The peeving, irritating noise of the alarm clock rings in the old man’s ears. He struggles to reach it to shut it off. He does so, and slowly makes his way out of the covers and onto his feet beside the bed. 6am. He begins his morning routine by walking to the bathroom. He washes his face, and at the same time looks into the mirror. He stares at the whittled old skin and bones looking back at him, and touches his wrinkles, wondering what has happened to him. It seemed like only the other day he was sitting with his wife, enjoying lunch together as they watched the ducks swimming in the jade green pond. His wife has passed away since then, and he lives alone. He gets dressed, and after a few bites of toast and his daily arthritis medication, grabs his house keys and proceeds to lock up. He shuffles out the front gate, closing it also, before looking up. The clouds loom overhead, dark and ominous. The rain is on its way, but the old man has no money for an umbrella. He begins his long walk to the train station, on his way to the council office to plea for extra money in his pension, as he can barely scrape through life as it is.
The black mascara stains are smudged under her eyelids as she exits through the back door of the club, closing behind her with a dull thud. She hates her job, and hates herself for doing what she does. She pulls on her black overcoat and gloves as the cool air stings sharply against her bare arms, the light hairs standing on end. Alcohol is the only thing that gets her through the day these days, and the addition of heavy drugs like ecstasy and heroin only serve to increase her paranoia as she walks down the quiet street, the station only a few corners away. She never thought this would be her life in her forties, but someone has to pay for her son while he lives on the dole. She stumbles over the gutter, and only narrowly misses a collision with an oncoming car. She sits on the cold bench, reading the graffiti on the station wall. She presses the button to see how long her wait will be, and a robotic voice sounds. ‘The next train to Adelaide will depart from Platform 1, stopping all stations.’
A young man, barely into his twenties, raises his hood as he and his two friends make their way to the station. These men are desperate. They were never given a good hand from birth, born into a life of parental abuse, domestic violence, poverty, and misfortune. Resorting to thieving from easy targets, they plan to jump the next train and find the weakest person on board. With a knife in his pocket and his friends at his back, he waits patiently for the train to arrive, constantly playing out the plan in his head. It’s so simple.
The old man boards the train and proceeds to pay for his fare, pulling the change out of his worn trouser pocket. The Conductor sees him struggling with the addition of his silver coins, and proceeds to help him. He counts the change, but has no choice but to fine the old man as he doesn’t have enough to pay for a ticket. However, he allows the man to stay on the train out of sympathy, and the old man takes his seat. The train grinds to a halt, and a woman dressed completely in black staggers onto the carriage. The old man sees her, and has flashbacks to his wife. The resemblance is striking as he sits staring at her. She speaks to him as she walks past in a disrespectful tone, ‘What the fuck you staring at? Take a picture creep.’ His old hearing aid barely functions anymore, and it makes it difficult to understand what she says. She pays her fare and takes her seat also, her dark eyes darting around as she continually scratches her bare wrist compulsively. At the next stop, a gang of three youths climb aboard the nearly empty train and look around. One of them points out the old man, sitting alone on the worn out plastic seat, and they nod at each other.
The leader steps forward, reaching into his jacket as he does so. He pulls out a knife, flicks the blade out, and holds it up to the old man’s heart as he says, ‘The choice is yours old man, either you part with your money or you can rest in peace.’ The woman sees this, and instead of fleeing the carriage, stands up to defend this frail old man. The youth’s friend, with a face covered by a red bandana, immediately swings a right hand, knocking her to the ground instantly, dazed and confused, a red mark already swelling up on her cheek. The old man is distraught, and upon seeing this has a sudden flashback to his war days. Disturbed and distressed, he stands, and without realising drives the blade into his own stomach. He feels the sharp sting and looks down, his tattered shirt stained with crimson. The youth’s two partners freak out, and instantaneously run through to the next carriage, awaiting the train to stop so they can leave as soon as possible, desperate not to be caught.
Still holding the knife, the youth’s jaw drops as a tear runs down the old man’s face. He begs forgiveness, he has never gone this far before. Never in his plan had he expected this, to take a life, albeit accidentally. The old man drops his brown wallet, and with a light thump it hits the floor. The youth pulls out the knife, but throws it to the ground. Picking up the wallet, he flees, following his two friends. The train stops, and the gang of troubled young men pile out of the door at once, running all in different directions. The youngest of them, with stolen wallet in hand, finds a deserted park, and takes a seat on a beaten wooden bench. Speechless at what he has just done, he opens the wallet to assess his prize. Old receipts, a pension card, and a bunch of silver coins adding up to a measly 2 dollars.