Ticket-holder number 5

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  • Published 20140805
  • ISBN: 9781922182425
  • Extent: 264 pp
  • Paperback (234 x 153mm), eBook

FOR AS LONG as she could remember, Tania had carried a canister of capsicum spray in her workbag. She’d never had cause to use it but she believed it was only a matter of time. Last Christmas Eve, Sheila from the Dandenong office, had been verbally abused by a customer – some derro who said her mouth looked like a cat’s arse and that he wanted to slash her from ear to ear. Poor thing had to take three whole months off work. And when she did come back – at significantly reduced hours – she only managed one shift before breaking down and begging her manager for a transfer. 

Anna from accounts said that even now, almost a year down the track, Sheila couldn’t sleep unless she drank a whiskey or took a sleeping pill. Post-traumatic stress, they called it, like what soldiers get after the war. Which made a lot of sense to Tania. Because sometimes that’s what it felt like. War. Tania vs. the guy done for drunk driving who came in early for his licence. Tania vs. the taxi driver from Pakistan who slipped her a fifty in the sleeve of his road rules book. Tania vs. the pensioner with cloudy corneas, who recited the eye chart from memory. They made her sick. She tried to hide it behind smiling eyes and a gentle I-give-a-shit voice but she knew that one day, when she wasn’t on top of her game – when she had come down with a cold or hadn’t had enough sleep or was late getting out to lunch – one of the smarter ones would see her distaste like a crack across her broken face and they would snap like the derro had with Sheila that day in the Dandenong office and that’s when she would be waiting, like a cowboy in the movies, with her hand on the cold metal canister of capsicum spray. 

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The kiss 

With ears plugged and eyes closed, she felt safer. The sensations that did reach her were muted: the melodic ring of the seatbelt light being switched off, the rattle of the dinner trolley, the smell of food being warmed in microwave ovens – a heady aroma reminiscent of canned soup and sausage rolls. But above it all she heard something else. The rumble of a voice – low, male, foreign.American. 

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