Text Box: Fourth Quarter 2017 ó First Place

Someone to Hold


Peter Barker

























At such times I feel a fleeting fear for my own sanity as I watch the clean-up team at work. Iím sat in my seat, staring through the windscreen, a man in a white suit is wiping the glass, smearing the blood. There are chunks of grey stuff that he has to pick off and I know what they are, so does he. Iíve seen it before but still I feel the urge to vomit.

I throw open the door and swing down onto the tracks. A light breeze wafts the putrid smell of guts around me and I turn to retch. Why do they do it? Donít they know what itís like for us? Do they care? Selfish bastards.

I stumble over the stones at the edge of the track as I skirt around the poor sods having to pick up the pieces. I was two minutes from the end of my shift, a mile from my change-over station and half an hour from home. I start walking.

ďHey Drive, where you going?Ē someone shouts behind me. I donít answer, itís taking all my concentration to keep my legs from folding under me. Someone else is going to have to get this one into the station, not me. I simply canít do this anymore.

I can breath now, Iíve walked 20 maybe 30 yards and the air is clear, clean, fresh. My head has stopped spinning. But something tugs at my mind, something is wrong. I want to talk to Josie, I want to fall into her arms, I want her to tell me itís all okay, but itís not because yesterday I told her itís not all okay. Yesterday I told her I wanted to break up. I shouldnít have done that.† Now I need her, but now I have no one.

I resolve to get drunk, as soon as I could. Or visit mum, or both, she doesnít know me anymore anyway. Sheíll ramble away and so will I. Then one of us will break down in tears and it will all get a bit embarrassing, nursing staff wondering who started it.

Shit, I need Josie. I feel for my phone in my pocket, pull it out, swipe it open. I stare at the screen. Itís totally wrong, isnít it? After I had dumped her, to call her up wanting her sympathy, her attention, her shoulder to cry on? Yeah but I need her donít I? Itís at times like theseÖ and after all, Iím a selfish bastard, I must be, she told me so.

I dial up her number, press call, hold the phone to my ear. My heart is pumping hard against my ribs, a trickle of fear creeping out of my hand, down my arm, winding around my body and squeezing.† Tighter and tighter as I realise I can hear her phone ringing, 20 yards behind me.

Second Place: The Morning After

Third Place: Words