Matthew Gibson
October 2017 Third Prize

Not For Want Of Trying

by Matthew Gibson

THE Speaker. He would have to remember that.

“You need to study harder,” said the tutor.

I will, promised Taimur. But it wasn’t easy. It wasn’t instinctive.

When the militia arrived at his village, their truck a satanic porcupine of weaponry, empty eyes spelling out their intentions as solemnly as a wedding vow, then it had been instinctive.

When his bus was stopped at the border, when every third passenger was taken out at gunpoint, he had known to keep his head bowed.

When he arrived at the coast, the sea-salt overwhelming, the waves unfamiliar, he had no doubt about his destination.

When the boat foundered, he knew to cling to the driftwood, knew to kick grasping hands away as their owners drowned around him.

When coastguard backs were turned, he leapt from the holding pen.

Waiting at the roadside for the one truck in 1000 to offer him a lift.

Picking out others like himself, following them to the camp at the edge of the sea.

Fashioning shelter from crates and sheets of corrugated iron. Knowing to study the lorries as they pulled in and out, waiting in line to cross the water.

Instinct when his time arrived, jumping aboard, curled between frozen boxes of shellfish.

Instinct to ignore the cold, to stay hidden, half breathing, half dead, as the ferry swayed gently and passengers laughed high above.

Sitting warm in the classroom, the air stale and safe, he had no idea how he had managed the journey.

Sitting warm in the classroom, he had no idea of the official title of the House of Commons’ chair.

“You need to study harder,” said the tutor. “You need to put in some effort.”

“Do you want to be in this country or not?”

About the Author

Matthew Gibson was born and brought up in London, where he lives with his partner and two cats. He studied English literature at university where he developed a love of the short story form. Now, several years later, he has decided to try his hand at his own. This is his first flash fiction win and his first published work.

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