He tugged the stiff, heavy drawer open and pushed aside pencils, badges, plugs and hard balls of blu-tac until he found them.
He glanced round and met Olivia’s flat gaze.
“This will be the one. I just feel it!”
She turned away and pulled the covers up again. She’d heard that one too many times before. Stan slid his find into the inside pocket of his blazer, lifted his packed case and tried a half-hearted whistle as he headed down the creaking stairs, past the grim, monochrome faces of his ancestors, under the clunking chimes that no longer tinkled, through the heavy over-locked door and out into the cold half-light of early morning. He put his shoulders back and tried to walk briskly to the train station. He tried to let the weight of disappointments, betrayals, deaths and failure fall off him now. Even just for today. No-one would give him anything if he was wearing all that. Would they.
The train was late. He walked over to a bench with a worn ‘just painted’ sign hanging off its back. He touched it before sitting down all the same. An old man was slumped on the concrete, his accordion slipping out of stiff hands as he slept. There was a cap full of foreign, useless pennies, bottle tops and cigarette stubs in front of him. Stan thought about dropping some real money in, but quicker hands than the old street musician would take it before he roused himself. If they still existed here.
He did not give in to the inevitable drowsiness the stale air of the town threatened him with. The train chugged in eventually. Without a whistle to announce its arrival. Stan looked down the platform at the three other passengers in their misshapen office suits. They stood up slowly and took laboured steps to the carriage. Stan followed them, trying not to stay too close. He couldn’t have that depressed aura round him either.
He reached into his pocket and pulled out a crumpled piece of paper. He unfolded it and read it over for the hundredth time. Each childish letter was in a different colour which was promising in itself. The address also lifted his hopes.
It had been eleven years since the last address. Eleven long years of endless, hopeless, joyless days.
Stan gripped the letter and dared to believe that he was on his way to save the museum passed down through generations facing wars, famines, pandemics, poverty and despair. He wondered if, at long last, the museum would finally live up to its name. He wondered if, as last in the long line of Smiths, he would be the one to do it.
He racked his brain for the words that were flickering with a short wick in the mists of his mind.
When he sat down on the hard seat springs they came to him:
‘Today is a new day.’