The Man in the Carriage

Below is the piece of flash fiction I submitted in April to the Bridport Prize, an international story competition. I was emailed overnight and advised I didn’t win. I was not shocked at this, though I think this is a good story. The reason for entering was to release some fiction into the world, with the hope that this action would lead me to write more as it gives me pleasure; once I get going. The getting going is the bit I struggle with.

There was no theme to the competition, the only rule being the story had to be under 500 words. I hope you enjoy it. I am still pleased with it, five months later.

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He’s staring at me through mingled legs and torsos from across the crowded carriage. Disapproval is written on his face. I don’t stare back, it’s an aggressive position I don’t want to take, however the need for the occasional furtive glance can’t be resisted. His eyes don’t shift and the fixed, disdainful expression remains.

I just know he loathes my ‘Out and Proud’ t-shirt and the hand-made ‘Fuck the Police’ ‘#blacklivesmatter’ sign clutched nervously between my ripped jeaned knees. I notice we’re both wearing Doc Martens, but there is no subliminal connection, my rainbow laces adding to the litany of complaints I list in my head on his behalf.

He’s old, square, out of place and he knows it. Those shiny enamel poppy and union flag pins on the collar of his Barbour jacket separate him from the rest of us; a joyous, scruffy, mixed mass of BLM supporters.

The wave of discomfort he’s radiating is palpable, I feel it through the bodies packed between us. Right here, right now isn’t where he wants to be, but it’s where he is and his Englishness dictates he won’t get up and leave, he must bear this. He’s carrying this cross for all right-minded Englishmen, for the silenced and marginalised majority; middle-aged, middle weight, middle England. His people, not mine.

The train stops, the clump of bodies thinning as I stand up, shrugging into my jacket, grabbing my sign.

“Come on Dad, let’s go”.