The alarm wakes you an hour before you’re ready to face the day — a further withdrawal from the sleep account which is already overdrawn. Outside the scorched earth is coppered with a Martian glow. Another orange day.

Somehow the delicious sliced meats and salad vegetables you imagined were in the fridge have turned to a hard heel of cheese and mixed lettuce in the final stages of giving up its atoms to the universe. There has been no time to shop. Something fried at the canteen will have to suffice. The milk is on the turn and there are floaties in the tea.

Is it your imagination or does the bus driver purposely accelerate to send you shotting down the length of the bus like a human cannon ball before dawdling the rest of the way? It’s 7.30 and already you want to scream. The bus regulars you give contemptuous names: Old Father Time, The Fat Man, Tokyo Rose. Misanthropy works through your veins like Harpic.

At the station there is an undignified dash for the train. The bus driver has timed it to a nicety. You are sure he is watching on giggling. And now as you careen onto the platform just as the ping ping of the closing doors threatens evisceration you understand the import of that announcement in Tagalog (certainly no language recognisable to the ear). Trains before and after cancelled. At least in the crush there is no possibility of toppling.

The near proximity of flesh, though, is a worry. Is that an er-ction or a briefcase investigating your hip? (It’s an er-ction! You’re certain of it.) The train lurches and your nose buries deep into someone’s cleavage like a hot dog in a roll. With people (you imagine) discreetly checking their breath and their shoes, you are desperate to access your supply of peppermints.

The train vomits you at your station then lurches forward in its drunken progress. By this time you have already composed in your head several emails to the Premier and the Transport Minister which showcase the word “f-ck” in its adjectival form. If there were a Museum of Vituperation, these would be prized exhibits behind plexiglass.

At the school gate the Conshies turn to you like flowering plants to the home star.

“Good morning, Mr Diogenes,” they chorus. And mean it. You smile professionally.

“Good morning.”

But it isn’t. How could it be? The first bell hasn’t even sounded.

Peter Fray

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