“AW JESUS THERE’S the whistle,” Jimmy cursed to himself as he ran towards the platform gate.
“Is that the Johnstone train?”
The ticket collector muttered, “Ye’re too late noo son it’s away” just as Jimmy vaulted the fence beside the closed gate.
“Heh, whit’s the score you. Did you see that, Alec? Christ this joab wid burst yer heid sometimes.”
“It wisnae the joab thit wis burstin’ yer heid last night Sammy,” laughed his mate, “Aye ye were nae picture yersel’ then.”
Jimmy just managed to open the door of the rearmost carriage of the train as it rumbled away from the platform gasping for breath, his head back against the toilet door, he sighed with the relief that he would be on time for his work.
In the reluctant comfort of this thought, he relaxed against the door which clicked and sprung open pitching him inwards into the startled embrace of the man who had just been coming out of the toilet.
“Jesus Christ,” exclaimed Jimmy as the man caught him.
“Naw but ye’d think Ah wis, the way you’re fallin ower yersel’ for me.”
“Don’t be funny,” Jimmy blasted. “Ye shouldnie’uv been usin’ the toilet anyway when the train’s in the station. Look, there’s the notice.”
“Heh you’re in a right mood, son,” the man said as he struggled past Jimmy leaving him the sole occupant of the toilet. As he was leaving the toilet he caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror and saw that his face was flushed. “Christ that cannae be me, ah’m only twenty-two an’ that face in there looks like it’s git wan foot in the grave.”
Desperate for a seat and a smoke, breathlessly he struggled along the overcrowded carriages. “British effin’ Rail,” Jimmy uttered as he entered the last carriage. “Surely the boays’ll be in here.”
Right enough, there they were, four of them, fully occupying the four seats across the passageway from the only vacant seat in the carriage.
“Thank Christ a seat at last,” Jimmy thought as he acknowledged his workmates with an exasperated nod.
On the vacant seat lay a pair of black leather gloves and Jimmy hesitated expectantly before saying, “Excuse me, Jim, are they your gloves?”
A well groomed head looked over the top of the Glasgow Herald and indifferently replied, “Yes”.
“Could you possibly move them so thit ah can sit down please,” asked Jimmy.
“Are you sure that you are in the correct apartment young man,” enquired the voice.
“Well it’s certainly no’ a glove compartment, so gonny move them.”
“Have you got a first class ticket in your possession,” demanded the voice.
“Hiv you got wan?” snarled Jimmy, abandoning any attempt to be courteous.
“Of course I have,” said the voice becoming indignant and making a sweeping gesture with its arm, “but I doubt if you, or these, would have.”
In a state of affrontery and anger, Jimmy picked the gloves up from the seat, threw them at the voice’s face and defiantly sat down beside its perplexed astonishment.
“I shall report you to the guard,” assured the voice. “I demand to see your ticket.”
“I demand tae see yours first,” retorted Jimmy, “show me it.”
“I most certainly will not,” replied the voice, “you are not in the least part entitled to see my ticket.”
“That’s right,” gasped Jimmy, “an’ you’re no’ entitled tae see mine either so shut it an’ get on wi’ yer paper.”
“You can rest assured I will be taking this further,” insisted the voice.
“Aye tae Paisley and Largs,” smirked Jimmy with a triumphant sneer as he turned to his workmates to discover that he was being totally ignored.
As the train sped through the Hillington stations, it was as if it exuded a sense of arrogant pride in the security that it continued to run back and forth between Glasgow and Largs, insensitive to the accumulated closures which were occuring on the Industrial Estate that these railway stations served. As if the boarded-up emptiness of the estate caused the passengers on the train to silently ponder their own personal futures, the tense atmosphere seemed to dissolve as it was absorbed by the different people.
Jimmy searched in his pockets for the packet of cigarettes which he’d bought at Central Station but could not find them.
“Jesus Christ, they must’ve fell oot mah pocket when Ah jumped that fence.”
He leaned over to his mates, “heh, Raymie len’ me a fag, jist till we get tae Johnstone.”
The cigarette was thrown over to Jimmy and he had to snatch it out of the air snapping it in two. He lit the half with the filter on it and put the other half in his pocket.
When he attempted to use the ashtray he annoyingly found he could not, as it was being covered by a pinstriped terylene sleeve, a protruding white cuff with gold personalised links and a wafer thin gold watch.
