Another world: Episode 6

INSPECTORS

A uniformed inspector leans forward and extracts a ticket from Barry’s top pocket. Barry now notices the two inspectors are identical, flat caps and epaulets.

INSPECTOR 1 examines the ticket, checks it against his clipboard, and passes it to INSPECTOR 2, who’s standing in the corridor.

INSPECTOR 1: When it comes to travel, you have a choice. Thank you for coming aboard. My colleague and I are here for your comfort. Please don’t hesitate to contact us with your slightest desire.

INSPECTOR 2: [pointing] And what about the bags?”

INSPECTOR 1: We don’t need to go into all that. Remember, the customer is always right.

INSPECTOR 2: [chasened] Ah!

INSPECTOR 1: What do you remember, madam?

The woman thinks hard. She remembers the shower, the bathroom door, the great thud, the hiss of steam, the platform, the massive steam engine, and climbing into the sumptuous carriage. But what else? And then bubbling up from her memory:

WOMAN: [frowning] Now I remember, [gritting her teeth] Nick Flake, the rat! The toad! [now dreamily] Nick and I were destined to be together, forever, and ever.

INSPECTOR 1: Oh dear!

WOMAN: I’d planned the wedding and spent ages deciding on the dress. I’d chosen my bridesmaids. Why did he go off with Brenda Darling?”

INSPECTOR 1: No. How horrible! How long were you together?

WOMAN: [hesitatingly] Well, we never met in person—not yet. But I knew we would meet. I had that feeling, you know.

INSPECTOR 1: May I plump up your cushion, madam?”

WOMAN: That would be lovely.

He plumps her cushion and it comforts her.

INSPECTOR 1: Would you like a blanket, madam, a foot massage, perhaps? I can read some of my poetry to you?

INSPECTOR 2: Not that, oh no. We’ll not have poetry in this compartment.

INSPECTOR 1: My poetry is very calming. Everyone says so.

INSPECTOR 2: I don’t want to hear that Ode to a Pencil, again.

INSPECTOR 1: [rolls his eyes, and then in a fit of professionalism] Are you sure you’re warm enough, madam? Would you care to change out of your bathrobe? I’m sure we can find something more suitable if you come with us.

The two inspectors glide off down the corridor and the woman follows.


Barry turns around and sees that he’s not alone. In the corner, a man, about 50, balding, pencil mustache, in a tweed jacket and knee pants.

“A sofa man I said to myself. It takes one to know one. It’s your chin. You, sir, have a sofa-man’s chin. And these seats! Quite off the comfort scale, wouldn’t you say?”

Barry opens his mouth to speak but the man keeps talking.

“You really sink into this seat. Splendid!”

“Did you know, sir, that a pangolin has no teeth?”

But before Barry can speak the man continues.

“Aha! I didn’t think you looked the sort of fellow who knew that a pangolin has no teeth,” he says with a look of satisfaction which slowly turns to horror as he notices Barry’s luggage.

“You astonish me, sir!”

In an instant, he’s standing. He flings open the window, heaves Barry’s luggage out.

The man is yelling now with the window open, “They’re never going to let you in with luggage.” Barry considered this for a moment.

“Get a move on!” he says to Barry. “We are almost at our destination. Yes, yes, all of it. I don’t want them thinking it’s mine.”

The last of the bags fly through the open window. Barry, mouth open, looks like a goldfish.

The man closes the window and sits down just as the train pulls into End of the World Station under a sky of stars.