[The Crossroads, 833 words, Genre: Realistic Fiction/Mind Fudge]
* Image courtesy of Dirk de Bruyn
Edward sat there on the tram, it had been a long day and his mind was weary. As the tram proceeded down the line of stops it stopped, here and there, to pick up other passengers. At one tram stop, a man and a woman entered. The man wore a straw hat and had a walking cane, but he was of an old sort. Edward remained seated and stared ahead. As the tram wore on towards its destination, he overheard the older man and woman’s conversation. They were talking about someone who shared the same name as Edward. He caught fragments of the conversation, which gave him the inclination to turn his head and look over at the two. The older man had a beard and the only judgment that Edward could make was that it must have been itchy. He did not hold his stare for that long. An aura of an evil inclination waved from the two. Edward could not pick out exactly why this was. But there was a perpetrating darkness there, that was for certain. The tram rolled on and Edward listened in to tales of another individual that bore the same name. The woman stated the tales while the bearded man would comment thinks like, “Oh really.” And, “How’s that.” They were of the Aussie bogan sort, some of criminal inclination would explain the darkness, yet it was more than that. This was an otherworldly experience.
Another individual got on the tram, a bald man. He sat down next to a migrant and started up a conversation. Edward was now drawn between the two. The man with the beard, Edward had instinctively given him the name of Old Scratch, because of the beard and his age. As Edward listened to the woman deliver a spiel of unsavoury activity about this other ‘Edward’, Edward could not help but draw parallels between his life and this other Edward. It was as if the woman were reciting Edward’s own past sins. Drawing these connections made a shiver run up Edward’s spine. He concentrated on the bald man. He had flowers in his hand and promoted a friendly atmosphere, obviously his mood was determined by the fact that he was off to see a loved one of some description. He thought it odd that someone could just be so open with another person on first meeting, but then on second reflection, what was so odd about that? Being open and friendly to a stranger, welcoming them to Australia and initiating conversation.
The tram came to its destination. The railway station where Edward would get off and change to a train, to ultimately reach his destination. As Edward got off, he moved towards the door where the bald man was also exiting. The bald man made an obstruction and Edward took a step. Edward instinctively apologised, though he did not understand his own reasoning for doing so. The bald man made way for a young Japanese woman. The operandi of chivalry and the rule of ‘ladies first’ further opened the perception of the bald man’s angelic status. The bald man turned to Edward and stated, “Always worth a shot.”
Edward got off the tram and headed towards the train station. Old scratch and the other woman had also exited the train and they all stood waiting as a train was passing. Edward looked to the woman. Her face was contorted, demonic, almost. She had the appearance of a dog. Not an actual dog, but Edward equated her appearance to that of. The train had passed and Edward went to the train platform to check the time of the next train home. It would arrive in twenty minutes. He couldn’t see Old Scratch or the dog woman anywhere, it’s as if they had just disappeared from the area altogether.
He went out to have a cigarette. As he smoked in reflection of his life he realised a couple of things. His life had come to a crossroads. He was coming to an intersection in his life path. Old Scratch was none other than the devil himself, Papa Legba, the guardian of the crossroads. Legba would always have a dog as a companion and the dog was whispering all of your past sins into Legba’s ear. He guessed that Legba’s appearance was always open to interpretation and Edward viewed him as a Caucasian Aussie bogan of sorts, rather than the traditional interpretation offered by voodoo. The bald man, was another figure entirely. A figure representing the polar opposite.
Edward went up to the train platform. There was the Japanese woman, he sat down next to her and started up a conversation. He had decided to take a page from the bald man’s book. She was a nurse, or had been, back in Japan.
He had come to a crossroads and Legba waits at these points throughout your life, with a dog as a companion, listening and calculating your sins. Seeing if you’re one of his.