To celebrate National Flash Fiction Day next Saturday (25th June). I am taking story prompts people send me and turning them into stories, publishing one a day.
The second prompt is from Pat Watkins: A budgie in a railway station
A budgie called Pat
The rain starts just as Jess draws up to the railway station. This used to be the point when neither of them wanted the weekend to end. Back when the nights were still warm, the sky a rosy blue, lavender scent permeated the atmosphere, their intense goodbyes meant a mad rush to the platform to catch the last train. On more than one occasion, Ian was too late, giving them the excuse to jump back in the car, and return to Jess’ cottage: guilty school children bunking off from school.
But that was then, and this is now. Tonight the air is cool laced with the bitter smell of smoke from the burnt stubble and the steady drizzle dampens their clothes in minutes. Jess is in end of weekend mode, wishing, but not saying, that he could stay longer, that one day he will stay for good. It is best not to rise to it. To pretend he doesn’t see the hope in her eyes every time he leaves.
They reach the platform and hurry to the shelter as the rain begins to fall with more urgency. Jess reaches it first and stops.
‘Why aren’t you getting in out of the rain?’
‘Look.’ Oh joy, a yellow budgie is perched on the seat. That’s all he needs, Jess in sentimental animal mode.
‘I’m getting wet.’ He pushes past her. The bird flies up to the rafters.
‘I wonder how it got here.’
‘Who knows? Who cares?’ He plonks his back pack on the floor and sits down. He should tell her now, before the train arrives.
'You poor thing,’ Jess is not speaking to Ian. She stands in the corner, gazing up at the bird. ‘You must be very lost.' Then, to Ian, ‘I think it’s a male. It needs a name; it will probably come down to a name. What do you think, Eric? Sam? Pat?’ The bird flutters and rises from its perch, before settling down again. She turns back to it speaking softly, ‘Come on Pat, look what I’ve got for you.’ Of course, she has bird seed in her pocket. Of course she has. The bird seems to be responding too, it puts its head to one side studying her outstretched hand, opens its wings and...Ian stands up to see if the train is coming. The bird is startled and flies further up into the highest corner of the roof.
‘Paaat...look what I’ve got for you. Come on Pat.’
The tracks whine, the train is coming.
Now he is about to depart, she forgets about the bird for a moment. She moves in for the obligatory kiss. He kisses her back, climbs aboard, and blows her a kiss. He will tell her next week, on Saturday morning, so he can make a clean getaway afterwards.
And then she is back enticing the wretched bird from its perch. Just as it is closing in on her, the screech of wheels frightens it again, and shoots above her head.
‘Pat,’ she wails.
The train gathers speed, his last sight is of her standing alone on the platform.
Ahead of him the yellow bird flies free into the darkening sky.
Many thanks to Pat for this one which tickled my fancy.
If you'd like to give me a prompt leave one below or on my Facebook page (Virginia Moffatt)
To find out more about National Flash Fiction Day please visit their website http://nationalflashfictionday.co.uk/
The National Flash Fiction Day anthology 'A Box of Stars Beneath the Bed' is now on sale.
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