Can't You Hear Me? 

Short Story

Ken Preston

21 March 2024

‘I thought you weren’t going to come,’ she said.

He said something, but she couldn’t hear it over the squeal of the train pulling in to the platform.

‘What was that?’ she said.

‘It doesn’t matter.’

Georgina dabbed at her eyes with the crumpled tissue. ‘I hate it when you say that, it’s such a stupid thing to say. If it mattered enough to say it in the first place, why does it not matter anymore just because I didn’t hear it?’

Charlie popped the plastic lid off the cardboard tube. ‘It just doesn’t matter, it’s not important.’ He tore the paper off the top of the tube. Dropped it on the ground.

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She could smell them immediately; the aroma of sour cream and onion trapped inside the cardboard tube from the moment the crisps were packaged up until now. How did they get the crisps inside the tube? It was all automated, she supposed. Conveyor belts of empty cardboard tubes, one after another, filled with crisps. And how did they decide how many to stack in there? Did every tube contain exactly the same number of crisps everywhere in the world?

‘Here,’ he said, passing the tube over. ‘Something to eat on the train.’

She took the tube of crisps from him. Her eyes were still leaking, and her mouth was salivating. How much water did the average head contain? If she cried and salivated at the same time, would she run out? Would she dehydrate?

Charlie stood up.

‘Are you going already?’ she said. ‘I didn’t think you were coming, and now you’re going?’

‘I’ve got to get back,’ Charlie said. ‘I bought you those, something to eat. I know how much you like them.’

Georgina looked at the writing down the side of the tube.

‘Stackers,’ she said.

‘Yeah.’

She looked up at him. ‘I like Pringles, and you bought me a tube of Stackers.’

He shrugged. ‘Same thing, isn’t it?’

Georgina started crying again.

‘What’s wrong?’

‘It doesn't matter.’

He shrugged again, and then turned and walked away.

Still crying, Georgina upended the tube of Stackers against her open mouth and emptied sour cream and onion crisps inside until she could fit no more in.

And then she began crunching on them.

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