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The Puppet

Hair plastered to his head, suit trousers sodden to the knees, he stands at the bus stop. He can smell the coal smoke wafting from the chimneys on the shiny slate roofs of the red brick terraced houses across the road. He watches people hurry along the slick pavements with umbrellas aloft, women with plastic hoods tied under their chins. He sees the rain dance on the cars, their windscreen wipers slashing, brake lights and headlights flashing like beacons in the gloom. His gloom; it hangs on him like a shroud.

Adventure. That’s what he craves. Breaking out, cutting the strings. Doing something. Being free. He should fix up a minibus and drive to Cape Town; get a boat and sail to the Caribbean; join a commune; hitchhike to Morocco.

The bus arrives and he steps aboard and sits at the back. He stares ahead at the passengers: Puppets on a string. Getting on, getting off, sitting down, standing up, swaying left, swaying right. The clippie doing his rounds, looking left, looking right, clacking his ticket punch. Then it’s his stop and he’s off down Hall Lane and through the factory gate.

The administration building watches him, its great revolving door waiting to suck him into its maw. He pauses, shoulders slumped, slightly nauseous. Must he? Must he walk in, sit at his desk, fight the tedium for another day? He’s a third of the way through his life. He wants fun, adventure, something to make his pulse race, to make him cry out with joy. Why not turn and walk back down Hall Lane? Throw his stupid briefcase over the railway bridge? Rip off his tie? Then what? Fuck.

He stands up straight, flicks his cigarette into the flower bed and walks stiffly into the building, a puppet on a string.


Flash Fiction by J S Alty
Picture: jerk by Binary Koala under CC BY-SA 2.0

Published in Winter 2017

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