Sometimes you know the moment that you have sat down that you have made a mistake, but a fierce adherence to a strict code of peculiarly British politeness dictates that you must suffer your error in silence rather than rectify it by moving. Let me describe the train carriage from hell.
The family comprised three adults and three children; I couldn’t work out the permutations of precisely who was related to who, and I didn’t trouble to ask. The three children comprised two girls of about seven years old and a boy of about three. It is the boy whom we need to focus on.
He was crying when I sat down; that should have been warning enough. He sat next to his mother, who appeared deaf to his distress and whose sole purpose seemed to be as a passive punch-bag for the little boy’s fists. The wailing increased in volume, as too did the boy’s assault.
Eventually, after a sustained barrage of infant-rage blows, the mother reached into her bag, fetching from its depths a sachet of sugar. The sight of the saccharine treat silenced the toddler at a stroke. He sat, head up, mouth open, like a needy fledgling in the nest, as his mother opened the sachet and poured the sugar down his greedy throat.
There were a blissful few seconds of silence. It did not last.
Once the initial rush of sugar had passed, the bawling began all over again, accompanied by the incessant punching, demanding more. It was a depressing spectacle to watch; the infant equivalent of a drug addict requiring their next fix of crack cocaine. And, judging by the size of the toddler, this was clearly the family’s habitual pacifier.
Another sachet of sugar was retrieved and dispatched in similar fashion. The third sachet the mother threw across the aisle of the train carriage to where her husband was sitting. The monstrous lump of toddlerdom watched its flight with desperate, eagle-eyes. He struggled down from his seat on short, dumpy legs, to stand in front of his father, like a hungry dog begging scraps at the dining table.
His father deliberately held the sachet tantalisingly out of reach of the tubby infant’s grasp, whilst the entire family rocked with laughter at the cruel joke. Finally, the spoiled child was once again indulged; shovelling the sugar into his mouth with gluttonous relish.
It was at this point that the train took a hand in events. The carriage lurched unexpectedly as it passed over uneven points, and the fat brat tumbled forward, slipping on the floor. This Weeble wobbled, but he did fall down. He put out his chubby hands to save himself, but the shock of the stumble caused him to start crying anew.
And I was pleased. As I sat quietly in my train seat, I was secretly pleased. And I glanced at the two other innocent travellers who were also sharing this compartment from hell and I could see from their expressions that they were pleased, too. For a brief moment, we were united in the silent comradeship of unexpressed evil thoughts. And it felt good.
© Simon Turner-Tree
Simon Turner-Tree is part of the axis of evil.
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