The 11:45 train to Flinders Street, stopping all stations except East Richmond is on time, and is expected to arrive shortly.
Connex apologises for any convenience caused.
The collection of cups leaning into each other in a heap on the sink rattle as a Sandringham bound train rumbles over us. The train;s wheels thumping rhythmically as they pass through a switch in the tracks.
His office, a warren of dingy beige rooms, is under the elevated tracks at Gardenvale station.
Above the sink in the back corner of the front office, I notice a small hole in the wall surrounded by a rectangular patch of undulled paint. The framed photograph that once hung there now leans against the wall directly beneath its corresponding patch of painted plaster.
He speaks with his back to me as he stirs a third spoonful of blend 43 into a steaming cup.
The bastards at the post office - rezoned me - changed me address - I had to tell me clients me address is in bloody east broyton - they wont deliver me mail if it says gaaardenvale - Problem is - me clients wont come to east bloody broyton!
The word "Milk!" is scrawled across today's date on the calendar taped to the fridge door. The white-toothed smile straddling the bikini-clad calendar girl's face is strangely understated. The name of a local Panel Beater appears in a far too formal serifed font between her bare feet and the rows of dates defining August.
He doesn't sniff the milk carton's contents before adding a long dash to my cup.
There's a bus stop in front of his office. A group of students wait to catch the North Road bus to Monash. The frosted front window blends their shapes and shadows. The blur of the glass averages out any unique personal traits into a neutral, backpacked, blue-jeaned mass.
I hear the coffee cup slide across the laminex desk towards me. His computer's disk drive had been grinding away constantly, shuffling its contents between sectors in a vain attempt to find more space. The computer's exhaust fan drones as it blows hot air across my cup, rippling the surface of the over milked coffee.
From the street the hiss of air brakes, a bus arrives, the blur of bodies cluster at the door and slowly file on board. Through the open front door I can see a fresh batch of scholastic hopefuls streaming down the ramp from the station, they become part of the blur and disappear into the idling bus, an Eastrans 630, it pulls away from the curb as a city bound train rumbles over our heads.
The unsniffed milk has gone lumpy in my cup, the chalky chunks blown to the southern rim by the computer generated breeze.
The bikini girl's smile seems widened, the reason for her curious expression now made more clear.
The calendar on the fridge is five years old.
My left eye's corner watched as he approached.
A fanfare of scarves bursting from his coat.
Hand knitted gloves and beanie. Dragging his left leg.
I distract myself with unnecessary fingernail maintenance
"you can't smoke here" he tells me,
"you can't .. not here, no"
His concealed finger slowly traces an arc, from the ground
to me and then onwards,
to the rusty roof covering platform 3
"You... can't smoke here"
I nod, and return to my index finger,
he sits beside me, and slowly lowers his.
"no, cant smoke, not here!"
I'll keep that in mind
in case I ever start.
on the train
pouts postulates preens
black & red uniform
matching clown outfit?
leather balls, even out the usual mix
turbans, beanies & baseball caps
different teams same function
R A T M blasts drowning
the. banter of a hundred nations
dressed to the nines
flattened wastelands brimming with regrets
scratched, grubby windows
creepers for supremacy
change here for Cragieburn
five ply, yellow girders
still the murmur of a hundred nations
skyscrapers prod a melancholic sky
even the trains sport
different teams colours
hacking; dry; dim sims
regular mix of accents
tube of sound
morse of flouros
lead to darker skies
and a horizon broken by hi-vis jackets
(seen written - in cursive! - just under the window of the 86 tram we were on yesterday afternoon)
A shock on the 86 this morning - it's not right for a Monday, not when it's the wrong side of 7am - we've got one of those trams where they've ripped out most of the seats and put a line of bum-cushions down along the windows, instead. For a little while, I teeter on the edge of one of the few real seats left, but figure that I'll be giving it up for somebody more worthy some time real soon now, and so decide to pre-empt the situation before there's nowhere good to stand. The end of the tram suits me. I can stare out the back window, watching the rails shoot out and away, the rain make patterns on the windscreen, and drivers swarming around the rear of the tram like angry bees.
On my last ride to in work on the 112 tram, we reached the SuperStopTM at the top end of Collins St. I watched a scraggly old man carefully drape an Australian flag across a rubbish bin, before picking up his plastic bags and walking off. A few passers-by looked nervously at it, before it blew off and fell in a crumpled heap on the ground.
We sped toward the city in the dark and I nestled my camera on my lap as the taxi driver waxed enthusiastically about winning two thousand on the horses today, further proof that today was his lucky day. My waving him down on the side of the nearby main road was also proof of his lucky day, since he'd just dropped someone off and was hoping to head back to the city. But horses. He was keen. He studied the form guides, watched the international races now and then (but didn't do so well on the Japanese horse that won last year's Melbourne Cup) but seemed to be forming the opinion based on today's experience that a slightly crazy bet now and then was almost a surer way to win (if you were going to win at all, that day).
He told me a story about taking some friends to the races, years ago, along with a visiting Polish family member who couldn't speak much English, but pointed at a horse called "Lulu" on the sheet, so they put a few bucks down for her. It came in at 25:1. Blind luck, he said, shaking his head. When I got out, I wished him luck. Well, further luck.