A Journey by Train by Matthew Roy Davey

'Above us'
Above us by Amy McCartney, 2019

 

Mama packed the bags days ago, but she won’t let me tell anyone.  She says people will be jealous, but I think she’s worried about getting in trouble with school.

I can tell she’s excited, she can’t sit still and runs for the phone every time it rings.  It’s never Papa though.  He’s not allowed to call.  Mama can’t wait to see him again.  She says he’s at the end of the journey.  Two trains and a boat and then another train.  I’ve never been on a big boat before.  I keep asking when we’re going but Mama gets angry and snaps that she doesn’t know.  I can’t wait to see Papa.  His face is starting to get blurry in my brain.  I can remember his smell though, like leather and soap.  A warm smell.

There’s a knock at the door.  She nearly jumps out of her skin.  It’s Peter.  I have to call him Uncle Peter.  He’s not really my uncle.

“Get your bag,” Mama tells me.

Halfway to the station, I realise we’ve left Martha behind.  Mama tells me it’s too late, we’ll have to leave her, but I start crying and Peter turns the car around.

“We should still make it,” he says.

I don’t go in to get Martha, Peter runs in and finds her on my bed.  I say ‘thank you’ and put her safely in my bag.  I wonder if Mama’s got Martha’s ear – she still hasn’t sewn it back on – but I don’t dare ask.

Peter drives much faster this time and Mama keeps looking at her watch.  I see Peter take her arm and squeeze it.  I don’t like that.  I’ll tell Papa.

Peter stops in front of the station and we get out.  Peter has the tickets and he runs with us through the ticket hall to the platform.  He tells the ticket-collector he’s just carrying our bags.  Mama keeps looking over her shoulder and Peter is sweating.  The ticket-collector frowns but lets us through.  Peter is bundling us into the carriage when a whistle blows and I think the guard should have waited until the door was closed.  Then Peter is yanked back.  His eyes go wide as he disappears into the crowd of men.  They’re all wearing those horrid black uniforms and shiny boots.  One of them steps forward.  His hands are behind his back and he’s smiling but his eyes are like stones.  Mama’s hand starts squeezing mine so hard it hurts.  Her hand is getting slippery.  I can hear Peter shouting and then his voice stops in the middle of what he’s saying.  I can see him again.  Two men are holding him on each side, dragging him down the platform like a big dolly.  Some of the people on the platform have turned to watch but most are hurrying away, their heads down.  I reach inside my bag to make sure Martha’s ok, squeezing her softness.  The smiling man steps towards the train and holds out his hand.  He’s wearing black leather gloves.  I can smell him now he’s closer.  Sausages and cigarettes.

“Perhaps Papa will come to us now,” he says.

There’s a skull on his hat.  It’s smiling.

 

About the Author:

Matthew Roy Davey was the winner of The Observer Short Story Competition 2003 and winner of the Dark Tales competition (August 2013). He has also been long-listed for the Bath Flash Fiction Award (Spring and Autumn 2017), Reflex Flash Fiction competition (Spring 2017) and Retreat West Quarterly Competition (Summer 2018).  His story ‘Waving at Trains’ has been translated into Mandarin and Slovenian and been published in anthologies by Vintage and Cambridge University Press.  Recently he has been published by Everyday Fiction, Flash Fiction Magazine, Odd Magazine, and Flash: The International Short-Story Magazine.  He has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize.

 

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fragmentedvoices

A small, independent press based in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, UK, and Prague, the Czech Republic