256 Words

The Remnants of His Touch

M. Stanley Bubien

I saw the drunk as we slowed into the subway station. Swallowing twice, I brushed my dress firmly against my ankles.

He staggered aboard and the reek of alcohol filled the car like his aura.

"Anyone s-sittin' there," he slurred at me.

Heart in throat, I forced an honest, though somewhat hoarse reply, "No. It's open."

He plopped down, jarring me with a shoulder before coming to rest. I flinched, but clenched my dress folds. "That's why you're here," I whispered.

"How'reya doin' this wonnerful e'nin?" he asked, head flopping sidelong.

Deliberately inhaling, tasting a mixture of alcohol and sweat, I replied, "Just... fine, thanks." I paused, but grasped for a connection, "And how are you?"

"Yaknow, you looks lots li' my ex-wife."

I sat bolt-upright.

"Butcher prettyer."

Blinking, I responded, "thank you." And forging ahead, I asked, "Where is she now?"

He listed forward with the train's deceleration. Squinting, he sucked air and enunciated two words: "She. Left." After which he mumbled, "Don' blame-er."

The train halted and he lurched back against the seat.

"S'my stop," he announced, and pulled himself up.

As he turned, my hand darted out and grabbed his. He looked toward me blearily as I said, "It was... nice talking to you."

Maybe it was his drunkenness, but I believe I felt him squeeze.

Watching him stagger onto the platform, I brought my hand before my face, smelling alcohol in the remnants of his touch. I pressed this palm to breast, clenching my ring-finger while the train accelerated from the station.

Copyright ©1998 M. Stanley Bubien. All Rights Reserved.

Please contact the editor for free text versions of this very short story formatted for e-mail, usenet news, or ftp.

Story Bytes


November, 1998
Issue #31

256 Words