The Coffee Break

“King-size cappuccino please.” Mr Hughes chose the same as he always did, sighing at his lack of imagination. He stood at the platform kiosk, tall, thin, in a worn blue suit.
“£2.60.” The cashier, unsmiling, blinked big green eyes beneath a copper fringe.
He paid, recalling the IT lesson he’d just given – trying in vain to interest an unruly class in digital painting.
Someone screamed and he turned to see a lady sprawled on the line, a little girl standing at the edge of the platform above her. Other passengers stood statue-like.
Mummy!” cried the child but her mother writhed, unable to stand.
The rail sang with an approaching train and Mr Hughes felt his stomach knot. Without thinking he dropped his drink and jumped down onto crunching track ballast.
Her mouth opened soundlessly, absolute fear etched on the delicate oval face. He lifted her by the shoulders but her foot was wedged under the rail. The little girl’s shrill screaming competed with the train’s blaring horn. With the unstoppable mass of metal almost on top of him, he dropped her and leapt.
He pictured Smith minor’s spotty face mouthing obscenities, feeling desperation at this latest failure.

Featured in the book and audiobook, To Cut a Short Story Short: 111 Little Stories

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