Every writer knows how tough it is to write a piece of flash fiction that feels finished and complete. For my first post on Prose and Cons, I want to share one of my favourites bits of flash fiction. This story isn't remarkable because it makes you laugh, it's remarkable because it gives you an insight into a character that doesn't feel incomplete in any way. Paul Bassett-Davies is one of the great unsung British writers. He's written for many great T.V. shows and has recently published his first novel. Follow him at @thewritertype. Enjoy!
A Very Nice Man
by Paul Bassett-Davies
The woman opposite me was crying.
I’d been engrossed in my book since the train had left Bristol, but when I heard her snuffling I glanced up. She looked about forty and her face was pretty, even though her eyes were red and swollen. She was on the large side, and the sober business suit she was wearing seemed a little small for her. I noticed that her shoes had very high heels.
She nodded and blew her nose on the handkerchief she’d been dabbing her eyes with. “I’m all right, thanks, love. Just been to a funeral, that’s all.”
“Oh, I’m sorry,” I said. “Was it someone close?”
“Not exactly. But he was such a nice man. Probably my best client.” She must have seen the momentary calculation in my eyes as I glanced at her shoes again and took in the curves beneath her tight clothes. “Oh, I don’t care,” she said, “I’ve got nothing to be ashamed of.”
“No, of course not,” I said, feeling embarrassed. Just for something to say I blurted out, “So… you liked him, then?”
She gave me a little smile and blew her nose again. “Most of my clients aren’t really any trouble, to be honest,” she said. “You give them a bit of a massage, because that's what it says in the advert, but after a few minutes with the baby oil and a bit of chat, you get on with what they’ve really come for.”
She smiled again, and I smiled back. She had a soft, pleasant voice with a slight Midlands accent. “I don't get many perverts,” she said, “because I don't do much kinky stuff. But this client, he was a very nice man, and he wanted domination. You know, from a mistress. Not spanking or whipping, thank God, because that really makes your arms tired; no, he wanted me to make him scrub the kitchen floor. I had to pretend to be really cross with him and call him all kinds of names. Then I'd order him to scrub the floor. So, he'd start scrubbing, and I'd take the opportunity to nip out to the shops for half an hour. Trouble was, sometimes when I got back, I'd forget about the domination, and I'd go in the kitchen and he'd be there on his hands and knees, and I'd say, Ooh, that's lovely, that is, you've done a really thorough job, right into the corners, too! And then he'd look at me with a face like a robber's dog, and I'd have to say, No! Actually, your mistress is most displeased! You miserable worm, do it all again! And then he'd start all over again, happy as Larry.” She gave a little laugh and shook her head. “That went on for ten years. Then he moved to Bristol to be the customer service manager in a big electrical store, dealing with all the complaints. I expect that kept him happy.”
“You must miss him,” I said.
“I do. He gave that floor a lovely clean every week, and paid me forty quid for the privilege. But most of all…” she turned and gazed out of the window for a moment, then said quietly, “He was a very nice man.” She sighed, and then stood up. The train was pulling in to Swindon. “This is my stop,” she said.
I ignored my book for the rest of the journey. I wished I’d spoken to her at the funeral service. She must have been at the back, and we hadn’t seen each other. But I was grateful to her. I’d learned something I hadn’t known about my late father. And she was right: he was a very nice man.
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