Boundaries

A short story 500-ish words.


The old lady ahead of Alec in the bus queue smelled of chocolate and old drawers. She squinted at him.

“What?” Alec asked.

“Do you want me to tell you where the bus goes?” she said.

“No. I know where I’m going.” He was leaving home. Forever. He’d never be a problem to anyone ever again.

“And your mum knows where you are?” chocolate lady asked.

“She said I’m grown-up. I’m allowed to do things for myself.”

“Your first time, then, and your mum trusts you to go so far alone. What a lucky young man. So grown up.” She giggled and spoke to the ticket seller. “This gentleman also wants a ticket to cross the border.”

The border? Alec stretched until his fingers gripped the countertop. “One, please,” he said.

The man pointed to a chart, but Alec was only nine and couldn’t read so many lines at once.

“How much?” he asked.

The man said a number.

Alec scrabbled for all his pocket money and the coins from dad’s jar, dropped them on the counter. “Tell me when.”

The people behind talked louder, feet shuffled.

“That’s it. Here’s your ticket. Want the driver to tell you which stop?”

“I know where I’m going,” Alec said. Away. He was lucky he had enough for the ticket, but now most of his money was gone. How would he live when he got there? He clambered up the steps, walked to the back, away from curious stares. He closed his eyes, pulled out his jumper and used it as a pillow. Head down, Alec pulled his legs up. Closed his eyes. Slept.

“Hey, boy,” a gruff voice said. “End of the line. You have to get off.”

Alec sat up and rubbed his eyes. The bus was empty, the floor lights too bright. He grabbed his bag and walked down the front, stepped outside. The sky was black. The road was black. The sign was white with big black letters.

Bordertown.

The concrete path stank of old oil and he slid on the grimy patches. The main concourse, the ticket booth, the map board, the route chart. The lights above the map flickered and spat, moths fluttered and flapped.

The bus roared away, the windows dark, the driver no more than a dark smudge.

He looked around. It was dark. He shivered. It was cold. He rubbed his eyes. Where were his glasses? Alec opened the bag, dug around. Not there. He shivered. Where was his jumper?

The rumble started in his stomach, rose up his chest, exploded out of his mouth and eyes. Alec ran to the lit window, saw the map, saw the names. Saw the name of his town. So far away. He pulled out a coin and pushed it into the smelly old pay phone.

It rang. Maybe he’d be lucky, and someone was home. “Hi, mum,” he said. “I’ve lost my glasses.”


*Written for Furious Fiction April 2021 – have you put a story in?


I’m back, and hope to pop a word or two together every Friday (my time).

16 thoughts on “Boundaries

    • Oh, yes, it’s this Friday – I’ll have to make sure I set a reminder.
      Atm, I’m about to do the final grammar/spellcheck and then a final read-through, but how many times have I thought it was the final stage when …
      But yes, the story is almost done, ready to tackle the new one in the series, and get them ready to publish later in the year.

      Like

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