A piercing shriek reverberates throughout the train carriage. It stings my ears, and I cover them with my hands. The muscles in my neck clench up and spasms shoot down past my shoulders. I stop breathing momentarily. The hubbub of conversation and laughter within the carriage stops cold, and an elderly man across the aisle clutches desperately at his hearing aid.
The apocalyptic cry came from a young boy, a toddler really, sitting two rows in front of me. I seethe as I fix my eyes on him. He's sitting next to a woman who I assume is his mother. She looks ghastly, though she would not yet be thirty years old. The woman doesn't react to the child, but continues to stare out of the window.
How inconsiderate! She should do something about that child.
The child hits the woman's arm and shouts at her, "Mummy!"
The woman turns slowly from the window, focuses on the boy, gives him a weak smile. "Yes, Danny?"
The boy says nothing, but turns around and wriggles backwards into his mothers side. She puts her arm around him, kisses the top of his head, and then turns back to the window.
The other passengers in the train return to their own books, newspapers and conversations. Minutes pass; we stop at Indooroopily Station, and then continue towards Ipswich.
As we are leaving Oxley Station, the boy screams again. My nerves are still frayed from the first outburst. The noise invades my flesh like some demonic force. I feel a stabbing pain in behind my eyes, and my neck clenches up again. A tic starts in my right cheek. I glare at the mother with freshly kindled wrath, yet she continues to stare into the window.
It is just unacceptable to allow that sort of behaviour. How inconsiderate!
I continue to stare, hoping she will glance my way, so that my scowling scrutiny might communicate my intense disapproval. I see that she truly is a loathsome creature. Her hair is a mess. Her eyes are bloodshot, and there are dark orbs beneath them on her cheeks.
Probably on drugs. Calls herself a mother? Where is the boy's father? Perhaps she doesn't even know who the father is! Some people in this world are just trash; it makes me sick.
I look around the carriage. Some of the other passengers are also trying to stare the woman down. A few of them share a knowing look with me. The mother is unperturbed, however. She sits, vacantly drawn to the world outside her window, her head rocking slightly with the sway of the carriage.
Someone needs to tell that woman to bring her child into line. It's upsetting not just me, but everyone else on the train. She may be inconsiderate of others, but I'm not. I'm going to do something about it, for everyone's sake.
I walk over to the woman and take the seat opposite. I say, "Excuse me", but there is no reaction. I cough, and again say, "Excuse me".
She is completely ignoring me.
I reach out and tap her on the shoulder, and quite loudly now, say, "Excuse me!"
She turns her head from the window and focuses her bleary eyes on mine. "Sorry," she says, "can I help you?"
"Yes, I think you can," I reply, pointing at the child. "Your boy really is very loud, and is causing quite a disturbance to the good people on this carriage. I'd just like to ask you to show some consideration, and keep him a little more under control."
There: I said it.
The woman looks around the carriage, and seems to notice for the first time that every eye and ear in the place is on her.
The automated public address system announces to the hushed carriage, "The next station is Darra."
Tears form in the woman's eyes as she says, "I'm so sorry. Danny's having a lot of trouble coping; we both are, really. My husband – his father – we just had the funeral yesterday. This our station coming up right now. We won't bother you much longer."