Peter Blair
February 2016 Commended


by Peter Blair

I am off-kilter, coasting perpendicular to the upright, ninety degrees in the shade. Everything is grey. The seatbacks are headstones; the antimacassars are embroidered with dates of lovers I’ve never had. A melancholy love song, crooned in a voice I almost recognize, loops over the tannoy. As we curve into the mountains, I lose sight of the river and do not know if we have crossed the frontier. Patting myself down for travel documents, I find a stub that bears no seat or carriage number, date or time, departure point or destination. Each page of the passport plucked from the breast pocket of my shirt is blank. I will not know how to explain myself to the ticket inspector and border guard, whose languages I may not speak. I have no currency for a bribe. I stow myself in the luggage rack, but am in plain sight, my buttocks bulging through the elasticated mesh. As I try to squirm free, my feet become entangled and cannot be extricated. I will have to throw myself on the mercy of the officials, as an innocent abroad. The low-fi love lyric is an earworm burrowing into my head: something about an interventionist God. Across pastures and ravines, the shadowtrain lengthens and shortens, rises and falls. I am off-kilter. Everything is grey.

About the Author

Peter BlairPeter Blair lectures in English Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Chester, where he leads the MA Modern and Contemporary Fiction and teaches on the MA Creative Writing: Writing and Publishing Fiction. He is co-editor of Flash: The International Short-Short Story Magazine ( and co-director of the International Flash Fiction Association ( His stories and poems have been runners-up in the Bridport Prize and the Fish Prize. His critical publications include essays, reviews, and interviews on South African literature and on flash fiction, including the ‘Flash Fiction’ article in the Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook 2016 (Bloomsbury).

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