The Journey – is Eric’s last train journey to work really the end of the line – flash fiction

a couple of years ago

After 40 years loyal service in the same job Eric has been given the dreaded redundancy notice. His final train journey to work is more than a little stressed…

Eric folded his newspaper and fished in the pocket of his well worn winter coat.

“All tickets and passes,” came the familiar call from behind him.

For years the siren call of the train conductor had wound him up, but today was the last time he would have to be disturbed from his paper.

“EVA they call it. They think if they make it into an acronym it won’t sound so bad. It’s still redundancy, whatever you want to call it. Forty years of dedication and that’s it, over. Four weeks notice. The government minimum severance. Is that all I deserve?”

“Tickets please.”

Eric showed his ticket without looking at the conductor.

“That’s yesterday’s sir, have you got one for today.”

Eric scratched his unruly beard and rooted in another pocket, then another.

“Sorry, it’s here somewhere.”

The train conductor shuffled impatiently, rocking over Eric to the rhythm of the rail. Passengers in the packed carriage began to peer over their papers.

“Here it is, sorry.” Eric offered up a battered ticket for inspection.

“This is last years sir,” he sniffed with ill disguised impatience. “Do you have a valid ticket?”

“I thought I did.”

“Where are you going?”

“To work. I like work.”

“The station sir.”

Papers were no longer peered over, some were being put down, mobile phones no longer seemed so interesting.

“I thought you would know. Forty years I’ve been on this train. Lime Street to Warrington return.”

The guard produced a ticket, and asked for the money. Eric went through all his pockets again but could only muster a handful of copper.

“Sorry, I always have my wallet in my left pocket, but its not there.”

“I’ll need your name and address then sir.”

“That won’t be necessary, how much is it.” The red haired woman in a smart black business suit, who was sitting opposite Eric, opened her purse.

“You don’t have to do that,” said Eric, a little embarrassed.

“It’s my pleasure, I insist,” her pale skin colouring slightly.

“£12.50 thank you.” The conductor didn’t care who paid, it would save him extra paperwork.

“Thank you,” said Eric, “forty years and never forgot, why the last day?”

“These things happen,” comforted the woman, “I think this is my stop.”

“Mine too.”

The train squealed to a halt and Eric and the woman dissolved into the mass of escaping commuters.

Later that afternoon Eric’s phone rang, he knew what it was for.

“The board room, yes, I’ll be right up,” just like The Green Mile, I love that film. Death row, the end of the line. I’m no use now.”

He walked past the giant shredder outside the stationary cupboard.

“May as well put me through the shredder. Forty years of knowledge and skill put out for compost.”

Outside the boardroom he stopped and padded down his pockets until he found a scrap of old tissue, and dabbed a big fat tear that had welled up. His hand trembled on the handle which was suddenly pulled from his grasp. He stood face to face with the red haired woman from the train. Eric was confused.

“If you’ve come for your money, I can get it for you.”

Now it was the turn of the board members seated around the large table to look confused.

“Perhaps I should explain Eric, there has been a reshuffle in the company. I’m Jane, the new Chief Exec. The Board and I have a proposal for you, won’t you come in?”

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