Sitting in the driver’s cabin of a Metro train about to leave Lilydale Station, Bronwen Miller never regretted chucking in her well paid job in ‘bullshitland’ public relations to become a train driver, where she derived a basic contentment in helping people get from A to B.
When her dashboard clock reached the departure time of 10:09, she completed all safety checks, closed the passenger doors, PAARPed the horn, and eased the Master Control stick forward to begin the journey to Flinders Street. The train soon reached the nearby Maroondah Highway level crossing, where the lowered boom gates had brought the busy highway traffic to an aggrieved pause.
Having crossed the highway, the X’ Trapolis 100 train gained speed for the 41 klm trip into the city; it quickly forded the John Street bridge, ran close beside the class rooms of Lilydale High, and skirted by the old limestone quarry on to it’s first stop of Mooroolbark.
Andrea Parsons boarded the train there, choosing the second carriage as was her habit – it being closer to the exit escalator at Flinders Street.
She sat in a window seat adjacent to the doors and watched as they slid to a close, observing a dragon fly heading for inside the carriage, just escaping incarceration with a last second flight plan change.
The train departed platform 1, trundling across the red–light flashing, dung-dung-dunging Manchester Road crossing, to then run beside Sherlock Road, where a long line of 1980’s home units sat upon a desert of aged concrete, their nature strips laden with discarded household belongings; old couches, doorless fridges, worn out bikes etc, all sent packing to the hard waste collection.
After crossing Brushy Creek, they made their way up the long steady climb towards Croydon Station.
Scavenging beside the tracks, a flock of ravens rose into the air as the X’ Trap approached. They perched on the overhead power lines and waited until the last carriage rolled by, before hang-gliding back down to their endeavours.
As the train crested the hill, Andrea, deep in thought, lent her forehead against the graffiti scratched window, and looking downwards, her attention was drawn to the rails that lay next to her city bound ones.
Lulled by a lack of sleep and the motion of the train, she locked her eyes on the rail closest to her: it’s shiny steel top glittered in the bright morning sun, sparkling and twinkling, twinkling and sparkling, until her concentrated gaze morphed into an endless conveyer–belted blur, mesmerising her, taking her back to earlier that morning when she read the text on her husband’s phone:
MY DARLING LINDA, I WANT TO BE WITH YOU AS WELL. I SWEAR I WILL TELL HER SOON, BUT PLEASE BE PATIENT. BXXX
Although she had felt that something was wrong after Byron’s promotion, it was only when she answered their phone to an active silence too many times, that she broke their mutual trust and checked his messages; then it was confusion, not anger that she felt, as she had always assumed that they were meant to be a couple, and would grow old together.
Ricky Petrovitz was talking into his phone as he entered the third carriage of the now 10:25 Ringwood to Flinders Street train, still using his outside voice inside. Although there were plenty of empty seats, he stood by the doors opposite, and paced around his limited space with, “Mate, the point is, like I told you, once you’ve signed the contract you’re legally obliged to pay the deposit. I explained my commission fee to you when we got to the office, remember?”
In the quieter time of the other party answering his question, the train passed over a pedestrian crossing where a toddler was held securely in the arms of his mother, both of them waving to the carriage windows as they paraded on by.
”Sorry mate”, Ricky said, “I didn’t catch that, traffic’s really bad today, but can I just say that I’ve already started – sorry, what was that? Sounds like I’m on a train? I wish I was mate, ‘cos someone else would be driving wouldn’t they? Wouldn’t they?”
As people began to hear his rising frustration “But I’m in the company BMW actually, and … hello? Steve? Steve??”
He shoved the phone back in his pocket, and with his face now tensed, cried out “Oh come on! Give me a fucking break for Christ’s sake!” and stormed through the connecting doors into the next carriage, then the next, until he reached the very end of the train and could storm no more.
It was a happy journey for the soon to be married Debbie and Tom, who were on their way to her mother’s house in Hawthorn to finalise the catering details. “Can you please try harder with mum today Tom? I know she’s a pain, but she means well. Please?”
“Jesus Debs, means well? Means to control everything more like. Someone should tell her that things have changed since her day, that we’re not all God fearing church goers anymore.”
“Well, she’s wasn’t always that way, she only became religious after dad was killed. And I don’t think John will return to Melbourne anytime soon, so the wedding is everything to her Tom, and she wants it to be all traditional and perfect.”
“Well that’s fair enough, I do realise that it’s her day too, her baby girl getting married and stuff, but do we have to have a white wedding? Isn’t that going just a bit too far?”
She lay her head on his shoulder, “Yeah, I know sweetie, believe you me I know.” She took his hand, and placed it on her midriff, close to where their baby was growing.
Geoff Webb boarded the train in Richmond heading for what he still called Spencer Street Station. He wasn’t commuting as such, but about to test his endurance as he hadn’t done since his 1967 army tour of duty in Vietnam.
As a Sapper with 1st Field Squadron, he had become a ‘tunnel rat’, someone who would enter a Viet Cong tunnel by himself, and crawl inch-by-inch, cautiously looking ahead to find and neutralise mines and booby traps, prior to infantry soldiers entering the jungle. It was a very stressful, nerve-racking job, that pushed his mental state to its very limits.
Upon his discharge, Geoff would go to any lengths to avoid tunnels of any kind, but as the need for road tunnels increased in Melbourne, his phobia had now become a dreadful inconvenience, and it needed to be dealt with.
So he now found himself in a window seat, moving through the Jolimont rail yards, about to enter the subterranean world of the city loop.
Having blown his last chance with Morgan Real Estate, Rick had left the train at Box Hill and had walked to his sister’s house, to tell her that this time he was truly serious, and to beg her to help him for the absolute last time with his drug problem, before it made him homeless again.
But recognising his knock, she watched him from behind the bedroom window, and with hand in mouth, didn’t answer the door.
Geoff closed his eyes as the X’ Trap began its descent, and as the noise of the train’s velocity became louder within it’s narrowed confinement, he opened them. He took in the strength of the reinforced concrete walls, the ventilation shafts, and the number of emergency exits, all clearly visible through the luminance of the tunnel safety lighting.
He could see little chance of a tunnel collapse here, no hidden trip wires to maim or kill, and no enemy soldiers laying in wait. By the time they rose out of the tunnel to stop at Southern Cross, he knew that the time had come for him to drive through the City Link road tunnel when next he visited his son’s family in Werribee.
As the train pulled into Flinders Street Station smack on time at 11:06, Andrea had decided to skip work and visit the Botanic Gardens, as she needed some thinking time to reconsider her marriage vows in a more contemplative setting.
As she headed for the escalator, a bearded lycra-clad hipster pushing an E-Bike hurried past her in an effort to catch the train – but futility set in as the doors closed for the journey back to Lilydale – just before he reached them.