Edward was angry, working his way up to furious. It was his fathers’ fault. Being 17, ninty percent of the things that made him angry was his fathers fault. This one, in particular, he felt was his fathers fault. Edward would be turning 18 in a few months, and he was trying to organise a trip to the put on his 18th. He felt it was a right of passage, his first drink, and all he wanted to do was to take his father, and a few friends down to the pub. Well, more precisely, his father. Edward wasn’t very good at making friends. He found that he couldn’t connect with people his age. He found them all a bit… weird. People generally left him alone, and for the most part, this was fine with him. He was much more happy alone with his engineering books. Steam Trains had started it all, the stories that his fater had told him when he was young. A few times his father took to the station where he worked, and had let him watch the train pull in. Though his father hadn’t done that since he was seven. He used to imagine that exotic people rode the train, people with long capes, and top hats with canes, or people with long shaggy beards and hair comming out of their noses, wild-men types. His father had always told him that one day Edward would join him on the platform. At the tender age of seven, it seemed exoctic, and he had agreed to it whole hartedly. Now, at seventeen, it didn’t seem real. However, his father was still adamant that on Edward’s eighteenth, he was to join him there on the platform. Not during the day, but at night. His father shift starts at 8. Given Edwards liking for trains (it had waned from a love as he grew up), he could probably have got himself excited if his father was Station Master, or Conductor, or even, perhaps announcer, but his father was simply a Sweeper. His father’s job was to clean the station. Edward slumped down in the chair at his desk, and tried to work out why his father was so insitant that on the day of his eighteenth birthday Edward was to go with him to his station, and to help him in his work. It made no sense. Perhaps it was his father being all sentimental about the fact that Edward was now all grown up. Edward paused in his fury to contemplate this a little. Though it appeared to make sense, he was 17. Being angry is what he did best.
They had the argument several times in the months up to Edward’s birthday. Though Edward was always angry about his father’s inability to see his point of view, his father was soft, gentle, but firm. Edward got continuiously confused by his fathers attitutde. Edward was never punished for these arguments, and his father would always be the one to appologise. Usually by leaving a bacon sandwich outside his son’s door. A tradition that had started when Edward was about 9, at the time when parents start loosing the point of view of the child, as they slowly begin building their own world-view. It was his father’s way of saying sorry, and it had sort of stuck. When the appology was accepted, Edward would come down stairs and thank him for the bacon sandwich. There was an awkward time when Edward was fourteen, as he, like many teenagers, became irrationally concerned with the plight of pigs and other animals that died so that Edward could eat, and though his father understood the position on general principles, and had adjusted his main meals so that they were vegatarian, still the appology came in the form of a bacon sandwich.
Edward was sat on their sofa, with his books spread all around him. He was meant to be revising, but what he was mostly doing was watching day-time television, and shading in his doodle. He was idly contemplating wether or not there was a point to have the argument one last time with his father. Tonight was his last night being seventeen, and he felt that it was his duty to make his point heard. There was a knock at the door, and Edward unearthed himself from his paper, pencils, empty plates and books. Stood on the doorstep was two policemen, both with their hats tucked under arms. “Edward Bartholemew Stanley?” said the first policeman, holding up a warrant card. Edward glanced at it, not really knowing what one was meant to look like, but noting that it had the badge that he’d seen on television, and a side that had a picture of the man holding it, identifying him as a sargent. “Yes?”.
“Can we come in?”
Edward paused. It was one of those requests that make most people’s hearts sink, and for no reason at all, begin feeling guilty. “Sure, right this way” He showed them through to their small livingroom, and began piling his books up to clear the sofa, and guestured for them to sit on it.
“umm, would you like a cup of tea?”
“No, thank you Mr. Stanley. Perhaps you’d better sit down.” Edward’s legs gave out from under him, and he collapsed into his seat.
“I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but your father was involved in a traffic accident….”
“Is he okay?” Edward cut accross the sargent, not really wanting him to finish.
“I’m sorry to have to tell you that your father was pronounced on the scene.”
The words were like a physical blow. Edward’s world stopped. The Sargent talked on, giving spars details about the accident, about how the man in the car had had a heart-attack, and how the car had careered into Edward’s Father.
“Is there anyone you would like us to call?”
“Huh?” said Edward. Still trying to process the information.
“Is there anyone you would like us to call?”
Edward paused. There was no one. He had no aunts or uncles, and his mother had died when he was young. “No, I don’t think there is anyone.”
“Do you have anyone we could call for you? A friend perhaps?”
Edward made a wry smile. “Uh, no. I… uh… It was just me and my Dad.”
