One can only enjoy the beautiful, elegant wilderness of northern Quebec so many times before it becomes the dull, repetitive wilderness of northern Quebec. Simon Farley was quickly approaching this threshold, and not enjoying it in the slightest.
Simon was usually an enthusiastic passenger of trains, to say the least. In fact, he normally loved the relaxing ride that was so different from the wild tango that is life. So it would come as a surprise to anyone who cared to pay attention to Simon that he was doing a good amount of huffing and grumbling on the train today.
However, not only did no one care to pay attention to Simon’s mood, no one cared to even exist, at least not in his section of train. The nearest passenger, an elderly woman deeply engrossed in a Su Doku puzzle in the next car, was clearly having too much fun with what she was doing to worry about the problems of a man who she couldn’t even see.
So Simon was stuck being moody by himself, an activity which is nearly guaranteed not to cheer an individual up. He quickly realized this, being a man of above average wisdom, and decided that good-natured boredom was a much less negative stance to take, if no more constructive. He tried leaning back in his chair, but he found that the chair, which refused to recline, was actually far less comfortable than he had been convinced a moment ago when he had simply been sitting up straight. He sighed and leaned over the seat next to him, undoing the latch on his bag.
Actually, it would be more accurate to say the latches on his bag, as there were at least three keeping the main compartment closed.
Simon’s bag was a rarity, though not simply because it had three latches. It was a big corduroy bag-of-all-trades, and Simon refused to go anywhere without it. It had pockets for anything you could imagine, cellular phones, a toothbrush, spare batteries, CDs, a water bottle, a hot lunch. It had compartments for nearly everything practical to carry with you, and plenty of things that are quite impractical.
Each of these compartments would fold into the bag to be snapped into place with, wouldn’t you know, snaps, so as not to make the bag ridiculous and unwieldy when unnecessary. When fully collapsed, the bag was about the size of a small laptop bag with a shoulder strap, which was often its function, as it more or less was right now, but when fully expanded, it was the size of a medium sized hiking backpack, complete with over the shoulder straps.
It was a puzzle to look at, and it never seemed to be the same more than once.
Another peculiarity of the bag was the complete lack of zippers. This was most definitely a secure bag; the endless amount of latches, snaps, buttons, and Velcro was a testament to that fact. Nevertheless, you could search that bag from top to bottom and not find one zipper, and Simon wouldn’t have it any other way. You see, when Simon was a child, there was an incident with Simon rushing to get back outside and play after coming in for a washroom break. Let’s just say he was a little hasty with the fly, and he is now forever a little emotionally and physically scarred because of it.
Of course, this was the farthest thing from Simon’s mind at the time. He was simply concerned with which pocket the novel he was about to finish was in. He rummaged through some notes he still kept with him from a particularly entertaining Physics lecture in Grade 11 (some joke his teacher had told about three protons walking into a bar), and found the book behind them. He sighed again, this time in contentment, and sat back in his chair as comfortably as he could manage.
For awhile, all that could be heard in his car of the train was the occasional flip of the page and the more frequent chuckle emanating from Simon’s grin. He had been enjoying this book quite thoroughly for the last week, and had been rationing his reading of it so as not to rush through it too quickly. Desperate times dictated that he read more than his usual share of the book though, and he soon finished it. He stared at the last page for a few moments and then slowly closed it to stare at the cover, smiling broadly the whole time. It had been a great ending, tying a bow around the rest of a fantastic story, but at the same time, it had been disappointing that it had come so soon.
All this smiling and looking moony could not last forever, and it didn’t bother trying to. He was back to the bored staring-out-the-window-sighing routine again all too soon, and this time, he had no book to offer him solace. The trees outside looked too majestic, the cows too serene, as if someone were conspiring to make him grow to loathe nature itself. What a sin.
He looked back to his bag again.
After checking once more to make sure he honestly didn’t get an internet connection on his laptop in the middle of nowhere, playing a ridiculous amount of electronic solitaire, and even dabbling in calculating the probability of the game being possible to beat, he went back to searching the contents of the bag. He doodled for half an hour before quickly running out of ideas and patience, played solitaire again using real cards, which was much easier to beat due to some creative bending of the rules, and even tried to spot shapes in the clouds until this gave him a cramp in his neck.
He almost sighed again, until he caught himself and shook his head violently. He stood up abruptly, but his consciousness decided it didn’t like that idea, and it quickly left him. His body, noting the absence of the consciousness, fell to the floor as if searching under the chairs for it. When it poked its head back around the corner, Simon made to stand up again, more slowly this time, as if to catch his consciousness off guard. It seemed to work. He mumbled something to himself about seeing a doctor about that, and ventured out into the aisle, pausing briefly to slip his bag over his shoulder.
