Friday, October 12, 2007

The Fare Dodger

He staggered through the train doors just as they closed, so that he had to yank his flapping trouser leg out of the rubber seal. Nobody glanced in his direction as he blundered down the carriage, ricocheting between the seats, clutching at the inadequate bright yellow bumps that were supposed to be handles. Another Friday drunk in a suit. He gained the sanctuary of the toilet and sat down.

As it happened he wasn't drunk, but his hands still shook as he reached out to brace himself against the melamine walls. He suddenly realised he'd forgotten the crucial step of locking the door. As he turned back from it he saw his face in the mirror, dripping with sweat, his lips nearly blue. He slid down onto his knees and half knocked, half rested his forehead against the narrow ledge around the wash basin.

Forty minutes later the guard came past the occupied toilet for the third time, just as the train reached Earslwood. She banged on the door. As he levered himself up on the lavatory pan it occurred to him that an absent ticket would be just as invalid for the next station, but he pushed the thought away. For a moment he couldn't work out how the door opened, and then he was in the bright light of the carriage facing abruptly into a very plump West-Indian lady ticket collector.

He knew he could make it. Carried straight down the aisle by panicking feet, shoving past a pretty girl bending to gather up bags, he nearly fell as he stepped down to the platform. Running up the stairs to the bridge he heard the angry guard's voice shouting at him until it was suddenly silenced by the closing of the train doors.

His vision blurred as he got to the far side of the bridge. He took hold of the rail, swung his body over, and before the surprised stares of 32 people on the crowded platform, landed on the rubble and sleepers only a few feet in front of the Gatwick Express.


Anonymous said...

I've read this short story (if that's the category into which it falls) and indeed commented on it previously (albeit under the wrong place).

I keep thinking about it: not just because I take the train each day, nor indeed because I'm thinking about hurling myself in front of one! No - there's something about the way it's written. It demands attention in order to comprehend it (or at least, it does for my tiny mind). It's poignant. It's surprising. It's moving.

It's very good.

EB said...

Thanks anon - I think the reason it sticks in the mind is because it's based on a real person I saw, although he didn't kill himself (so far as I know!)