This is not a famous story, or a new one, but something about the way it dramatizes the experience of talking to a stranger on a train stuck in my brain. I love trains, and buses – and I’m also scared of them. The possibility that that conversation might turn weird, or that threat might suddenly erupt out of everyday pleasantries, is always present. In particular, this seems very modern, in a world where we are newly interrogating the power play of everyday interactions in the light of gender, race and class. And more than that, Agnes Owens is just great.
First published in Lean Tales, Jonathan Cape, 1995, also collected in Complete Short Stories, Polygon, 2011