The sargent said more things, about certificates, and bodies, but they just all sort of washed over automaton Edward. He showed them to the door, thanked them for their time, and smiled as he closed the door. For a moment, he stood looking at the closed door, and then he sank to the floor, sobbing.
It was dark when Edward finally surfaced from his malaise. He had the feeling that he needed to find the important documents, though he wasn’t really sure what they were. He opened the cupboard under the stairs, where his father kept all the important things like the passports. Everything in little shoe-boxes, the ends of which were labelled. As he read them, he found two that he picked out. One entitled “Funeral”, and the other entitled “Edwards 18th”. He also noted that there three other boxes, labelled “Edwards 19th”, “Edwards 20th”, and “Edwards 21st”. For some reason the boxes made him smile, thinking about how organised his dad was, and how it was going to be difficult to deal with everything without him. Edward carried the boxes back to the coffee table, and while looking at them, cried some more.
The box entitled “Funeral” seemed to have everything in it that he would need. Instructions on which funeral director to call, an insurance policy that was going to pay for the funeral, a list of telephone numbers that needed to be called. He noticed that two of the numbers were his primary and secondary schools. There was something odd about his Father thinking that far ahead. There was also the name of a Lawer, presumably where his father has left his will. Edward picked up the phone and called the funeral director. They sympathised with his loss, and assured him that they had his Father had left them instructions, and that they would take care of things. They would also make all the phone-calls for him, if he wished. Edward said that that would be helpful, and after hanging up, decided that he would spend the rest of the day in bed.
The funeral fell on Edwards 18th. A car picked him up at 10, and drove slowly through the streets. Old men took their hats off as the cars passed, and some younger ones did as well. Edward didn’t notice. The funeral was a short service at the church, though Edward never remembered his father ever speaking of a faith, though the Vicar, the Rev’d McKenzie seemed to know both Edward and his Father, though he guessed that was his job. There were maybe 12 people there, Edward recognised none of them. He stood by the side of the grave for a long time after the end of the service. All of the people had told him how sorry they were, and how good a man his father was. He was vaugly aware of two people who stood a long way off from the funeral, but obviously there to watch. One of which seemed to have dreads, the other a long black coat. They stayed much longer than the others, but even they eventually left. He stood their looking at the mound of earth. He wanted to scream, he wanted to yell. He wanted to vent at his father that it wasn’t fair. Above all, he wanted his father to be there. To put his arm on his shoulder, and to tell him that it was going to be okay.
Edward sat at home watching the darkness role in. The house seemed oddly silent. Though he was often here on his own, it was the expectation that his father was going to come in through the door any moment, and call a hello. His old brown work coat still stood by the door. Suddenly there was a knock at the door, causing Edward to jump. “Taxi for Stanley”. Edward frowned. He hadn’t orderd a taxi… but perhaps his father had. Tonight was going to be the night they were going to go to his station. He headed towards the door, ready to tell the taxi that it wasn’t needed, but as he reached the door, he changed his mind. He grabbed his father’s brown coat, and shrugged it on, and headed out to the taxi.
“Eh man, you goin’ to de station?” The dead-locked jamacian smiled broadly at Edward. There was something about him that made him feel at ease. “Yes, Please”.
“Sure ting. It say here it be your biig night”
“It say here dat you is a man today. You is de man of de house”
Between everything, Edward had quite forgotten that today was his eighteenth. It was probably written on the taxi driver’s call sheet. “Uhh… Yeah”
The taxi drove through the town, and out into the countryside. It drove along for what seemed like a long time in silence, then turning off down a single-track road, with grass growing in the middle. Edward frowned, this didn’t seem to be the right way. Who would put a station way out here? Of course, his previous memories of the place were from when he was seven years old, so who was he to argue. The taxi driver pulled to a stop, and his the head-lights he could see the outline of a train station. Around it the grass grew wild, brambles intruded onto the path, and the big metal gates seemed rusted. Edward got out, feeling a little unsure of himself, and not really knowing why he was here. Forgetting himself, he wandered upto the gates that had been chained shut, thought the padlock seemed brand new. The entire place seemed shut up tight.
“De keys be in your pocket”
Edward jumped. The taxi-driver smiled at him. “Dat’ll be five pounds please. Dat will also be in your pocket. De breast pocket.”
“How do you….?” Edward asked while finding the note in the breast pocket of his fathers coat.
