The Cleveland Line

A red bag with the logo ‘reusing makes me happy’ is on my lap, inside my gym gear. I’m sitting in a carriage, waiting at Cleveland Station; departure time 11am. Still seven minutes to go, I fidget. Cupped in my right hand my iPhone’s music library. Ella Hooper is singing Everything Was A Sign.

The all station train warms its engine, my mood swings low high, following the beat.  I fill up on sound, blocking out the sorrow nestled somewhere back of my thoughts. The train jerks forward, closer to Fitness First in the city, as my mind edges a little toward acceptance.

A chapter is ending I think as I glance about. A sign above me reads ‘Please refrain from loud music and mobile devices.’ I ignore the warning and turn up the volume, earphones planted firmly in ears. I sigh relieved by the music, and start to hum.

The carriage is quiet.  I stare out the window beyond, at the endless service stations, mini supermarkets and used car dealers. Welcome to Queensland I grin to myself. Brilliant one day, perfect the next.  Where a new car deal is only a phone call away.

The train slows, pulling up at Thornside Station, the track stops as my heart skips. A young greasy haired kid sits facing me playing Casino on his mobile. He looks unlucky I think half-out-loud. Where are his parents? To my left a gentleman with a bushy bushranger’s beard stretches and yawns. I notice he’s carrying a environmentally friendly bag. The bag is empty. Another day, another journey for him. But, who gave him that green bag I wonder?

On my way to the gym, alone…I remind myself over again that it’s important to continue routine in times of hardship…what else can you do?  The end, a mother’s love evaporating, going somewhere else. While, I’m sat on the Cleveland line…Yes, on the Cleveland Line everything  is a sign I think.

My thoughts are interrupted as a man steps on board,  sweaty from the Queensland sun, wearing a tight-fitted C.F.M.E.U T-shirt that declares ‘united we stand!’ Next train station Wynnum North is announced over head.  Change of thought…The city must still be some distance then?

My phone buzzes, a message pops up – Going to Barba Friday? Use this code and get a 25 % off entry at Coverlid Place. I swipe the message away and set my focus straight ahead. The union man looks me squarely in the eye, then opens a book on the Cuban Revolution, he puts on dark rim glasses and begins to read, looking up again at the next stop. Yes, I think as he stares me down, everything is a sign.

Somewhere up carriage a fat girl with a French bun scrolls through forgotten text messages, dressed in a bright pink pullover. The train doors open and close and the train moves off weaving through the suburbs. A Maori guy enters, black cap and Puma bag, he sits picking his nose and flicking snot balls onto the window glass.  He spots me watching him, and smiles politely but continues to pick, roll and flick.  I pause my music, take out one earphone and listen carefully to the community announcement.

Announcement –  For safety and security reasons video cameras are in use on this train.

Yes, I’m on the Cleveland line I think…where everything  is a sign! I must make funeral arrangements tomorrow.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Noel Anderson has directed too many theatrical productions, performed in The Real Ghostbusters Show in shopping centres, written well into the night when in pain, worked with a helluva lot of people and had the odd breakdown. He believes in the power of pop music and Campbell’s Soup. Noel’s written work includes Hello Little Man (Melbourne Writer’s Social Anthology 2016), Kylie Kastle Throws A Party (performed in schools across the country), Germ Warfare, The Carer, Andy Warhol’s Fifteen Minutes Of Fame and the new Australian musical Audrey Hepburn And I Consider Our Assets  (  fb.me/audreythemusical  ) which premiered at the Melba Spiegeltent on 29th October 2015. You can follow Noel on Twitter: @Randyandy42 or https://www.facebook.com/noel.anderson42

Noel is a member of the Melbourne Writer’s Social

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Death Takes A Holiday

As a teenager I knew death intimately, circumstances left me trying to comprehend the end of life instead of living it, having experienced three deaths in my family before I turned twenty. The impact of each individual passing was unnerving…so as a kid I dreamt about death. It was hard not to dream those dreams and I never shook off my fear of dying until I started writing regularly.

Reading  early stories of mine recently I found death a common thread with grief and humour inseparable partners.  While death is an inevitable phenomenon of life, most people struggle to accept it.

But, what if in the near future death took a holiday…and ceased to exist on earth? People are already living longer now, but what would happen if we just kept living on with no end in sight? And if we did live on (in one form or another?) what stage of the cycle of life would you like to stop dying at? And live on from?

I thought this morning on the tram that as an adult I’ve spent years trapped at the childhood stage of life, relying on my imagination to pull me out of life’s little ups and big downs. While a great creative place to work from, if death took a holiday for real, and I was caught  in the childhood stage for eternity, before puberty…then let’s be honest, it would kill my sex life…dead.

And if death did take a holiday what would happen to all those unfortunate people suffering from a terrible illness? Would they live on forever in agony?

What if death’s idea of a holiday was as simple as taking a vacation somewhere else…to the seaside resort or a neighbour’s backyard?

Well, my granddad took a holiday somewhere else I remember. When we moved from city to the suburbs, he would often sit outside our  house crouched under a large tree in the backyard. Granddad was dead of course. He’d died some years back.

“Son, Granddad is outside today” mum would announce every now and then in the kitchen of our new home.

I would rush to the back door to look see. Sure enough there he was larger than life crouched under the big tree in the backyard looking up at our house.

“What’s he doing?” I asked.

“Making sure things are okay” mum answered.

It was strange granddad sitting under the tree every other night, we were the only people in the street that had a dead relative in their backyard.  Then one day he wasn’t there anymore. He stopped watching us, he stopped caring I thought.

“Where did he go? Granddad?” I enquired.

“He’s gone on holidays” mum said.  “Even ghosts need R & R.”

“What’s that? R & R?” I questioned.

“Rest and relaxation” mum answered. “Now tie your school shoes.”

“But, what does it mean though? Granddad disappearing like that?”

“It means we are safe here…for a few years” mum smiled dipping a dirty breakfast plate in soapy water.

Maybe he’s just gone to another yard I thought, but said nothing…a yard in another suburb?

Not long after granddad’s disappearance my father died. They both vanished from my life around the same time. Death took a holiday to somewhere else…and life continued on as normal without granddad and my dad…But, death didn’t leave us alone for very long. A few years later he came back to visit us…tap-tap-tapping on our glass front door wanting to be let in…

But I reckon that’s another story.  Eventually mum cut down that big tree that granddad sat under. But, when I close my eyes at night I can still see it.

In my 20’s whenever I was invited to a backyard BBQ I would think of granddad and that tree. I’d wonder whose backyard he was crouching in now? And, what suburb? Newtown? Bondi? Or maybe yours?

Mum believed granddad crouched under the backyard tree to keep us safe…over time I stopped believing her. I think granddad sat crouched waiting to take my father away, he knew dad’s time was almost up so he made himself comfortable and waited.  He wanted to lead dad to a happier place…a resting place, a silent place…and he didn’t want him getting lost along the way.

Death Takes A Holiday by Noel Anderson is part of the True Life Series.

The Perfect Match – A Short Film By Noel Anderson

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Noel Anderson has directed many theatrical productions, written well into the night when in pain, worked with a helluva lot of people and had the odd breakdown or two. Noel’s written work includes Germ Warfare, The Carer, Andy Warhol’s Fifteen Minutes Of Fame and the new Australian musical Audrey Hepburn And I Consider Our Assets  which premiered at the Melba Spiegeltent on 29th October 2015. You can also follow Noel on Twitter: @Randyandy42