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(A short story of 2292 words)

The Understudy


by Chrissie Gittins

In front of Bill was a hoarding filled with a black and white photograph of an elderly couple looking miserable. It was an advert for Thompson’s holidays. The caption read, ‘Remember that time we nearly went to Istanbul?’ Bill shuddered. He hoped he wouldn’t live out his days in regret – though Istanbul had never particularly appealed to him. He’d once been offered free tickets for a week in Paris, but he didn’t take them up. For one reason his white irises were just about to come into flower and he really didn’t want to miss them; he’d also done all the travelling he wanted to do in the war thank-you very much. His wife didn’t seem to mind. Or if she did, she never complained.

The platform was coated with scattered snow. It had been a bitter winter and Bill was looking forward to spending more time on his houseboat in Shoreham. As it was, he must take the train one more time – Sydenham to London Bridge, change to platform six for Charing Cross.

He liked to look at Tower Bridge as the train roared through the city. If the sun shone then the two gold finials would glisten. He liked the way the train ran half way up and bang next to Southwark Cathedral. Then he could look down on Nelson Mandela cut off at the breastbone on the plinth outside the salad bar of the Royal Festival Hall...

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