Tuesday morning. A couple of hours before his train is due to depart. We go to the champagne bar on the platform. He insists on sitting outside, even though it’s cold enough for scarves. None of the other customers are as foolish. “We’re hardy,” he says. I mishear. “Hardy,” he says. We eat croissants with butter, and salt-and-pepper scrambled eggs. The coffee – bitter, and strong, and too hot – is delicious, and seems to hold some hint of the smoky darkness of the future within its depths. Our conversation is easy, requiring little thought, on the surface, anyway: we observe the slanting light through the glass roof, the just-so perfection of the table arrangements. This is how people talk, perhaps, at times like these. In his eyes, a fleck which I’m sure I’ve never noticed before. Hazel, slight, and very fine. I want to hold his face steady, and examine the mark closely. Time is scarce, and I’m suddenly disarmed by the impression that I don’t know him very much at all really. He gives me a questioning glance. Something needs saying, so I stupidly ask if he has his tickets, passport, keys. “What keys?” He reaches over, touches my arm, briefly. His fingers felt like feathers.

© Barry Lee Thompson and ‘Stories, by Barry Lee Thompson’, 2014.

13 thoughts on “Feathers

  1. Hi Barry,
    I’ve tried twice to comment and whereas I don’t normally have to log into your blog, this time I do and it gets tangled up with the two other WordPress blogs for which I have passwords: mine and ESG. I’m not sure why and I’m sorry about this because I think it’s a lovely poignant short piece, capturing that sense of not really knowing someone who is close to you.

  2. I love this Barry. The subtlety is great – the fleck in G’s eye etc. Just tell me – the change of tense to past tense in the last line. Intentional?

    1. The narration is happening in the present tense, but at the time of the description of the feather sensation of the fingers, the touch has already happened. So, the switch to past tense. I wanted to emphasise the briefness.

    2. It’s crazy, but I just had to log into my own account on the app to reply to your comment Helen. So that was me just now, talking about about the tense, showing as an anon.

    1. Thanks, Barry. I’m happy with the last line as it is being remembered (as is the story) and the memory lingers. Very poignant story.
      ‘Something needs saying, so I stupidly ask if he has his tickets, passport, keys. “What keys?”’
      Says a lot.

  3. Anyone else read “to the champagne bar on platform G.” ??? Or was it just me (as a denizen of PTV…) reading too quickly. Using the initial required me to ‘slow down’ and challenge my initial reading…. Enjoyed your story!

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