Sangatte (Five Sentence Fiction, July 2012)

This week’s prompt word from Lillie McFerrin’s Five Sentence Fiction was:  Perseverance.

We wait, the six of us, scarcely daring to breathe until the moment the moon passes behind scudding clouds, and then, as one, we run quickly and silently; soon we will be safe.

Reaching our destination, we shift boxes and cartons, replacing them carefully in an orderly stack as soon as we are secreted behind them, and our diligence is rewarded as the doors are slammed shut and we feel the motion of the vehicle.

Tension increases once the lorry stops inside the port, and we can hear the heavy ring of steel-capped boots on concrete, muffled voices as the guards go about their work; we know that now they are using heartbeat monitors, CO2 emission probes, and that our chances are slim.

The sound of barking dogs comes closer, then the boxes around us are roughly cast aside, flashlights dazzle us, and Sanja’s baby begins to cry loudly as we are exposed to the exasperated gaze of the security guards … who recognise us from before, and who know this will not be the last time.

Tomorrow, or maybe the night after that, when the police release us, as they undoubtedly will, we shall settle down in our makeshift shelter on the windswept Calais beach, our eyes focusing hungrily across the greasy, grey water that separates us from the promised land – and we will make more plans.


(Sangatte refugee camp, on the outskirts of Calais closed in 2002.  There are other ‘Sangattes’  close to the port of Calais.)

About Sandra

I used to cruise the French waterways with my husband four or five months a year, and wrote fiction and poetry. Now I live on the beautiful Dorset coast, enjoying the luxury of being able to have a cat, cultivating an extensive garden and getting involved in the community. I still write fiction, but only when the spirit moves me - which isn't as often as before. I love animals, F1 motor racing, French bread and my husband, though not necessarily in that order.
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14 Responses to Sangatte (Five Sentence Fiction, July 2012)

  1. Oh Sandra, as always, your words have such impact. Heartbreaking and so very real in the telling. Completely taken into the story…though, as I say…hard to call this fiction when we know how true the scenario is.


  2. sue Cottrill says:

    and so it goes on, another well written story.


  3. Regina West says:

    Oh wow! I always love when fiction and history intersect. Well-written story.


  4. Lizzie Koch says:

    Reading the story from the view of the stowaways adds another dimention to the situation of immigration and humanises it, like the news never does. Well done on a rather thought provoking piece which is beautifuuly written. x


    • Sandra says:

      Thanks Lizzie. I guess there are lots of sides to this story – the guards who keep on ejecting the same people, the lorry drivers themselves who are fined £2000 for every illegal found on their vehicle, the relatives of the refugees who seldom find out whether they made it… It’s a big issue.


  5. Claire says:

    That was a very powerful piece, and I love that they are unwilling to give up. The ending was perfect, and you could turn this into a longer work easily!


  6. That blew me away…we so often see the situation from outside eyes, very good use of the word exasperated there, but we rarely see it from the desperation of those trying to get away from whatever it is. You showed the weariness and futility that they’re actually living day in day out!


  7. This is a type of perseverance to be in awe of – and the kind of determination I wish no one had to have. I feel so privileged each day to have a solid, safe, and abundant life. Thank you for a beautiful, painful dose of reality.


I'd love to hear your views; it reassures me I'm not talking to myself.

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