The hand at the end of this ensemble was holding the newspaper right across the divider - well into the area in front of Jimmy.
“Would ye mind shiftin’ ye’r paper, ah’d like tae use the ashtray.”
With an affected cough, the man thrust his arm even further across Jimmy’s space.
At this gesture, Jimmy seemed to relax, sat back, looking at his mates - and with a wry twist on his mouth, pushed the lit cigarette towards the ashtray which of course came to rest on the pin-striped sleeve. A few seconds later, the pungent smell of scorched terylene alerted the gentleman as well as everyone else in the carriage, that something was not right.
On realising that the smell was emanating from his own sleeve, the prim personage violently came to life, drew his arm in horror and proceeded to get into the most outrageous fankle, knocking his spectacles off then accidently treading the usefulness out of them as they lay on the floor. His carefully cultivated equanimity asunder, he screeched: “My syoot, my syoot, you have ruined my syoot!” and as he discovered that his spectacles were lying broken on the floor, “my spectacles my...” and as he bent down to pick them up, “oh my head,” as his head met with the table edge.
“This is criminal assault, you, you Glaswegian lout. You will pay for this. I am going to have you arrested. Your kind are all the same.”
The wee woman sitting across from Jimmy wailed, “Aw Jesus, he’ll get us aw the jeyal.”
When the train slid to a halt at Paisley, the besyooted, pin-stripped man left the train and returned with a policeman.
The policeman asked to see Jimmy’s ticket and was scrutinising its validity when he was urged to pursue the complaint of assault, and to “have the lout removed from the train and charged accordingly. Forthwith.”
The policeman didn’t seem to know what to do when his indecision was relieved by the lilting accent of an Irishman wearing an old bunnet, a brown pinstriped suit and wellies. “Well ye see now, Sergeant, dough I wud never be the one to tamperfere with the twists and turns of the law. I wud surely be derelict if I wasn’t to putt ye’s right. D’er wis no seats the length and breadth of the train and derefore the young man has the crown given right to sit on yonder seat be it first class or no! If ye’s wur tae ask me good an’humble self I wud have tae swear that the man in the winda’ seat was the one who is wrong.”
In response to this, Jimmy said with an opportunistic confidence, “Now there are seats in the other carriages I’ll move into a second class seat.”
“Well then off you go,” said the policeman.
As the train pulled into the next station, Jimmy’s smugness was abruptly displaced with the recognition that it was Johnstone. He just managed to get off the train as it pulled its way along the platform.
To his surprise, the man in the pinstriped suit and the policeman were standing on the platform and as Jimmy passed them, the policeman stood in his way and said, “Chust a moment, I want a wh’ord with you, laddy.”
Jimmy defiantly snarled, “Aye whit is it?”
“What’s yoor name?”
Whit dae ye want tae know fur?”
“Chust tell me yoor name,” insisted the policeman.
“Wullie McGhee, wan-sivin-sivin Main Street, Rutherglen,” replied Jimmy.
“What impudence,” interjected the man.
“Whit dae ye mean; that is mah name.”
“I wh’ould sincerely adfise you not to be so insolent, laddy,” said the policeman.
“Look Ah’m gonny be late for mah work so tell me whit ye’s want.”
The policeman went on at considerable length, in his West Highland way which betrayed more the heart of a poet than the beat of a policeman, about how fortunate it was that Doctor Millar was not preferring charges.
During this, Jimmy kept repeating in his head, “bonkers bonkers away an’ pull yer plonkers.”
When the constable had finished Jimmy snapped, “Can ah go tae mah work noo?”
After crossing the footbridge, Jimmy stopped and shouted, “Mah name’s Wullie McGhee anyway, ya coupla diddies,” and as he gestured a vigorous two fingered salute, he turned and ran into the ticket inspector. The inspector grabbed him by the sleeve of his duffle coat and as Jimmy struggled the coat came clean off him and he ran off up the road laughing.
“Ha ha, a square go wi’ an empty coat, aye ye’s’ll no’ get me noo.”
When Jimmy got to the works gate, the security man smiled, “You’ve no’ forgot ye’r identity pass again. Where’ve ye left it this time? Where’s ye’r jaikit, anyway?”
Jimmy’s face went white, he looked up to the sky and said, “Life’s just a bowl a’ effin cherries.”