Confirming that there was no one else in the car, he walked toward the back to see what he could see. He noticed that quite a few people had evidently left in quite a hurry, as there was an odd assortment of objects left on some of the seats that their owners would probably be missing when they realized that rushing off the train had, in hindsight, not been the brightest idea. Simon grabbed some change that had been liberated from its pocket, an untouched bag of candy, and a tour guide for a small town that he couldn’t even read, partly because it was written in French and partly because of the ridiculously complicated font the creator had used.
Staring at the non-existent passengers in the car with him, he dared them to mention his thefts. No, not thefts, he corrected himself. He had simply been giving some unwanted items a new and better home. He munched contentedly on the candy for a while and looked more carefully around the seats to see if he could find anything else of interest. He didn’t fare so well this time, only coming up with a receipt for a store selling fancy cheese. He was glad it was not accompanied with its cheese, as it had a particularly foul-smelling name, and he did not care to encounter it any time soon.
Having now exhausted any hope of entertaining himself in this car, he made his way to the car behind him, and poked his head in. Su Doku lady was still at it; having finished only a tiny portion of a book of puzzles that looked like it weighed twice as much as its owner. Simon glanced stealthily over her shoulder at her puzzle, which had some obnoxious label like “fiendishly difficult.” He pointed to the upper right section of the puzzle and kindly told the lady that her seven did not belong there, a five did, and the lady responded by nearly jumping out of her seat in fright and kindly telling him where he could shove his four. He thought maybe he should point out that he had said five and not four, but the alarmingly scarlet shade of the woman’s face told him he should probably consider leaving before he was physically harmed.
He returned to his own car and sat back in his seat, heart beating a little fast for his liking. He counted his heart beats and looked at his watch, which calmed him enough to slow his heartbeat but consequentially made figuring out his heart rate a futile gesture. He gave staring out the window one last try before leaving his seat again, being much more careful with his rising speed this time around. He decided it might be best to leave the elderly woman to her own devices for a while, so he made for the cabin ahead this time instead.
Its only occupants were a young man and a woman with her husband. The young man was obviously a veteran of the uncomfortable seating, as he was currently sleeping on enough pillows to make a rock-slide comfortable. As for the couple, it was easy enough to deduce that there were husband and wife by their conversation. Simon couldn’t actually hear what they were saying, as they were obviously making an effort not to wake the man sleeping a few seats away, but it was evident that the man was being scolded, and was not enjoying it. As if to confirm this thought, the man loudly announced that he was not enjoying being scolded. The other man took offence to this noise and snorted loudly in his sleep, causing both Simon and the couple to jump and stare at the younger man. The young man, however, seemed to think he had made his point by just startling the other passengers, and did not bother to actually wake up. The woman seemed relieved and quickly returned to telling her husband off in a quick whisper.
Simon walked down the aisle, being especially quiet passing the sleeping man, and whispered a quick hello to the woman. She gave him a terse smile that communicated very well that she was upset with all these interruptions to her lecturing, and the man simply shot him a pleading look. Simon thought it best to let the two work things out on his own, so he continued on his way down the aisle as the woman went on to tell her husband that it was his fault they were being embarrassed in front of strangers, and that his posture was terrible as well. The man stared sullenly at Simon’s back and slouched defiantly further into his seat.
Simon entered the next car and frowned. While the last few cars had been relatively empty, this car was as hectic as a city bus during rush hour. There was a mother with a crying baby and two young children, a man who was clearly too old to be listening to loud music listening to music far too loudly, and a businessman-type who was trying desperately to make sure the person on the other side of his phone could hear him over the din in the car. There was also an adolescent couple in the back row, just to the right of Simon, who seemed to be enjoying the cover the raucous in the rest of the car was offering. It was, at the moment, very difficult to tell one face from the other, and it wasn’t getting any better. Simon ‘tripped’ on a protruding foot and was satisfied to see the two uncouple momentarily while Simon muttered a contrived apology and continued on his way. After doing their best to look annoyed at the interruption, the couple continued as if nothing had happened.
Simon darted by the other occupants and practically dove through the door to the next compartment. He was amazed at how well the cars were sound-proofed, as not even a hint of the chaos behind him could be heard in this car.
The car where it all started. The car itself was no different from any other car on the train, but then again, it wouldn’t have mattered if it was. It was one the occupants of the car that made it so important; for in this car, there was a girl.