This short short story features in ‘Bonsai: Best small stories from Aotearoa New Zealand’, published by Canterbury University Press with the support of Creative New Zealand.

Fiction, Flash Fiction, Adults, Young Adults, Quick Read
Michelle Elvy | The commuting Book
Michelle Elvy

Aug 30   ●  2 min read

The man finds the boy in a drainpipe and when he asks him what are you doing in there?
the boy looks at him as if he should already know and says I’m looking for Antarctica.
Later at home, the man’s wife catches him staring at the tiny specks of dust spiralling
in the late-afternoon sun and when she asks what are you thinking? for about the
millionth time he hates her but he also knows he’d hate it even more if she stopped
asking so he shrugs and says I’m thinking about Antarctica.

He goes back the next day and the boy is gone. He waits for him because he knows
there’s something they needed to say but forgot. The sky is heavy metallic: the hour
before snowfall. He pulls his collar tight and heads home and when he gets there his
wife’s standing naked in the kitchen. It has started to snow and the only colour in the
room is the orange of her fingernails. The snow falls and they can’t get warm, no matter
how hard they make love. Later he’s staring again and his wife says Antarctica? but how
could she know he’s more than a million miles away with the boy in the drainpipe.

He returns to the drainpipe and crouches on his hands and knees. His shoulders barely
fit but he wedges himself in. He is about to turn and crawl down the pipe, all the way
to a new continent, when a stranger walks by and sees him and when he asks what are
you doing in there? the man looks at the stranger as if he should already know.