SHORT STORY: Twenty-Three

SHORT STORY: Twenty-Three

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They met in Hamburg. Arnie said she could crash, so that’s what happened. They went back to his apartment and shared a joint. ‘I can’t sleep without one these days,’ he said. When it was done, he fetched a sleeping bag, ‘Here. Shut those curtains or the sun will wake you.’ After a moment together, standing shoulder-to-shoulder over the outstretched bag on the ground, Arnie went to his room and closed the door.

Anna stayed four days and three nights.

Arnie took her out. He fed her.

That was it.

‘Arnie’s a good guy,’ one of his friends said, but that wasn’t how Anna saw it. To her, Arnie was in trouble. Arnie was inviting strangers back to his apartment for company. Arnie slept twelve, thirteen hours, a night. He was depressed, and there she was saving a few euros camping out in his flat. Their last day together, she kissed him. ‘Thanks,’ he said, but there was no getting through to him.

At the terminal, in the coach window, she held up her hand and Arnie did the same. As the bus reversed out, he turned away, lit a cigarette and walked.


She spent a week in Cologne on her own, on the top floor of a hostel drinking beer. She spent two days in Rotterdam and hated it. Three days high in Amsterdam and hated that too. In Brussels she met an American working in a cafe. He had a look about him, but all he did was talk about Graham Greene. Through the American she met siblings called Danny and Belinda. Neither of them were much good. Drunk one night, she went to Danny in his little apartment and the best part of it was the warm pastry smell floating up from the bakery underneath.

A week later she was back in Cologne, back in the same hostel as before, back with another six-pack of beer. Anything to bring back a familiar feeling.

Fucking Patrick.

The ex.

She made a gun with her hand and shot his ghost as it hovered above the bed.


A guy called Hazy found her on the train between Cologne and Paris. He was a surfer-looking guy, impervious to the cold. ‘Listen,’ Hazy said, ‘Finish your drink and follow me.’

He took her through the observation carriage, past the staff quarters and out a small locked door to the outside of the train. They climbed a ladder and crawled on top of the carriage as it hurtled along, the train snaking out in front of them. They were in the woods somewhere. A bright sky sat overhead.

‘Put your arms up,’ shouted Hazy.

She did it and felt the full weight of the train racing forward. The world moved around her. Anna laughed. The wind thrashed her skin and the air rushed through her fingers, as if the cold were falling through them. In that moment, she felt as if she were casting something off. The train ploughed ahead and everything scattered behind her like confetti.



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