So this is it, the first instalment…
It’s part one of the short story that won me that prize, but more importantly let me begin to believe in myself. The competition judge was author Alexander McCall Smith and when the doubts begin to creep back in I re-read his comments and tell myself “you did that.”
Mud, Mud, Glorious Mud – part one
There were plenty of seats on the tube. At least that was one good thing about leaving the office at ten o’clock in the morning.
Leaving the office for good, carrying a cardboard box. One small box, was that really all he had to show for five years of his life? One small box and the smallest redundancy payment the bank could get away with.
Charlie knew the recession had begun to bite, even in his rather obscure corner of the City, and if they were going to make people redundant, he was always going to be right up there at the top of the list. Charles (as he was known in the office) had never been what you would call a high flier. He knew, and they knew, that he was only really there because his father had been a senior partner back in the day. He wasn’t cut out for the ruthless wheeling and dealing, he was just too nice. Now that Charles senior had retired, the bank had no reason to keep him.
Charlie sat down in the half empty carriage, put his box on his knees and closed his eyes. His first thoughts were of his father. How on earth was he going to tell his parents that he was a failure, yet again. He’d already failed his eleven plus, failed to get into the first fifteen and failed to follow his brothers up to Cambridge. He opened his eyes and gazed down glumly at his feet.
There was mud on his shiny black shoes from when he’d scuttled across the scruffy park between his office and the Underground. He stared at it, suddenly fascinated. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d been muddy. He used to love playing outside as a child, sneaking through the gate at the bottom of the garden and into the fields and woods beyond. Now his only playground was the wine bar on a Friday night, and he couldn’t go back there. The friends he’d always suspected of laughing at him behind his back wouldn’t bother to hide their contempt if he showed his face there now.
The automated announcement interrupted his thoughts:
“The next station is Kings Cross. Change here for mainline rail services”
Mainline rail, brilliant, he’d catch a train. He couldn’t face going back to his dingy flat and he didn’t even like London particularly.
Charlie’s heart was beating faster now and he felt a shiver run through him that could be fear or excitement, he wasn’t sure which. He got off the tube and made his way up the escalator, still clutching his box. It was awkward getting it through the ticket barrier, and when he reached the station concourse he peered into it with fresh eyes. Did he really need the leather bound desk diary or crystal paperweight?
He spotted a young lad sitting on the ground with a dirty hat containing a few coins laid out optimistically in front of him.
“Here you are,” Charlie gave the startled youth the box, and then his BlackBerry vibrated in his pocket.
“Hang on a sec,” he struggled with bitten nails to pull the phone apart and extract the SIM card, “you might as well have this too.” He tossed the phone into the box.
“Cheers mate,” the lad grinned at Charlie who walked off happily unencumbered.
Stay tuned for the next episode…