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The Longest Night


Joe looked at his watch. It was late. I gave a yawn and stretched my arms.

" What time is it." I said. Joe looked at his watch again.

" Half past two."

" Oh heavens is that all." I said.

Half past two in the morning cold and wet, the railway station was empty, even the ticket collector had gone home. Only the dim glow of the platform lights gave any indication that once, life had existed here.

Half past two in the morning cold and wet, the railway station was empty, even the ticket collector had gone home. Only the dim glow of the platform lights gave any indication that once, life had existed here.

I tried to think why the hell we agreed to this, pushing my hands back into my mac pockets for warmth. I told Joe it was his idea and he said it was not, after a short argument we remembered it was Spottys. As it was his idea where is Spotty I ask, Joe replied he could not come.

A long way off down the track a lonely train whistle sounded, Joe thought that it must be the train we were waiting for, it sounded a long way off. We should have brought a flask of soup and sandwiches.

I hopped up and down on one foot to try and keep warm. Funny you get hungry when you stay up all night when you do not normally eat in the middle of the night. It did not exactly help having that giant poster of Danish bacon frying away on the opposite platform.

I walked up the station platform a bit then came back as the lights were out up there, somehow it was more comforting standing under the light.

Even if it was Spottys idea we did not have to agree to it I muttered, even if we all did think it would be fun. This is not fun reflected Joe.

We did not know it was going to be in the early hours of the morning when we agreed. When Mr Peperday said three o clock who would have thought he ment three oclock in the morning.

We could now see the light on the front of the train as it came closer, it puffed slowly towards us.

" I Don't think it's coming." said Joe " Lets go home."

" You're getting cold feet." I said.

" Cold feet, cold hands, cold nose." said Joe.

" We agreed to do it and do it we will." I said with a conviction that was not really there.

" I'm going to do Spotty for not turning up." said Joe.

" Only after I've done him first." I said.

It was strange how the station that had seemed so dead and lonely a few moments ago suddenly came alive when the engine puffing steam and smoke slowly pulled into the platform. With a huge sigh and a final puff of steam it came to a halt.

The engine, a Stanier 2-6-2 tank class 3P number 188 (for the train buffs) was only pulling one closed wagon and the guards van. The guard got down from his van.

" You from the Zoo." he shouted.

" Yes we've come to collect it." I said.

" Only two of you." he said, as he started to unfasten the lock on the door of the wagon. " Well I suppose you fellows know what you're doing." he said.

The outer door of the waggon door folded downward to form a ramp, it hit the platform with a bang.

" It's only a baby pig." said Joe.

" A Woozzlsky pig." said the guard. " At least that's what it says on the forms I've got here."

" That's what we were told to collect." I said.

" It may be a Woozzlsky Pig to you zoo people." said the guard as he slid back the inner door of the wagon.

" Great suffering ............" said Joe.

We stood looking, open mouthed, as the light from the platform shone into the wagon and onto the animal laying inside.

" But as far as I'm concerned." the guard went on. " That is a hippopotamus."



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Short Story Series - From the book - The Zoo Keepers Daughter Tony on the Moon