‘This was under the back seat of the car,’ Mum said, dangling my Bessie-Lou keychain.‘Want it or chuck it?’
I looked at the key-chain. My first grade Christmas party came flooding back. I could almost smell the coal and hear the train whistles.
Our teacher, Mrs Brown,organised the miniature steam train excursion for our end-of-year class party.
We were so excited that morning.
Heath Fletcher was the only kid who didn’t want to be there.‘Miniature steam trains are lame. They’re for kindergarteners.’
My best friend, Thomas, was mad about trains. He kept pointing out the rules like he was the Fat Controller.‘Keep inside the line,’ he called as we waited on the station. ‘Keep your shoes on the ledge. Don’t lean out of the carriages.’
The girls wanted to ride on the Brighton Belle because it was painted green with purple flowers. Some of them screamed when it started moving, even though it wasn’t going fast.
‘So lame,’ Heath said.
I didn’t care about which engine I was on, but I wanted to be at the front so I could see what the driver was doing.
The old man driving Bessie-Lou was happy to show me.‘This is the firebox door where I load coal,’ he explained.‘I use this handle to control steam from the boiler to the cylinders…’
‘And the steam pushes the pistons which move the wheels,’ Thomas finished.
The driver nodded. He tipped his cap to another driver passing us on a yellow engine.
We waved and our class-mates waved back.
Heath kept his arms crossed.
The track wasn’t long, but there was enough to look at:a plastic pirate ship; a chest with fake treasure; jungle vines and hanging monkeys; a fish pond with a statue of a mermaid.
At midday, Mrs Brown rang a bell for lunch.
We reached the undercover picnic area just as it started sprinkling.
‘Don’t think they’ll run the engines if it rains hard,’ Thomas said. ‘They might tip if the tracks are slippery.’
I was eating my sandwich when some girls started squealing and pointing.
Bessie-Lou was charging towards us with a round, red passenger on board.
‘Santa!’ We threw our lunchboxes aside and scrambled to the station.
‘Ho, Ho! Merry Christmas!’Santa stood on the second last carriage holding an enormous brown sack. As Bessie-Lou rounded a corner, he leaned across to wave at us.
‘Don’t…’ Thomas yelled.
Too late.The carriage toppled and Santa rolled off. His sack of presents spilled over the tracks.
‘Cool,’ Heath said, finally impressed.
The driver stopped Bessie-Lou.
Mrs Brown ran to help Santa.
All my class-mates, including Thomas, ignored the ‘DO NOT ENTER’ sign and followed her. We hunted through the scattered presents to find the gift labelled with our own name.
Mrs Brown made a cup of tea for Santa and the driver while we unwrapped our presents.
Mine was the Bessie-Lou key-chain.
‘So, can I chuck it?’ Mum asked.
‘Nah, I’ll keep it.’
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