HEN PECKED

By Wendy de-Veryard

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The following story was written for the CABB Challenge - These challenges give writers the first line and ask them to write something from it.

THUD! "What the . . .?"

I turned another page of my newspaper and tried not to look interested as the train left the platform.

Everything happens here. Last week it was a derailed train, the week before someone had planted a bomb, or so they had said, it turned out to be a hoax, and then the whole bloody tunnel blew up…huh some hoax! That's what had derailed the train the week after of course, some delayed debris falling from the roof onto the track.

Well I was minding my own business this time. Whatever that thud was, I didn't want to know. I wasn't going to be late home this week, not for anyone or anything.

I think my wife is beginning to think I am having an affair. Home late regular as clockwork every Tuesday night with the most amazing of stories.

I could hear her in my mind only too clearly from this morning, "Richard, its Tuesday, does that ring any bells?" Her sarcasm had been obvious. "Anymore wild excuses and that's it I'm out of here. You want me to stay, you want me to believe that you aren't seeing someone, well then you'd better be here, on the dot of six, and no later…or else! Remember what day it is!"

That's not her usual way of talking. I love her, and we've been together a very long time. But I knew exactly what she was referring to, this Tuesday was more important than all the others had been.

Huh, I laughed to myself, the best way to remember your wife's birthday was to forget it just the once.

I'd never forgotten it since, and I was going to be home on time come what may.

Turning over another page and checking my watch I was happy to find that the next train was scheduled in three minutes, if it was on time.

It was 5.30 p.m. Ten minutes on the train, five minutes walking to the car, five minutes drive to home…I was gonna make it…physically I let out a huge sigh of relief.

"Is someone there?" The voice startled me. I looked around. People were gathering further along the platform, and though their voices carried, they weren't that clear. I became concerned, and that earlier thud came back to haunt me.

"Hello?" I called timidly.

"Can you help me?" The voice called back.

I knew now where it was coming from. And frantically checked my watch. One and a half minutes to go.

"Where are you?"

"I'm near the track, I think I have broken my ankle."

Instantly I was on my feet, throwing myself onto the platform belly first, and peering over the edge. I couldn't see much. It was dark down there, and all there appeared to be was a bunch of old rags.

"Hello?" I called again.

"I'm here." Came the voice, "Can you help me up?"

I offered my hand and felt it grasped by another. Pulling I helped someone to their feet. I say someone, because for some reason he concealed his face beneath a large black hood that joined a cape that flowed around his body.

"You're heavy, I can't lift you." I told him, "I'll get some help."

"NO!"

He was right of course there was no time, I guessed the train would be pretty close by now.

"Can you help me into the tunnel, there is a door there."

A service door? Right. I sprang into action. Jumping down to the track, and grasping the fellow around his waist, I let him lean on me, as we hurried into the tunnel.

"What were you doing there?" I asked him.

"I was on my way home when I fell from the train."

"Get on the wrong train did we? That last train wasn't supposed to stop here, what you do jump?"

"Something like that."

"You must be mad. You could have got yourself killed."

"I know."

He had a real nice voice sort of a velvety whisper over gravel, if you can understand how that sounds. And he was a large man, I could tell just by having my arm around his waist that he was strong. Beneath my fingers, muscles and sinews were as taut as a bow.

"You should see a doctor." I told him.

"I aim to do."

"Good. Want me to help you there?"

"No, just help me with this door."

I helped him, conscious now that we could be run flat at any moment. The door gave as if it was used often and I was surprised to find lamps burning in a tunnel on the opposite side.

"Thank you. You saved my life." He told me, "I can manage now. You'd best hurry, the train will soon arrive."

"Yes." I closed the door behind him and made my way back to the platform.

Oh well, my wife might not believe the story this time, but at least I'd be home on time this week.

I made my way back to my newspaper and briefcase, only to find it wasn't there.

Oh no!

All my documents, my rail ticket, my credit cards, oh no her favourite chocolates! Everything was in that briefcase.

My train came in, and I rattled the small change in my pocket…I could call her from the pay phone of course, tell her I'd been detained…

Oh what the hell…marriage was based on trust wasn't it? I was innocent, I wasn't doing the things she accused me of, and if she couldn't trust me well that was her problem.

I mounted the steps two at a time, counting my small change as I went…and suddenly I felt good about everything. I knew I'd be in for a rollocking when I finally got home, but what the hell.

After all its not everyday you save a guy's life is it?

Surely that deserves celebrating?

Keep talking like that and you'll talk yourself into it, I told myself as I walked passed the pay phone…and stopped back tracked and went inside.

The phone rang only a few moments…she picked it up…

"Hello, darling…you might not believe this but…."

She slammed the phone down on me.

Oh sod it I'm going for a pint.

Or maybe I'll just spend a little bit of the money on another box of chocolates…

Suddenly in my mind's eye, I could see my wife's expression, the one that she would be wearing right about now…

Mmm, on second thoughts maybe I'll just have half a pint and use the rest of my small change for an even larger box of chocolates…

Hen Pecked?

Certainly not!

I just might get hungry on the long walk home that's all...