Discussing the Short Story 'One Good Turn'
I found it interesting to look back at this story and examine its structure. It was commissioned by Victim Support Scotland for a collection from the point of view of the victim. The story originated from an incident many years ago in Edinburgh where a university student returning home late at night was randomly attacked and fatally stabbed. The incident, which greatly troubled me at the time, took place not that far from where I set the story.
I suggested in the notes that an effective beginning should introduce and categorise the protagonist and make you want to read on. Ben is aware of the others waiting for the longed for bus and recognises how uncomfortable the girl is. Her mixture of unsuitable clothes for the weather and her embarassment reminds him of his little sister. There is a creeping sense of menace in the male duo at the bus stop, especially towards the girl. So, when the time comes, despite desperately wanting to board the bus, Ben lets her get on instead. We like him for this.
The story structure is a little unusual in that it switches between Ben and Stephanie now. We see her point of view as well as his after their brief meeting and his gentlemanly act towards her. They 'click' as strangers sometimes do in extremis and their progress becomes a bit of a fun race. Ben showing off to make her smile as he races the bus. Maybe he will catch it up, maybe even be let board. Then they will really meet.
At first the race itself provides the gradually increasing obstacles, then suddenly the unpleasant duo appears and bangs in to him. He is winded, and cannot keep up with the bus any longer. He has failed to reach the girl. But it's worse than that.
The deepest darkest moments for both of them is fast approaching and they will co-incide.
Stephanie, realising something's wrong, abandons her safe and warm ride home.
Ben sees the 'silly' shoes appear (reflecting the opening scene). This time they are bringing her to him (where before he was chasing her). As he looks up, in a moment of calm, he recognises Stephanie for who she truly is, under the makeup and silly clothes.
As she kneels beside him, the cruel reality of what has happened is apparent to both of them. When Ben gave up his place on the bus for Stephanie, both their worlds changed forever. Something she desperately regrets.
The end reflects the beginning. He was there, when she needed him. She is there now when he needs her.
I left the end open, but hoped that the ambulance crew would arrive and save his life.
I imagine Ben and Stephanie together somewhere, but cannot be certain that they are.