Welcome to the Spot Writers. This month’s prompt: “Winter to spring—a time of transitions. Write a story that takes place in a train station.”
by Phil Yeats
I strode toward the train station in the cold drizzle that passes for spring in Halifax, Nova Scotia. A large banner adorned the columns supporting the portico of the white marble edifice. It announced the grand reopening of the hundred-year-old building.
The celebration marked the completion a major west to east upgrade to the Canadian National Railroad by its new Chinese owners. The Quingzhu Corporation’s local representative had invited me to the May Day 2028 festivities.
I presented my personalized invitation to the security guards controlling the building’s formal entranceway. I would have avoided this event if I could, but as a consulting engineer with a business to run, I needed to maintain positive relations with large firms like the Quingzhu Corporation.
Inside, I noticed the renovations adhered to the building’s early twentieth century European style. The newly installed antique display board for arrivals and departures caught my eye. The numbers of trains at this end-of-line station was limited, so I anticipated no imminent updates. But I remembered with fondness the clattering noise I heard as a child when these old-fashioned display boards updated.
I was staring at the board willing it into action when an old friend from my university days tapped my shoulder. “Daniel, my old buddy. Long time no see.”
“Jason! How’s the intrepid investigative reporter?”
“Making a decent living, but no security.”
I shook my head and cast my eyes heavenward. “Similar story. Reasonable profit from most contracts, but without another coming down the pipe…”
“That’s what brings you here today, searching for your next contract?”
“Exactly. This company’s been good to me. They’re part of the growing Chinese Mafia, so I must keep them sweet.”
“If I were you, I’d approach your contact, do the obligatory glad-handing to line up your next project and get the hell out.”
“You expecting trouble? That why you’re here?”
“Isn’t this a popular project? Quingzhu’s renovated the system, built up the passenger network and lowered freight rates. What’s the complaint?”
“The entire rail system’s in foreign, read Chinese, hands with no guarantee the good times will last.”
I eyed the bar, and the tables laden with finger food. “Okay. Long-term worries. They shouldn’t affect our enjoyment of this little party.”
Jason nodded toward a cluster of suits standing several metres away. “Investment execs. They’re here to make trouble because the last independently owned industrial company was delisted from the Toronto Stock Exchange this morning. Our now emasculated national stock market is reduced to trading the shares of subsidiaries of foreign companies and the few remaining Canadian companies in banking and other regulated industries.”
“Come on! That bunch of stock brokers aren’t planning a riot.”
“Probably not, but a confrontation between the pro- and anti-Chinese factions is inevitable. It might occur today. Keep your eyes open when you partake of the treats you’ve been eying. If a food fight develops, skedaddle, just like we did in university.”
I laughed. “Join me for a drink?”
“Sorry, you’re on your own. I’m working, looking for a quote or two from your stock brokers.” Jason turned away. “I’ll see you around. Good luck with your next contract.”
I smiled as I headed for the bar but followed Jason’s advice and kept my eyes peeled. When I noticed security personnel slithering into the room, I positioned himself with my escape route in mind. Just like the old days.
*****The Spot Writers—Our Members:
Val Muller: http://www.valmuller.com/blog/
Catherine A. MacKenzie: https://writingwicket.wordpress.com/wicker-chitter/
Phil Yeats: https://alankemisterauthor.wordpress.com
Chiara De Giorgi: https://chiaradegiorgi.blogspot.com/