Jacky Fowler's Stuff

July 30, 2010

The Youth of Today

Filed under: FridayFlash — jackyfowler @ 9:09 am

Well, I thought as he stepped into the carriage, what a dreadful young thug. Typical of the ‘youth of today’. He scowled as he wrestled to keep the door from snapping back on him.

He was fairly tall and quite well built, so why was he wearing clothes at least two sizes too big for him? It just accentuated his slouch.

His hair had been smothered in gel and teased into spiky little peaks. No doubt he thought it was a cutting edge style that made him look really ‘cool’, but to me it looked like nothing so much as a greasy, half-balding hedgehog peering out from under one of those hideous hoodie things. This one was a particularly unflattering shade of battleship grey. It certainly did nothing for a complexion already struggling with a crop of spots that he quite obviously hadn’t managed to leave well alone.

His trousers were something else again. So baggy and low slung that they seemed likely to slide down to his ankles at any moment – they had no visible means of support. Even so, when he turned to close the door I could see that they looked better from the front than the back. Why on earth would you want to look like your backside was that big and droopy? I clenched my buttocks automatically; there was no way my gluteus maximi would to let me down like that.

He walked down the aisle of the carriage, the uneven swaying of the train making him lurch from side to side and grab onto the backs of seats as he slowly approached where I sat. I almost felt sorry for him as the carriage rocked sharply and he staggered into one of the huge, old fashioned seat-backs – that must have hurt.

His feet twinkled as he approached, each step causing a flash of red light to be emitted by his tacky trainers – rather like a mobile disco. No doubt it punctuated the tinny racket I could now hear coming from the headphones of the ubiquitous iPod slung around his neck.

Even this close, I couldn’t tell just how old he might be – late teens probably, or early twenties perhaps? I’m afraid that these days even doctors look rather young to me, let alone policemen.

Abruptly, he lunged down to where I had my new handbag tucked in by my feet. I shrank back in my seat, taken completely by surprise, and suddenly apprehensive in the extreme. My breathing quickened, but time slowed and came to a stop as I relived the memory yet again.

The mall had been as busy as usual, thronged with families out browsing and doing their weekly shopping. I’d been searching for a brown, A-line skirt; unsuccessfully so far. I’d just spotted what I was pretty sure was exactly what I’d been looking for in a shop window. I was making my way towards it when a hard shove in the back sent me reeling towards the vast expanse of plate glass. Instinctively, I put my hands out in a futile bid to save myself from crashing through the glass, but before I hit the window, a yank on the bag over my shoulder pulled me back and I spun round. Someone had saved me. Thank God.

Another yank, and I focused on the man with his hands on my bag. Not my saviour, but my assailant. Somehow, my bag was still over my arm, so he punched me – a glancing blow to the side of my head.

 “Let go” he snarled. I was so shocked, that’s just what I did. Immediately, he melted away into the crowd, leaving me standing there, shaking, sobbing, and surrounded by people who seemed not to have noticed anything amiss.

The police found the bag quite quickly, with its contents shaken out around it. Even my purse was there, but minus the money and credit cards in it, of course.

Could I give them a description of the thief? I tried, truly I did. Well, first of all, it was definitely a man – I think. And he had on a hooded top and baggy trousers, in a dark colour, but black or navy I couldn’t say. Maybe even maroon. How tall? About as tall as me, maybe a bit taller. Young? Oh yes, judging by those clothes, but I couldn’t say just how young. So, had I seen his face? Indeed I had, but it was suffused with – what? Anger, contempt, desperation? Perhaps a mixture of all three? But it had all been so quick and shocking that I simply couldn’t be sure what his face would look like without that expression. I had to face up to it, I wasn’t a very good witness.

In fact, the only thing I could be sure of now was the aftermath of the incident – the shaken confidence, the fear that it might happen again, and the anger that this young man had felt it was worth turning my life upside down for the sake of the measly twenty pounds or so I’d been carrying – surely he’d know the credit cards would be cancelled immediately? And I hadn’t even been able to use the bag again; it was too immediate a reminder of the incident.

“’S this yours?”

The voice brought me swiftly back to the present. I stared blankly, still caught in the web of memory.

“’S this yours?” he asked again, patiently proffering the book I had so carelessly let fall as he had opened the door to the carriage. It was a thriller with a rather lurid cover that had almost put me off buying it. I’d been running late and picked it up in a moment of panic buying at the station; knowing how long my journey would be, I’d decided it would be better than nothing. As the journey progressed and the scenery palled, I’d started the book and almost against my will, had found it quite absorbing – far better than the cover had led me to believe.

