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Story, "Misery Line"


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Misery Line

Alan got up from his seat on the tube, sniffing. People hurried past him on their way to work but the severe cold he was suffering from made it impossible for him to hurry. He felt too stuffy and his head had been aching since he got up. The two aspirin he’d taken didn’t appear to have helped, all his passages seemed to tickle and he was unable to breathe through his nose at all. As he left the carriage he nodded and smiled rather blearily to the young woman whom he saw on the journey to work every morning. She returned his smile as she always did but if he’d been in any state to look properly he’d have seen that she’d been watching him with concern for most of the journey.

He made his way along the platform but before he reached the exit he had to stop where he was. The insistent tickle in both nostrils which had plagued him since he woke suddenly took over; he braced his legs and let loose with a loud, wet sneeze.

“Heh-heh-CHISSSH!” The force of the sneeze made him stagger a little and he reached to get out his handkerchief; his nose was beginning to run.

Before he could do anything else, he felt warm hands take hold of him and push him gently back against the plastic seats on the platform. His knees unlocked and he half-sat, half-fell onto one of the seats. Giving a huge sniff, he looked up and to his surprise saw the young woman from the tube bending over him. Her face, framed in soft dark hair, wore a faintly worried expression. Seeing him look up at her, she smiled at him and with one smooth movement pulled his handkerchief from his breast pocket, shook it open and held it carefully but firmly to his nose.

“Bless you,” she said in a quiet voice. Her sure fingers blocked off his left nostril and he felt her put her other hand on the back of his head. “Now, blow.”

He felt too surprised to do anything but obey her. He closed his eyes and taking a deep breath, he blew his nose cautiously into the white cotton, feeling her fingers press against his nose. For the first time in his adult life someone cared enough to help him blow properly rather than just telling him to stop sniffing. It was a huge relief to feel his sinuses draining as his nose emptied into her hand.

“Harder,” she told him. He gave another blow, this time not holding back. She waited until the thick gurgling became a honk, then she refolded the handkerchief and put it to his nose again, this time blocking the right nostril. “And again, blow and you’ll feel better.”

He blew hard and loudly, filling the handkerchief and discovering that she was right, he was starting to feel better. She gave his nose a thorough wipe then from her pocket pulled a tissue which she held to both his nostrils at once. “Here, one last blow and make sure you’re all cleared up…” he blew a puff of air against her fingers, “…oh yes, that’s right.” She wiped his nose again, gently, then dabbed at his watering eyes and stroked his hair before she stood up.

“You have got a cold, haven’t you.” She put the sodden handkerchief into her handbag and pulled out a wad of tissues which she gave him. “Use these. I’ll get this back to you when it’s washed.”

“Thank you,” he said dazedly, blinking at her. “I… that was so kind of you. Thank you.”

She smiled radiantly at him. “No trouble. I have to go; take care of that cold and I’ll see you another morning.” She turned away and walked towards the exit, hips swaying gently but when he called out to her she looked back over her shoulder at him.

“Wait…who are you? I don’t know your name.”

“I’m Ruth,” he heard her soft voice answer him.

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Absolutely tremendous; this is what we want[except that we want more of it]. I imagine that our two heroes use the same line every day; it reminds me of when I used the Misery line {before I discovered buses] and used to see several elegant young ladies on the same train every time. Can't remember if there were any good obsides though.

Oddly, for some reason I imagined the lovely Xanthe on th e central line going East to Mile End or somewhere trendy.

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Thanks for a great story, snufflebunny - I hope you find inspiration to continue writing, as I'm sure Alan and Ruth should meet up again to return that handkerchief at the very least!

Or perhaps you could do some back-story and help explain this:

For the first time in his adult life someone cared enough to help him blow properly rather than just telling him to stop sniffing. It was a huge relief to feel his sinuses draining as his nose emptied into her hand.

Poor guy!

Thanks again,


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Thanks for all the comments, folks, I'm really glad people like the story. There will definitely be a sequel!

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