The Green Suitcase

From The Telegraph:

As the first year of the Telegraph’s hugely popular Short Story Club draws to a close, we present the winning entry by Jo Senior.

Wesley-illo1_2482252bThe first thing Mildred Bloom does when she arrives anywhere is find out how to leave. In airport terminals this is usually an easy task and, over the years, she has acquainted herself with the exit in a dozen different languages: salida, sortie, wyj´scie. On this occasion she locates the Ausgang with little trouble, but unfortunately she fails to find her suitcase.

“My suitcase is green,” she tells the young American slouching beside her at the baggage carousel, “and really quite small.”

The young American shrugs, yawns and, after a brief tussle with a bear-sized backpack, lopes away into the arms of his waiting Fräulein.

She had hoped for more, even from a fellow New Yorker. Mildred eyes the Ausgang sign.

Minutes pass, and she feels half-mesmerised by tiredness and the revolutions of the conveyor belt. Just six bags remain unclaimed. Then five. Three of the five are green, but they are the wrong green, and not hers. Mildred tilts her head at their labels. They are not even from her flight. And there is a child’s buggy. Who forgets a child’s buggy? she wonders.

The conveyer belt stops, momentarily shudders back to life, then stops again. As the electrics power down, the belt seems to exhale, its work done. And, as hard as Mildred stares, it stays done. All the activity in the baggage hall is now focused on another carousel, where travellers collect like buzzards round a corpse.

She watches a man collect the five remaining suitcases and line them up on the floor. He avoids Mildred’s eye. He looks at his watch. He lays the buggy beside the suitcases. He looks at his watch again, still avoiding Mildred’s eye, and walks away. He slings his uniform jacket over his arm, as if he is already halfway home.

“Young man,” she calls after him. She does not think she has ever called anyone “young man” before, but something tells her that the situation will demand a certain hauteur.

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