Contemporary short fiction, poetry and more

An extract from ‘Getting There’ by Audrey Nitpicker

After Todd had finished murdering Mrs Murphy, his French teacher, he put the dictating machine on which he had recorded her screams into his duffle-coat pocket, and her severed extremities into a Tupperware container which he had brought with him specially.  He carried the container in his new sports bag.  

He needed to get to Mistress Penelope’s house as soon as possible with his unworthy offerings.  The best method was to catch the number 39, which went from the end of the road at 17 minutes and 47 minutes past the hour until 15:47, and then once an hour until the service stopped at 22:47 on Weekdays and Saturdays and at 21:47 on Sundays.  It then being off-peak, the fare would be one pound fifty.

He opened his purse, and saw that, among his other coins, he had a pound, two twenties, a five, two twos, and a penny, making the exact fare.  He liked to do things precisely.  He liked other people who did things precisely.  He did not like other people who did things imprecisely, or didn’t do anything.  People who didn’t do anything were lazy.  People who did things imprecisely were sloppy.  He did not know whether it was worse to be lazy or to be sloppy.  He did not like to think about questions to which he did not know the answer.

The bus was three minutes and nineteen seconds late.  Todd did not blame the driver for this.  It could have been due to unforeseen circumstances beyond the driver’s control.  As the bus drew towards the stop, Todd noticed the badge on the front of it which showed that it had been manufactured by the Ikarus bus company.  Todd knew all about the Ikarus bus company.  It was based in Hungary.  It had been nationalised after Hungary had been taken over by the Soviet Communists.  It had then made buses for the entire Eastern Bloc, and had expanded to the point where it had employed twenty per cent of the entire workforce of Hungary.  Foreign competition after the collapse of communism and exposure to free markets had meant that the company was over-manned, and this had caused stress to many of the workers who had had to be made redundant.  Todd hoped they had all got over this and were all right now.

Todd got on, paid his fare, and sat down in the first seat in which both places were vacant.  This was the fourth seat on the right-hand side as he looked towards the back of the bus.  Every even-numbered seat on each side had a metal post fixed between it and the roof of the lower deck, for the passengers to hold onto.  Todd noticed that the piece of moulded plastic which held this post in place had a crack in it.  He worried that this would eventually cause the component to fail, probably when some-one was holding onto it, and probably when the bus was going round a corner at speed – the very moment when the passenger would most need to rely on the post for support.  Todd wondered if he should tell the driver about the crack.  He decided in the end not to tell the driver, because the driver had looked like an untidy and sloppy sort of person who would probably shout at him rather than write down what he was saying and report it to his superiors when he got back to the depot.

Todd stopped thinking about the cracked plastic and began to look forward to his approaching arrival at Mistress Penelope’s house.  He should be there in about another fifteen minutes, depending on the traffic.  Todd hoped that the bus would not suffer any unforeseen mishap, such as impact with another vehicle, or a mechanical problem.  Todd hoped that the bus’s fuel tank had a sufficient volume of diesel in it to get at least as far as Mistress Penelope’s house.  He did not care if the bus ran out of fuel after he had got off, inconvenient though that would be to the other passengers who wanted to travel further along the route.


One response to “An extract from ‘Getting There’ by Audrey Nitpicker

  1. jonbates November 14, 2011 at 6:14 pm

    Thank you for your kind comment on my little story. I can definitely relate to the noisy information stream you’ve evoked in this and other stories. Plus, I like bus journeys.

    I was happy to find your blog. Not only do I engage with your work but I see you won a prize in the ‘Grist’ competition at the University from which I’ve just graduated. I only lived there for 3 years but it’s easy to get homesick for Huddersfield.

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