“Dat’s your fathers coat. He always stop on de way back and get money for de next time, and he put it in dere. ” Edward handed the money to the taxi driver, and nodded. It sounded like his father. The taxi-driver was also correct about the keys in the pocket. It was a large metal circle, with keys all around it. He eventually found the one that unlocked the padlock, and pulled the chain free, opening the gates. They made a loud scraping, screeching noise, and Edward made a mental note to get some oil for them. He put the keys back in his pocket and headed up the stairs to the platform. In the darkness, the metal pillars seemed to be hideous shapes, and the shadows seemed to move. Edward looked around in the dark. There must be a light switch somewhere. He looked around, and saw a box on the wall. Edward wandered towards it, and found it locked. He pulled out the keys out. He eventually found the one he needed, and made a mental note to labell the keys. The box revealed rows of switches, and one large switch on the left. They were unlabelled, which angered Edward somewhat. If this was his fathers’ job, and he was so organised at home, why on earth was this so complicated? Edward threw the large switch, and there was the buzz of elecricity, and the lights turned on over the platform. It was something directly out of victorian times. Vaulted metal pillars with curly detailing. There was only the one line comming into the station, so the platform stretched out infront of him. To his right was a small coffee shop, with the chairs stacked on the tables, there was a ticket-booth and turn style to the right, and behind him there was a small hut with the word “Janitor” written on it. Edward fumbled with his bunch of keys and opened the door. The keys were begining to become familiar now. Each key was different, and each lock seemed to obviously only fit a single key. He opened it and felt for a light-switch by the door. The small light fizzed into life above him. Resting on the table, in red birthday paper, was a broom. It was obviously a broom. Edward guessed that there was only so many ways you could wrap a broom, but however you did it, it was still going to be a broom. He reached out for the tag. “To Edward, I hope you like your present, Love Dad”. Edward frowned, confused. His father had always been strange, but it was unlike him to just get him a broom. There may have been some speach or something that went with the broom. Some form of explenation. He picked it up, and unwrapped it. It was a good broom, well made. There was probably some anectdote about looking after your broom, and about buying a good quality one. He hugged it to himself, and just imagined that his Father had said all those things that made him glow. He closed his eyes, and imagined his father’s simple smile, the one that said that he was proud of him, and that he loved him. “Thank you dad” He said. The words seemed inadequate somehow, but there was very little else he could say. He brushed a tear from his face, and decided to take his brush out for a spin.
In his mind’s eye Edward and his dad sweeped the platform. Laughing and joking, his father giving advice about how to hold the broom, his father continually refusing to tell Edward what it was that was so important about him being here. Edward smiled and laughed with the memory of his father, and before long he had swepped the platform clean, and just for good measure, he swepped the steps too. He didn’t remember a number to tell his Job that his father had passed away, and so there were people who would be expecting the job to be done. In his father’s memory, he wanted to do a good job. He put the broom away, and filled a bucket with some water, and added some soap. He began cleaning the windows of the cafe. There was something odly theraputic about it.
“Good Evning Charlie,” came a voice from outside, and then an embarrassed pause. “Umm… Hello?” the voice called. Edward had forgotten that his Father had a name. Charlie. He’d heard it twice today, but he couldn’t remember having heard it before today.
“Hello?” Edward called back. A woman in her mid-forties rounded the corner. She was waring floral-print dress, and a wide-brimmed hat with pins that kept her hair up. She had a round face, red cheeks, and eyes that sparkled. She seemed to glide, rather than walk, and in a way that Edward couldn’t realy put his finger on, very beautiful.
“Edward?” she said. He nodded. “I’m Molly. I’m so sorry to hear about your father.” Edward nodded. “Thank you. I uh… didn’t have a number… ” he said by way of explaining. Molly nodded, and touched his arm. “It’s okay, pumpkin. Would you like a cup of tea?”
“I just got to finish these windows…”
She smiled. “Like Father like son.”
She unlocked the cafe, and began turning the lights on, and opening up the cafe. Edward guessed that that meant that there must be a train arriving, but it must be getting in late. It was nearly 10 o’clock, and it was going to take at least half an hour for the cafe to be ready. Edward busied himself with preparing the station, and making sure it was clean. His father would have wanted it. The windows done, he put the turn-stile barriers down, and then made his way to the cafe.
Molly was just bringing a cup of tea to a table in the middle of the caffee, and a glass of something orange. She sat down opposite him, and smiled. Edward got the sense that Molly was always smiling. “Just time for a quick cuppa before the punters start to arrive huh?”. Edward shrugged. “I’m sorry… I’m not really sure..”
Molly looked at him. “Did you open the box?”.
“Yes love, the one your father made for your birthday.”
“Oh, please call me Molly. Well, in that case, I suppose I’d better give you a few hints. Your going to need to go to the turn-style to give out the tickets. That was your father’s job too.”
