Runner-up: Time Pays No Heed

By Barbara Gurney

Barbara says: I am based in Perth, Western Australia. I write across several genres including short fiction for adults and children, and free verse poetry. I enjoy creating characters worth remembering – bringing emotional connection between my fictional people and readers.

On my way to the train
There was a man sitting on a bench.
I hurried by.

On my way to the train
There was a man sitting on a bench on a veranda.
I glanced at him.

On my way to the train
There was a man sitting on a bench on a veranda, a dog at his side.
I nodded.  

On my way to the train
There was a man sitting on a bench on a veranda, a dog at his side, a scarf around his neck. 
I smiled.  

On my way to the train
There was a man sitting on a bench on a veranda, a dog at his side, a scarf around his neck, a book on his lap.
I waved.

On my way to the train
There was a man sitting on a bench on a veranda, a dog at his side, a scarf around his neck, a book on his lap, a cup of tea in his hand.
I said hello.

On my way to the train
There was a man sitting on a bench on a veranda, a dog at his side, a scarf around his neck, a book on his lap, a cup of tea in his hand, a walking stick leaning against the bench.
I mentioned the weather.

On my way to the train, there was a man sitting on a bench on a veranda, a dog at his side, a scarf around his neck, a book on his lap, a cup of tea in his hand, a walking stick leaning against the bench, a rug over his knee.
I stopped.

The dog came down to the picket fence, barking a greeting. 

“Hi, puppy,” I said, even though the dog had a grey muzzle and walked slowly.

It put two hairy black paws on the horizontal beam. The doggy grin encouraged me to ruffle its fur and stroke its ears.

“What’s the dog’s name?”

The man placed his cup on the concrete floor, patted his knee as he called the dog, “Here, boy.” He waited for the dog to come to his side. “Buster. And I’m trying to train him not to bark at everyone who goes by.”

“Oh, I’m sorry.”

“That’s okay. You’re our regular. It’s nice to have regulars, don’t you think?”

I laughed. “Like old friends, you mean?”

“Exactly,” he replied.

We chatted about the memories created by watching the children on the other side of the road riding their bicycles to school. I told him he’d better drink his tea before it got cold. He reminded me I had a train to catch.

On my way to the train, there was a man sitting on a bench on a veranda, a dog at his side, a scarf around his neck, a book on his lap, a cup of tea in his hand, a walking stick leaning on the bench, a rug over his knee.

“Nice scarf,” I said.

“Knitted by my favourite granddaughter.”

“Do you have many grandchildren?”

He chuckled, which ended in a coughing fit. While he recovered, I patted Buster and let him lick my hand.

“Only the one,” he said.

“That’s cute. I bet I’m your favourite passer-by who catches the train every morning at eight, who wears a ridiculous orange sun-hat, and is always running late because she stops and chats to you.”

“Indeed.”

‘Are they your football team colours?’

They weren’t, but we spoke at length about coaches, umpires, pampered players and how neither of us had been to a game. 

“I better go. The train won’t wait.”

“No,” he said. “Time pays no heed.”

“Only rushes to the end,” I said.

“See you tomorrow.”

I agreed. 

At the corner I turned and waved again.

On my way to the train
There was no man sitting on the bench on the veranda
No dog to be at his side
No book for reading
No tea cup, no walking stick or rug for his knee
Just a lonely bench with a scarf and a lily. 
I lingered.
I cried.

The train came anyway.