'Touched' by Laurie Theurer

Her bottom jiggled like half-firmed pudding as he patted. Good gracious, it was wobbly! His fingers extended to get a larger handful, knobby knuckles cracking, sending sparks of arthritic pain shooting to his elbows. No, not pudding. More like an over-filled water balloon.

  “Henry!” hissed Martha. “What the hell are you doing?”

  Henry retracted his hand from the saleswoman’s bottom and turned to look at his wife. His blue eyes were muddled and murky, just as they were on every “bad” day.

  “I was just chatting to....”

  The saleswoman stood her ground, her cocoa eyes enveloping Martha, her smile reassuring.

  “Henry, step outside. I'll be there in a moment.”

  Henry opened his mouth briefly, and then clapped it shut. He joggled his head like a wet dog and shuffled out of the shop.

  “Miss, I'm so sorry...”

  “It's not a problem, ma'am. I understand completely.”

  “But I feel I owe you an explanation.”

  “No need. I'm fine.” The saleswoman held the shop door open and laid her hand gently on Martha's shoulder. Another smile. “It’s already forgotten.”

  Martha stepped out of the shop and nearly dissolved into tears. It was happening more often, this boundary crossing; this disinhibition. Dr. Lawrence said it was a common symptom, but that didn't make it easier to accept. She felt suddenly tired. So tired.

  The saleswoman watched Henry and Martha’s progress through the shop window as they headed towards the car park and out of sight. After a few minutes, she set the “We'll be back at...” sign to 1pm, locked the shop door, and stepped out into the sunshine, her eyes scanning the street.

  “Dad, over here. Did you have trouble finding the shop again?”

  Her father shuffled towards her, first scratching his head, and then joggling it like a wet dog.

  “I was beginning to think you’d moved the shop, my dear.” He reached over to run his hand down the silhouette of her body.

  She intercepted his hand, lacing her fingers together with his. Warm smile.

  “Ready for lunch, dad?”

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