasy, lemon squeezy to start his big career.
This was first published in the Billboard Magazine in March 2019