"£1.29 for a cheap plastic biro?"
"I think I just won't bother doing my marking on the way home, then."
I don't think I would have been able to do my marking on the way home anyway. It was rush hour by the time I got to East Croydon Station today and the trains were all full and slightly delayed.
I boarded the second train that stopped and walked through three carriages before finding a seat, in the middle of a three, next to a nine or ten year old Asian boy, who sat opposite his mother.
The boy grinned at me, and greeted me enthusiastically. I grinned back at him, and turned my headphones down a little in case any noise was leaking out.
A pretty girl with a flower in her hair sat down opposite me.
After a couple more minutes I could tell the boy was still interested in me, so I turned off the Polyphonic Spree and put my headphones away. I reached into my bag and pulled out my sketchbook. Self-consciously I searched in my pockets for the finest-tipped drawing pen I had.
I thought of an idea, "Is this seat taken?", and started sketching it out. The boy leaned in closer. After a minute or so, he said, "Wow. You're really good at drawing."
"Thank you," I said.
When I finished writing the caption he read it out loud.
I tried to think of something else to draw. I looked around me but inspiration would not come now that I had an expectant audience. "What are you going to draw now?" he asked.
"I'm not sure."
"You could draw the buildings," he said, pointing out of the window.
"Well, I normally draw jokes, so I'd have to think of a joke about the buildings first," I said.
"You could draw half a train."
"I could. What happened to the train?"
"You could draw half a train," he repeated earnestly.
"That's a good idea. Why is it only half a train?"
"No, I mean, what happened to the other half of the train?"
I looked across at the pretty girl with a flower in her hair. She was giggling.
I decided to draw a train-related idea I had nearly two years ago in a hotel room in Angouleme, that I'd never got around to drawing properly. There were only a few minutes to get it done.
"You're really good at drawing. How do you draw so quickly?"
"I'm not sure. I think I just try to get the important details in."
"The important details," he repeated under his breath.
The train pulled into Victoria as I was nearly finished and the boy's mother hurried him along. I stepped out of the train with pen and book still in hand, finishing off the last few details.
After going through the ticket gates I found myself just behind them, and tore the sketch out of the book. It took some getting his attention to give it to him.
Moments later I walked past the pretty girl with the flower in her hair and said nothing.