Unreliable third

It was dark when he finally arrived at the room. He’d taken a train from the airport, a tram for five stops, walked back a hundred meters to the second street on the right, found the fifth building on the left, entered the code then climbed three flights of narrow, steep stairs. He found the room key exactly where he’d been told it would be, in the communal landing, under the pot of a dried up geranium.

He set his old green kit bag on the seat of the chair behind the door, then lifted it off because the chair’s frame looked rather delicate. He leaned the kit bag against the wall, then pulled it away to make sure it hadn’t made a black mark on the white paint. It hadn’t, and he let it rest again. When he straightened, he saw a white envelope on the narrow breakfast bar that separated the living area from the tiny corner kitchen. The envelope had his name on it, in barely legible handwriting. At least to him. He wouldn’t have known what it said if it wasn’t his name. He dropped it back where he found it, took out his phone. He swiped the screen and tapped the glass a few times. ‘Hello, kiddo.’ He held the phone against his cheek, felt the stubble already sprouting after that morning’s shave. ‘That’s me arrived.’ He looked around for a light, found a upward-shining standard lamp in the corner by the window. ‘Yeah, the flight was fine. Quick. I hardly had time to eat my sandwich and we were landing again.’ He turned the dimmer switch till the room was just bright enough. He stayed by the window, looked into the narrow street, saw both sides lined with cars and vans and the pavements cluttered with bicycles. He smiled. It’s not a myth, there really are a million bicycles in this city. ‘I haven’t really seen the place yet, darling. I came straight here on the tram.’ He laughed. ‘Never been on a tram? No, you’re right, I don’t suppose you have. Next time I come over, you can come with me. We’ll take every tram in the city.’

He walked around touching surfaces. ‘The room’s fantastic. Very posh. The man – the bellboy – he took my bag upstairs for me, and I tipped him a dollar note like they do in the movies.’ Another laugh, then serious. ‘OK, it wasn’t a dollar, it was a euro, smarty-pants.’ He had his eyes to the floor but he wasn’t looking at the vinyl covering. ‘Well, if they don’t have one euro notes then I must’ve given him a pound. Jeez0, you’ve got very pernickety since you went to the big school. How was it today anway? What subject did you–‘ The phone rang, right against his ear. He pulled it away, glared at it like it had tried to deafen him on purpose. He gathered his wits, tapped the screen to stop the audio recorder, then pressed to accept the call.



(Exercise: Write a story fragment from the POV of an unreliable, third-person limited narrator)

Book editor with www.NovelGazing.org, considering the links between therapy and fiction at www.TheFictionTherapist.com and reviewer for @bookmunch.

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