Really whizzing along!

Our train took
what seemed like forever
to leave behind
the ad-plastered
smoke-stained downtown
that was January
and navigate
at not much more
than a slow trot –
certainly nowhere near
a gallop –
the endless back gardens
and washing lines
of February
By the first
gloomy fields
of early March
we’d picked up speed
at last, and now
cheerful chatter
opened beer cans
balanced on
seat-back trays
we’re going full out
wheels clattering
on steel tracks
the train rocking
from side to side
really whizzing along
the white trackside blossom
of mid April
just a blur
outside the window
up front, the driver
getting ready to brake
to slow us down
for our first
scheduled stop –
2019’s late Easter –
the grimy city behind us
all but forgotten

Illustration by Anya Lauri

© Daniel Stephens, 2019

Self Service Checkout

I’m afraid you’ll have to wait
the Self-Service Checkout Assistant apologised
These two are out of order
and this one
has an elderly lady stuck in it
She has the front of the till open
and is guarding it
until the engineer can come
Let me see, I offer
I always unblock the photocopiers at school
Mind your hands, she warns me
holding hers up for me to see
Those cogs are all oily
I’d wait, if I were you

I start to pull on one of
the old woman’s unfashionable shoes
My wife leans over my shoulder to see
She’s like that
can’t resist trying to help
Careful a bit doesn’t break off
she tells me, unnecessarily
or we’ll never get out of here
I know, I Know, I say
concentrating on tugging
the mangled old biddy
from the mechanism

There, Out! I exclaim
pleased with my work
But Stefi is peering deeper
into the workings
No, she tells me
There’s another one
stuck further in
An old fellow with a stick
and one of those wheelie bags

Let me see, I insist
trying to nudge her
out of the way
but she’s stubborn
grabbing grandad’s coat
and starting to pull
There! See? she says
as the last scrap
of oily pensioner
drops out onto the floor
It’s not just men
that can do these things
Excuse me, miss,
she turns to the assistant
who’s been checking her phone
discreetly while we worked
It’s fixed
Would you press reset
so we can pay
for our shopping?

© Daniel Stephens, 2019