Chapter I: Thanksgiving Bastard!
I got up rather early again. With my litany of woes, I figured I'd need all the time I could get to make myself presentable enough for human contact. My eye was cooperating, it wasn't as red and irritated as the evening before. My medication was working, I wasn't blowing out my body weight in mucus at the moment nor did I need to. I was dry and breathing. I figured out what to wear and got it cleaned and ironed. I had a little coffee, a little something to eat. I did a quick home workout. I had time to pick up my paycheck and make it to the train to Philadelphia. All was good, even with the relentless rain and wind of our season's first nor'easter tearing up the coast and destroying my umbrella, which, as a long term resident of this fair island, I should have known better than to bring.
I got to the terminal in just enough time to sit and relax, read a chapter of my book and have a Gatorade and Philly soft pretzel. Did you know that the people in this area eat more pretzels in one month than the rest of the country eats in a year? I reflected on that nugget of information as I enjoyed my yellow mustard covered treat. The conductor called for boarding and my journey began. A. C. Express leaving for Philadelphia, track four!
All went well, we passed through each town along our way, Absecon, Egg Harbour City, Hammonton, collecting more and more passengers. Everyone in a holiday mood, talking about their dinners, seeing their families, shopping. It added to my already abundant holiday spirits. As I have stated before, I love Thanksgiving and I couldn't wait to see my small but tight-knit and loving family.
Atco. Atco. The name of that town will reverberate in my mind for a long time to come. That's where my day turned as dark and moody as the weather outside my train car. That's where my hated enemy, my painful reminder, my object of total disgust came on board. Yes, my sister's...ahem...boyfriend. Let me set the scene:
Mortimer is sitting towards the back of the train car, in a two seater. The conductor calls out the name of the next town, Atco, and the train effortlessly glides into the station, coming to a compleat and gentle stop. The train door slides open and in walks Danielle, Mortimer's beloved sister, and Bastard, Danielle's unfortunate companion. While exchanging the usual pleasantries one does with those we haven't seen in a long time, the overpowering smell of cheap alcohol and cheaper cigarette smoke comes from the immediate direction of Bastard. It takes every ounce of acting skill to not wretch and heave, as they sit in the three seater directly ahead of me. Bastard comments that we should find seats that are facing together. I demure, since this is the arrangement I had planned on the entire time, even mentioning that they don't want the seats moved. Then, the conductor approaches Bastard, tsk-tsking him. Bastard is informed that he violated New Jersey State Law by smoking on the train platform, in clear view of the signs that say "No Smoking/Violation Of New Jersey State Law". The thousand dollar fine was not levied, thankfully, since this was a holiday and Bastard claimed ignorance. A claim he can use with total justification, I think to myself. I resist the urge to put back on my headphones and listen to music, or just stick knives in my ears and eyes so I don't have to deal with him. We chat. We joke. We pass the time until finally reaching our destination of 30th Street Station. The beauty of that immense and imposing structure overwhelms him and, blissfully, as I run to the restrooms, he is distracted, awestruck, and I have a moment's respite.
I return, to find them outside, catching a smoke and I wander around the concourse, contemplating a coffee, a blunt instrument, a murderous intent. They find me and we settle on Dunkin' Donuts. When I asked the far-eastern counterclerk if they had arsenic flavouring, he said no. Damn.
My mobile rings and it's my sainted Mother and step-Father, their golden chariot has arrived to whisk me away from this. Oh, wait. They are coming with us. Damn, again. At least my sainted Mother throws herself on the sword and moves from the front seat to the back, with them, so I may escape, momentarily, having to be nice and I immerse myself in conversation with my step-Father, with whom it takes no effort to be nice to.
The long ride to Maryland has begun.
Coming up in Chapter II: Dinner With Regret.