Something warm and salty found a path down Sally's
face and moistened the corner of her ever-so-dry
It was hot. It was humid. Why was there never any
air-con in these dreadful little airfields in the middle
of nowhere? Too long without sleep was bringing all
kinds of thoughts struggling into her consciousness.
She thought of the heat and of all the things she had
forced herself to do on this one last trip.
But most of all, her mind returned again and again to
thoughts of death.
"Too late for tears now," said the spotty young
Customs Officer. His uniform hat was a size larger
than it should be and was held up mostly by his ears.
However, he was the one in authority. He was the one
who had opened her trusty old backpack. Neither of
his colleagues on duty had bothered to wear their hats
and neither looked like they would do what he was
doing with his finger.
The old gray haired Officer called over. "Don't do
that. We don't do that here. They only do that in the
The young Officer paid no attention. This was his
interception, his case, his first rung on the ladder of
promotion, the break that could get him something
new and shiny to sew into his uniform. He put his
index finger back into the powder in the biscuit tin.
This was his moment for he was the one who had
found it carefully sealed up with tape and wrapped
around in underwear at the bottom of Sally's
backpack. Slowly, he held up his powder coated
finger for Sally's fellow travellers to see. Everyone
was now gathering around the little drama and he was
The old Officer called again. "Stay clear of that stuff.
You don't know what it is and you don't want to
scramble your brains."
But the finger went straight back into his mouth and
the young Officer leaned forward to look Sally
straight in the eye for this was the way to get at the
truth. "So what's all this powder then," he said.
Sally looked back. Her face contorted just a little and
her shoulders heaved but she wasn't sobbing.
"It's Father's ashes," she said. “I'm bringing him
home now. You can have some more if you like. I'm
sure he won't mind."
And a ragged little cheer rang all around.
Caught was published in
Issue 19, Summer 2011.
First published, Winning Entry
Adult Creative Writing Club Competition
No. 105, May 2010.