“Oh, thanks”. Edward picked up his cup, and made his way towards the door “Bring the cup back” Molly called. He nodded, and headed towards the little booth. There was a worn seat, and an old brass system for giving out tickets. Each of the tickets were colour-coded, and as Edward looked around the small booth, there was a price list pinned to the wall. “Carpenter and Son’s Rail-Road, Price-List”. Below it was a list of normal faires, Adult, Child, Single, Return, and below this, the price-list got a little weird. Edward wondered how it was that he was going to identify the different types. He didn’t have long to wonder. A man in a long cape and top-hat swining a cane approached the gate. The part of Edward that remembered being seven thought he recognised the man, but hadn’t seemd to have aged at all. The man looked at Edward with a bit of a scowl. “I do not pay”. Edward was a little taken aback by that. “Do you have a card?”. “Don’t you come all cocky with me, do you know who I am?”. Edward confessed that he didn’t, but if the man really did ride for free, then he would have to show Edward some idenfication, or pay the fair. Edward would then gladly refund the money when it was prooven that the man didn’t need to pay. “Do you know who you are dealing with?” the man started. Edward had had enough. It had been a long strange day, and he didn’t need this from some jumped up toff. “Look, Sir, it’s like this. If you want to get into this station, you need a ticked. If I don’t give you a ticket, you can’t get in. If you want to take it up with the manager, well then you can just wait for him to show up, and when he does, I’m sure he will gladly deal with you. However, I don’t think the manager is going to show up before the train does, to it’s up to you. Do you want to get on this train or not? If you do, then pay me for the ticket, if not push off.” The man in the top-hat looked like he’d been slapped in the face. He reached into his pocket and produced a small wallet, and slid the money over the counter. A glance at the price-list, and Edward gave him a red-coloured ticket, and his change. The man slid through the turn-stile, and onto the platform. The next man was covered in hair. His beard had grown wild, and he even had thick brown hair on his fingers. “ungh” said the man, holding up one long finger. Edward nodded, and told him the price. The man put a bundle of coins on the desk, and looked hopefully at Edward. Edward smiled and went through them, seperating. As he did so, he tried to explain the different value of the coins, and pointing out that one was a button, and wasn’t really worth anything. The man put that one into a different pocket. Edward handed the man his ticket, and he held it like it was precious. He opened the turn-style, to let him through, but the man seemed scared. Edward left the booth, and went down to unlock the gate, helping the man through. The man looked at him gratefully, and sampered onto the platform. Edward smiled and went back to the booth. The next customer was a woman, in her late forties. She had practical shoes on, and was waring a tweed two-pice suit which made her look much older than her face implied. “Good evening, Sir” she said. She seemed slightly hesitant. “Can I help you miss?”.
“Well, I hope so, I’m here to catch a train.”
“There will be one along in about ten minits”
“Do you know where it’s going?”
“I’m sorry ma’am, but I’m afraid I don’t.”
“I have this ticket, it seems… rather odd”. The woman showed him a ticket that matched those he’d been handing out. “It’s one of our’s ma’am. This is definately the place.” He smiled at her, and she smiled back. “Thank you for your help Mr… ”
“Just called me Edward”
“Thank you Edward”
“Any time Miss”
“Mrs…oh, no, I suppose I’m not any more. Miss is fine. Miss DeWit” Edward nodded, and let her through. There was another few customers, each of them strange, but by and large just people trying to catch a train. Some came with luggage, others didn’t. Some didn’t seem to speak English, but a system of pointing seemed to get most things done. There was a whistle of a steam train, and the sound of air brakes as an old steam train came into the station. Edward waited by the gate for any last-minit customers, and when he heard the guards man’s whistle, he locked up, and went to see the train pull out of the station. It still gave him the thrill it used to when he was seven. He smiled, and leaned on a post. “Thank you, Dad”. he said. “It’s a wonderful sight” said Molly, at his elbow. She was carry a tray full of cups. “Your dad never brought them back either.” Edward smiled. “So what do I do know?” “Well, you lock up, I suppose.” Molly carried the tray into the cafe, and turned the lights off. She must have started closing up the cafe a little before the train arrived, because all the chairs were on the table. She turned off the lights, said good-bye and headed off into the night. Edward took a last walk around the station, checking for any stragglers he supposed, but if he was honest, he was reluctant to go home to the empty house. Eventually, he’d walked all around the station, and had checked and double-checked every door. Finally, he turned off the lights, and walked through the gates, pulling them shut and locking them. He looked around at the dark night, which some-how didn’t seem so dark any more, and started the walk home.
Edward sat in his room, looking at the box. It was tied with a piece of string with a single bow. He pulled it open, and lifted the lid. Inside was a very old piece of paper, and he unrolled it. It was a tittle deed, for a small plot of land, and the building that was built upon it. Edward smiled, and finally understood his father’s birthday present.