Quick Stories #10 Don’t Touch

Image © Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2021

Ten Days Ten Short Stories

One a day for ten days. I write when I can, do the best I can, and I am willing to put my work out there! My thoughts are Don’t Be Embarrassed, Don’t Make Excuses, Don’t Stop Writing.

Recently I completed a 10-week term on Fridays with U3A Brisbane Creative Writing Group on Zoom and enjoyed the prompts, feedback and general literary discussions.  The writers in the group are quite diverse in style and writing content.

The wordcount limit is 500 words and while I found their prompts were ‘forcing’ me to come up with something different each week, I really enjoyed doing it.  I was quickly learning how to keep them short and sweet.  Edit, edit, edit.

My characters are good, bad and ugly and the majority of the time I had no idea where they came from!

I say write for yourself first and don’t be precious about your words.  For better or worse, here are mine—the prompt was to write about a character using one main Sense throughout as their habit or quirk. 

Don’t Touch

When she finally left the confines of four walls, the coronavirus played havoc with Alva’s uncontrollable desire to touch things.  Touching was curtailed now she had to steer clear of a global pandemic.  More rules, wear a mask, keep your distance, use stinging hand sanitiser and avoid frowning people when she hovered too long over an item.

Neighbours gossiped, asked “Why does she do it, why doesn’t she stop?”  Alva would touch anything to get a sensation through her fingers. As long as something was within arm’s reach, she would touch it.  Uninvited, raising eyebrows and brashly crossing social boundaries, she would slide her hands over both public and private property. 

Alva looked back on moments of craving, her compulsion led to some embarrassing and hurtful situations.  She had stroked art gallery statues and let her fingers trail down their finely carved contours regardless of “Do Not Touch” as security guards marched towards her.

Park rangers were unforgiving when this random woman stuck her fingers into the wire of the exotic monkey enclosure.  The screeching was so loud, zoo visitors stopped in their tracks.  Alva was screeching along with the monkeys.  She nearly lost a finger that day and left the zoo via the first aid room and a rabies shot.

A mere glitch on the tactile radar which didn’t stop her caressing the shiny bonnet of a new car while the owner was inside.  On hands and knees, she loved the feel of cold marble floors; the juxtaposition of gritty sand; the fur of her neighbour’s fluffy cat Fluffy.  Best of all, the soft skin of her first granddaughter. The parents nervously hovered around when Alva visited unexpectedly but she put it down to new-baby nerves.

Alva touched the foggy glass of refrigerator doors in the supermarket, the round shiny apples, the springy bread rolls, and habitually opened egg cartons to fondle the smooth eggs.  Egg shells are an optical illusion, they cracked easily often speckling the front of her clothes.  As always, she purchased the carton of eggs at the checkout, along with the seven or eight other items she had lingered too long over in the fresh food aisles.

As a toddler, Alva was not allowed to touch anything for fear of disease.  Her chubby, exploring fingers were denied the grasping of matches, silver cutlery, dog food, shiny beads; the feel of feathers or a squishy banana.  Mother laced white cotton gloves on her hands, forbidding tactile experiences.  “Don’t touch this, don’t touch that!”

Outside the supermarket, Alva ran her hand along the rough bricks of the building, around the sturdy white poles in the carpark, and even debated whether or not to touch the hot metal railing of the trolley bay.  A quick palm slide.  The burn made her feel present, in the moment.  Heat on her skin always satisfied her sense of unity, completion, perhaps even closure. She smiled at the helper waiting beside the van.

——© Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2021——

“Generally, emerging writers don’t write every day; some writers don’t stretch themselves; some writers don’t share their work; some writers fear feedback; just do it!” Gretchen Bernet-Ward