Pat Walker sat in her seat and watched the world go by. Fields the colour of lightly toasted bread, haystacks, power lines, low scrubland and villages on hillsides were all becoming more of a blur as the train picked up speed, leaving the traffic on the road in its wake. Tractors came and went and limestone ridges and high, bare hills replaced the fields. It looked hot out there, though the heat wouldn’t bother her. It said ‘preferente’ on the glass door and she smiled; she wasn’t used to travelling in this kind of luxury. The only noise came from the door sliding open to let people through.
At the next two stops there was a rush of people to the exits, but only so they could have a quick cigarette before the train left. After Vitoria, Walker had a quick evaluation of her fellow passengers beneath the luggage racks full of bags. A woman with bulging eyes read El Pais, an overweight man with a pale complexion and dressed in beige clothes was hungrily circling words in a puzzle book, and a ginger haired youth wearing a Barcelona shirt ate his ham and cheese sandwich while reading Don Quixote by Cervantes. Walker wondered whether the human inside the Barca shirt ever heard the squealing of the pigs as they died to provide him with his lunch.
The older couples at the back of the compartment were whispering and pointing out of the window, without an apparent care in the world. A phalanx of family and friends would meet them at their destination, the Spanish way of caring for people and for connecting with their nearest and dearest. The forecasts are that in 2025, the Spanish will be the healthiest people in the world because of this social connectedness.
Walker began to read her book as she nibbled her lunch of prepared vegetables and fruit. She smiled at how the plot of the book was developing in a way that real life never did and continued to read until jolted from her reverie by a smack on the back of her head from a black rucksack. The owner of the rucksack continued down the train before coming to a stop in the next compartment.
She resisted the urge to remonstrate with the offender as she didn’t wish to start a scene. That scene would happen soon enough. She put her book down and watched the person who had placed the rucksack on the rack. When he moved, Walker would move, and she vowed to teach him a lesson in manners in her own inimitable, quiet style – after all, he should have apologised, shouldn’t he? Everything would have been fine if he had, but he hadn’t, had he? It would serve him right.
Walker bided her time until the train was ten minutes from Burgos, when the rucksack owner headed for one of the large toilets at the end of the carriage. Walker followed at a careful distance, noting how sleepy most of her fellow passengers were.
She reached the toilet door just as it was closing.