by Sheila North
“Lo siento mucho,” said Jose, as he apologised to the woman in the next seat, “Soy una llama. Me llamo Jose. ?Como se llama?”
Jose, who was standing in the crowded aisle, was doing his utmost to be polite. For one thing, he figured consuming the sports section of that day’s “Metro” wasn’t a great way to introduce himself, and he didn’t want to get off on the wrong hoof.
Not like that fool, Pedro. Jose watched as his fellow llama ate a colour photo of Andy Murray. The page went into Pedro’s large mouth, and down his long, cream coloured neck.
“Give me that, you stupid alpaca,” a man in a suit said, as he tried to wrestle his newspaper back from Pedro.
“Pardon me sir, but we are not alpacas, we are in fact llamas,” said Jesus.
Jose rolled his dark eyes, and flicked his banana shaped ears. Jesus spoke six languages, unlike
Jose, who could only speak Spanish, and llama, or Pedro, who never talked, when he could eat. Jesus was also a bit of a cabeza de vaca, in Jose’s opinion: a right cow head.
“And what the bejesus are llamas doing on the 07:46 Hull .
via Doncaster?” asked a young woman in the seat opposite the man in the suit.
“My name is Jesus, not bejesus,” said Jesus.
A child wailed three rows down, as Maria con los pies en la luna – Molly for short – looked out the window at Swinton. Jose could tell from the look in Molly’s eyes that she wasn’t right struck on the scenery.
“?No is Peru, eh Mols?” said Jose. Then he paused, as he became aware that the Spanish he was speaking was really quite poor. It was almost as if his words were being written by someone who hadn’t spoken much Spanish in 40 years.
“Hijo de un gran – “ Jose started to exclaim, when a woman two seats over shouted, “Oi, you llama!
I know what you were starting to say, and I’m not right impressed. There are children on this train.”
!”Pero, soy en un crisis existential!” said Jose, looking about the carriage in terror. “Y, no hablo espanol muy bien, que es una trajadia tha knows.” Then he shook himself, as he realised that he had lapsed into a Barnsley accent. Barnsley, for pity’s sake. Jose thought. !Dios mio!”
“And?” said a man in an anorak. “You’re in Yorkshire, it’s not exactly the Queen’s English round here.” He flipped the pages of his Guardian, then looked nervously over at Pedro. The latter had discovered a lost or abandonded paperback on a nearby table, and was currently eating an English translation of Gabriel Garcia Marques’ novel, “Cien Anos de Soledad”.
Molly glanced out the window again, as Mexborough station glided past, then said “Existential, my mother’s tail. Never mind your flippin’ crisis, when’s tea trolly due? I’m parched!”
“!Ay, carumba Mollycita!” Jose replied. “!Tu estas hablando ingles! What’s more, I don’t even know when to use the verb “Ser” or “Estar” for the English “to be”.
Jose hung his long neck in embarrassment, blushing beneath his thick, brown coat.
“And that’s just one of the reasons the British are so crap at languages,” observed a middle-aged .woman in jeans and a “Day of the Dead” t-shirt. “By the way, Molly – it is Molly, isn’t it? – the sandwiches on English trains don’t tend to be very good, although they are better than they were in the 90s.”
Molly blinked, and said, “Ta very much for that particular pearl of wisdom, flower, but I don’t give two flying cow pats what sarnies were like in the 90s. I wasn’t even born until 2012.”
“Never mind the sarnies, Mols,” said Jose. “The real question is, what is a small herd of Peruvian llamas doing on a train to Hull?”
“Sitting down,” Molly replied, as she bullied a young family to the point that they stood up, grabbed their baby and the bag with his nappies and other essentials, and fled the carriage for another, several carriages down.
“That wasn’t very nice,” Jose said.
“Nice, schmice,” said Molly, “and where’s that tea trolly?”
“I think Pedro ate it.”
Molly sighed. “Jesus.”
“?What about him?”
“Not THAT Jesus. I mean the original.”
“?What about him?” Jose repeated
“?Dios mio, Jose, what are you playing at?”
“?Um, cricket?” said Jose nervously.
“?You do know you’re a right arse, don’t you, Jose?”
Jose hung his head in shame.
Molly glanced at the ticket collector, then the bulge of tobacco in her cheek was gone, as she spat in the aisle.
Oh, Mollycita, Jose thought to himself. To the ticket collector, Jose said, “I seem to have misplaced my copy of your free magazine.”
“Lost, or eaten?” the ticket collector said sharply.
Jose didn’t hang his head in shame, partly because his head was already so low, he could have had a
concussion if he did.
“Have you ever had in an existential crisis?” Jose asked the ticket collector.
“Mate, my whole life is one ruddy crisis.”
“Molly: have you ever had an existential crisis?”
“Is this a trick question?” Molly asked suspiciously.
“No,” replied Jose.
“Well, I did get a little pigged off with my hooves.”
“?Because of what exactly?”
“My nail varnish.”
“,Oh,” said Jose. “?May I ask why?”
“Stupid thing didn’t warn me that the varnish wears off,” said Molly. “Look at this. Just look.”
“Thanks Moll,”Jose sighed, so softly that none of the other passengers heard him.
I’m getting nowhere, Jose thought. Might as well eat the Metro someone left on this table, borrow some tobacco from Molly, then lie down and have a nap. My crisis is causing me to question everything. Anyway, I’m a llama. I think, I think I’m a llama. Therefore I AM a llama.”
“?What in the world are you talking about?” asked Molly.
What indeed, thought Jose. He took a battered copy of “El Beso de la Mujer Arana” from his llama man bag, then settled down to read. Things will be better when we get to Hull, he thought.