“Oh, yes. Erm, thank you” I replied feebly, still somewhat flustered, and took it from him.

“S’okay. Wun’t want you to lose it ‘fore you finish it,” he said, smiling shyly at me. “I fort it was pretty wicked” he continued, “I really liked it – hope you do too.” He bobbed his head at me, plugged the headphones back in his ears and moved on down the carriage.

Well, I thought, as I settled back into my seat with my book once again, what a nice young man. And now that I came to think of it, perhaps I should go back to that shop and have a really good look at that skirt, after all.



  1. I love how you turn this around, Jacky. We have all been there, ‘judging the book by its cover’ and you use this to great advantage in the story, leading us to believe the youth is up to no good. Your MC’s prejudices are neatly upended and I find myself smiling at how I imagine her face to be.

    Good story, thanks for sharing.

    Nettie x

    Comment by nettiewriter — July 30, 2010 @ 10:11 am | Reply

    • Thanks. I enjoyed writing a ‘small’ happy ending for the story. Jacky

      Comment by jackyfowler — July 30, 2010 @ 4:08 pm | Reply

  2. We get a clear picture of the narrator from her initial reaction to the young man boarding the train. The saying that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover works well both with the paperback and the youth.

    I really enjoyed your story. Thanks


    Comment by Jude — July 30, 2010 @ 2:57 pm | Reply

    • Thanks. I wanted to write something about commonly held ‘immediate assumptions’ and how they can so easily be very wrong, but show why they can arise. Jacky

      Comment by jackyfowler — July 30, 2010 @ 4:07 pm | Reply

  3. I love how this story ends on a positive note where she decides not all youngsters are bad. I enjoyed the details in this piece, such as a-lined skirt and carriage, that made me think of an older woman. Nice writing.

    Comment by Aidan Fritz — August 1, 2010 @ 7:18 pm | Reply

    • Thanks Aidan. This was written as a piece on ‘observing strangers’. Glad you enjoyed it.

      Comment by jackyfowler — August 1, 2010 @ 10:15 pm | Reply

  4. Loved the story Jacky. I loved the contrast between the innocuous thoughts of the narrrator, and her sudden flashback to her frightening experience.
    I wonder if you could have masked the tad predictable ending by throwing in a red herring… a newspaper story providing a description of a wanted hoodie who had identical trainers… police on the platform…
    or make your narrator feel guilty because the chappie was badly dressed, and maybe think nice thoughts about him, like she would clear out her son’s wardrobe when she got home, to make sure the local men’s hostel had some decent clothes to give away.
    Just a couple of suggestions to make the reader believe that the story is going in a different direction.
    Hope you don’t mind.
    Mon xx

    Comment by brentgoose — August 2, 2010 @ 9:01 am | Reply

    • Thanks Monica. Don’t mind suggestions at all.
      My trouble is keeping to 1,000 words – I find it very difficult indeed, so had to pare story down to what I felt were essentials in order to make word count.
      Could definitely expand it into at least one of areas you suggest if I were to make it longer.

      Comment by jackyfowler — August 2, 2010 @ 6:17 pm | Reply

  5. oops Jacky… I’ve pinched your brilliant piece of observation, written it from the pov of the young man and turned it into a 1000 worder
    ‘Train Spotted’
    which is posted in the FB Thursday Thousand group.
    Thankyou very much 🙂

    It’s very good for me to have to pare my stories down… What isn’t necessary to the plot? What is self-indulgent wittering? Is there a story left now that’s all gone?

    For longer stories, which could be the 1000-worders developed, I started another FB group… Thursday Three Thousand, which is a ‘secret’ group, (invitation only) where the content is not for public viewing.

    Comment by brentgoose — August 2, 2010 @ 9:17 pm | Reply

    • No worries, Monica, happy to have provided ‘inspiration’. Jacky

      Comment by jackyfowler — August 5, 2010 @ 6:50 pm | Reply

  6. Love the play on judging a book by its cover!
    The amount of times I’ve stood in a queue behind some awfully dressed youngsters, buying lunch or whatever, and thought the same thing.. then felt bad when I hear them be all please and thank-yous to the shop assistants!

    Comment by mazzz in Leeds — August 3, 2010 @ 5:57 pm | Reply

    • Thanks Mazzz. It’s human nature to make up our minds very quickly indeed, using ver limited clues. Sometimes we get it wrong – sometimes wonder just how often we get it wrong. At least we’re prepared to jettison our prejudices when proved wrong I guess. Jacky

      Comment by jackyfowler — August 5, 2010 @ 6:40 pm | Reply

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