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Today’s Unfinished fiction is about a man I sat behind on the bus yesterday. This is not a photo of him – I found this on the net. If I was quick thinking enough, I could probably have taken a real photo of the back of his head but I feel like that might be more than a bit creepy and also I wouldn’t be able to use my imagination as much – just for small fabrications, you understand. Nothing major but this still needs to be somewhat fictional to live up to its title. Anyways, here goes.


He sits on the bus, close to the back. Away from everyone else. He wears his fluoro yellow hazard vest uncertainly, like it separates him from the pack and makes him unsure. His scuffed steel-toed boots and well worn workman’s pants are like a uniform that prove his attendance at a school no one else goes to. Everyone else is in gym gear, office wear and he feels the difference keenly – even if no one else can.

He stares out the window. A huge set of keys strapped to his belt loop jangles every time he shifts in his seat. He has freckles on the back of his ears, a heavy brow and blonde hair with a soft down straggling up the back of his neck. The phone in his hand chimes and he brings it to his ear with an urgency that tells you he’s been waiting for this call. There’s a pause while he listens to the person on the other end.

“Tell me! That sounds positive…” And then… “Can you pick up those books?” Followed by “And maybe a hot chicken for when we get home?”

That’s it. He puts the phone down and rings the bell for the next stop. Out on the street, he walks with his head down. His brow furrowed in thought. The last thing you see is the bright yellow vest as the man turns a corner and disappears.


So I reworked things a little but the phone conversation is 100% legit. What was the thing that sounded “positive”? A job offer? A health result? An application for a home? And what books? Text books, is he studying something? Romance novels? And who was buying the chicken? His mum, friend, roommate, lover?

For me, the workman is the main character but the unseen person on the phone is just as much a part of the story (and as big a mystery). The person on the phone seems to drive things, to raise the questions about what’s going on with these people. I was actually left wondering about this for the rest of the day.

Image credit: Stephen Laffer | Adelaide Now