Flash fiction

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Untouchableby Alan McMonagle

FROM THE first moment she was the one. Her black shaggy hair. Her death-is-nigh complexion. Her lost eyes and faraway voice. She glided over ground.

He saw her every day on the bus. “I’ve fallen for you,” he whispered, sinking into the seat behind her.

His world was full of order, neat arrays, reconciled. She didn’t know her age; forgot days of the week; paid no attention to the time of day.

“We mesh,” he told himself. “We belong together. We should meet each other halfway.”

She flung her money at the barman. “Easy come, easy go,” he heard her say. Which was all she wanted to do. Go. Hike. Climb. Sleep close to the stars. Travel along the bottom of the night. He followed every step, admiring from afar.

In the end, she said he was too clingy. He was squeezing her space.

“Have a nice life,” she told him.

He hadn’t even touched her.

He sent her gifts: a set of binoculars, a telescopic camera, a four-layer expedition knife. The knife had everything: a Maglite to pinpoint in dark places; a mini-saw that was easy to use; an altimeter to indicate how far off the ground she was, how close to the stars. It came all the way from Switzerland in a finger-sized pouch.

The knife was the last straw. She returned it to him with a note. “Stay away from me.” She kept the binoculars and camera.

He liked her even more when she was fiery. His loins curdled. He needed to touch her. Once.

A last warning arrived. “As much as lay a finger on me, you’ll be sorry.” It gave him an idea.

The pouch arrived, flecked with gouts of red. She unsnapped it and the finger pointed at her. Like an accusation. A paper pill spilled out. And a note to explain: “I need to touch you.”

Flash fiction will be a regular item in The Irish Times. E-mail a story of no more than 500 words to flashfiction@irishtimes.com

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