The Toy Train

You’ve seen tablets, smartphones, books that read themselves and action figures that do your maths homework. There are glow-in-the-dark dolls, web-slinging wrist-canisters, illuminated basketballs and talking frisbees. You’ve seen them on the shelves of stores, and in the catalogues that fill your mailbox every weekend. They’re advertised on TV during the kids’ programs, and they even creep into the family programs designed to prompt the expression, “mum, can I have one of those?”

There’s a kid who’s got them all. The remote controlled motorcycles, the talking robot dogs and the ultralight drones. You don’t know this kid, but you know someone like him. His dad bestows these gifts upon his son to make up for the long hours at work. The kid’s a good kid. He always says thanks. He’s young, but he knows his dad is dong his best.

The guy that delivers the catalogues – the ones with all the toys in them – he’s not so fortunate. Though, he’s happy to be a role model for the kid with all the toys in the catalogue. He wears a beard, a high visibility vest and the same pair of shoes that he’s been wearing for years. He makes a point of handing the catalogues to the kid every time, and the kid makes a point of being there to receive them. Every – single – time.

The man lives at the park. He picks up the catalogues from the drop-point once a week in a shopping trolley. He lives on tinned peaches and beans, and he’s probably only twenty-seven years old. He looks like Methuselah.

Using a hardwood fence paling, a pocket knife and a piece of wire, the neglected man makes a toy for the neglected kid. Hardwood is hard, wire is tough and glue doesn’t come easily. He heats the peach tins over a fire to soften the glue that holds the label on. It makes a good craft glue.

The next batch of catalogues need delivering. The boy is waiting and the bearded man is dependable. Wrapped up in his bundle of paperwork is a little toy train – the only one of its kind. I wonder what the kid-with-everything will do. The man wonders too. I bet you wonder too, what will happen when he unwraps the electronics brochure, the political pamphlet and the lingerie leaflet to reveal the little wooden article within.

Resting on the kid’s chest of drawers are the things he holds dear: a photo of his parents, a letter from his grandma, the world globe that he refers to daily, and the train that he got from the scruffy-bearded, catalogue-delivering man.



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