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I’ve created a new page – The Writer – because I thought it was about time I put some of my own writing on this blog. I did a Masters in Creative Writing so, of course, I have quite a large collection of stories that I wrote for the course. It’s just sitting in my computer, not being read, so I may as well put it out there where people can see it.

Of course, these stories were all written over a year ago (2010-2011), and I’m notorious for looking back at everything I’ve done and cringing, but I’ll give it a go anyway. The temptation will be to edit, but I take any excuse to procrastinate, so I’ll just say now that I won’t change what I post – it will go up exactly as it was when it was first written. (Typos removed, obviously. I’m a dyed-in-the-wool proofreader after all.)

So, here’s the first one! This was the first assignment on the MA course:

“A man gets off a bus and slips. A woman sees him fall and they look at each other. Write two versions of this story, with two different narrative voices – one far away, one close up.” This is the far away version – by which I mean the voice is distant from the characters. We see their actions only, we are not inside their heads.

Bus Story #1 Far
(October 2010)

Boiling grey clouds had been gathering above the city since the early morning, and as the sun reached its peak they closed in, shoulder to shoulder, and blocked out the light.  As fat, smutty drops of water began to fall from the blackened underbelly of the sky, people ran for shelter.  An old man, clutching his cane, hobbled into a sports shop.  A child slipped on the slick pavement, picked himself up and ran away rubbing his muddied hands on his trousers.  A woman, standing under a bus shelter, drew back from the encroaching puddle caused by a blocked drain at the edge of the road.

A small bus pulled up and the woman hopped quickly onto it, missing out the middle step.  She put a handful of coins in front of the driver, waited for her ticket and sat down immediately in one of the few vacant seats as the bus began to move.  She took out a book from her bag, with bus tickets tucked into every other page, and opened it just as the bus jerked to a halt and reopened its doors with a squeal.

The woman looked up.  A man used the handrail to pull himself on board.  He leaned against the little counter and said something to the driver, while counting out the fare from a large handful of coins.  Water dripped from the brim of his hat onto his hands, and a small puddle was forming around his shoes.  Her eyes followed him as he made his way up the bus and sat down heavily in the seat across the aisle from her.  She brushed away some water from his coat that had rubbed against her as he passed; he leaned over and apologised with wide eyes and his hand raised.  She smiled.

For twenty minutes the bus lurched through the driving rain.  For twenty minutes she held the book in front of her but did not turn the page.  Every now and then her eyes flicked across the aisle.  The man had taken off his hat and was squeezing it out on the floor, little rivulets trickling between his fingers.  She looked at the page and back again.  The man was tousling his hair and patting the soaked clumps with the edge of his sleeve.  She watched as he rubbed his face and shook out his coat, carefully, without getting any water on the thin woman seated directly next to him, reading a fashion magazine.

She looked up from her book for longer and longer each time.  His coat was not buttoned all the way up to his neck and the rain had got in, drenching the collar of his shirt and sticking it to his skin.  Seated, his trousers rose up above his ankles, revealing dark blue socks.  There was some growth on his chin, the outline of a beard in stubble.  Suddenly her eyes snapped back to the book and remained there, fixed.  She turned the page and continued to stare at it.  Whilst rummaging in one of his coat pockets he had looked back at her.

The bus stopped outside the hospital and the man stood up.  After putting her book away she also stood and followed his damp footprints down the aisle.  The man thanked the driver and stepped down, but the middle step wobbled under his weight and he was pitched forwards, off the bus, onto the pavement.  His hat rolled into the gutter.  The driver shouted and several of the passengers looked out of the window with worried faces.  A young man waiting to board the bus rushed to help the man back to his feet.  The woman was standing on the top step when the man turned and looked up at her.  His face was flushed and as he reached up to tousle his hair again the scraped palms of his hands were visible.

She smiled and, missing out the middle step, descended to the pavement, where she bent down and picked up the crumpled hat.  She held it out to him and, as he took it and put it on, he returned the smile.  Then he buttoned up his coat, all the way to the top, nodded to her, turned his back and hastily walked away.  The young man and several others boarded the bus and the doors hissed closed as it pulled away.  The woman remained standing on the pavement for a moment, her hair sticking to her face, until finally, with small, quick steps she hurried off in the opposite direction, under the sullen bank of cloud.

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There are two more versions of this story: close up and with a changing narrative voice.

– gildius –

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