The Touch

The Word: Grain

Lizette held his hand, stroked it, up and down up and down, as they watched an old Cary Grant flick. Greg gritted his teeth. She was a beautiful girl, but her fingers were restless, they could not just stay still in his hand, but insisted on stroking him as if he were her cat–a 17 year old greeneyed animal whom she could mindlessly caress for hours.

It wouldn’t be so bad, this little touch, but she confined it to one selected spot, tracing a figure, over and over again. Sometimes it was his neck, or his arm, or an inch or two of his chest, his bare leg. He loved Lizette, but this obsessive one-fingered caress rubbed him against the grain, until he wanted to slap her hand like a crawling insect.

But that would be misconstrued.

She would be upset, she would cry.

How could he tell her to stop it, after all this time?

He’d asked her early on. told her she could just hold his hand, rest it on his arm, she didn’t have to do anything. But she’d forgotten. Her hands liked to do what they liked to do.

They sat on the sofa, watching To Catch a Thief, Cary Grant as a retired cat burglar, exchanging acres of smooth repartee with a radiant Grace Kelly. While Lizette rubbed his forearm along the top sinew, up and down, up and down, until it was raw.

What would Cary do if Grace rubbed him against the grain?

Greg took Lizette’s hand and pressed it between his. A loving gesture. The right thing. She smiled. His Lizette. He was able to get through the next ten minutes of the film just enjoying the wit of the writing and the glamour of those great stars, sitting with his woman.

But then, somehow she worked a finger free, and began tracing a design on his palm, tickling, irritating.

Was his ardor for her cooling? Was that it?

No, he adored her. Lizette cared. She listened. She was sexy. She never thought he should be different than he was. She was hot for him. She didn’t mind the way he snored, or washed dishes, his taste for old Zappa and Beefheart.

But sometimes he’d like to break her fingers, so she would stop doing this.

He tried to imagine Cary Grant, and Grace Kelly, together after this movie was over. She’d have moved into his place, a sweet pad overlooking the Corniche. Or maybe they’d buy a yacht, whatever. Anyway, they’d be lying together on the deck, the boat swaying in a warm Mediterranean night, and she would be doing this to him, rubbing three square inches on the inside of his arm.

What would he do? Swat her? Tell her she’s wearing a hole in his skin?

But he knew what Cary would do. He’d pluck her hand from his arm, kiss the palm and figure he was a lucky schmo to have Grace Kelly. He would suck it up. Cary Grant was no putz.

He put his arm around her and drew her close, the smell of her hair, the shape of her cheek. The Corniche glowed in her liquid eyes.

Part of a semi-weekly series of short short stories based on a writing exercise, The Word. “Inspired by a simple word, chosen at random, write a two-page double-spaced story, using the Word at least once.”

Next week’s word is: SNOW


3 Responses to “The Touch”

  1. Alisa Wood Says:

    Surely the Doctor was mistaken

    Jose was not used to admitting defeat. Having grown up a Latino, one just didn’t back down. He could hear his Grandmother Susanna, a first generation American citizen, gasp with guttural conviction, “We fight to kill Mijo.” “We never give up!”
    Jose bounced the Doctor’s words back and forth in his mind like a basket ball; he had to keep it in the air spinning continuously. He began to imagine his lean yet muscular body flying across a basket ball court, like an unstoppable bullet; it would reach its destination. He could feel his power return when he forcefully sank the ball it through the hoop. Sticking it, over and over, he would stick it.
    He opened his eyes and then grimaced at the confines of the office cubicle surrounding him. His eyes darted back and forth from the window where he could see the entire LA Basin far beneath him and back to the rooftops of the buildings below; right now they looked so unreal like the architectural models he had built back in Mr. Mankato’s building engineering class so many years ago. He could see himself bursting through his 12 story window smashing the glass and plummeting to his death.
    He glanced back to a picture of his daughter he’d stuck on the wall of his cubicle with an office tack, yellow with a plastic tip. Her sunny face smiled and she was missing her two front teeth, a particularly vulnerable look that was sweeter than the chalupas he remembered eating off the carts in Mexico City when he himself was a boy, the warm summer afternoons and the sweet sugar bathing his entire mouth. He could still taste the sweetness. He glanced back at the picture of his daughter. For her, he would do anything, whatever it took to stay alive.
    Surely there was a grain of hope. The Doctor may have made a mistake with his diagnosis. One to two years and he would go into liver failure. What did those Doctors know anyway!
    It felt to Jose as though a bowling ball filled his stomach pulling him down, scarcely leaving him room to breathe.
    His eyes filled with water and he closed them and listened to what sounded like a shovel sticking dirt. Each shovel full of dirt was a grave digger’s shovel and he, himself was the grave digger. He liked the way the earth yielded to the sharp metal point of his shovel. Stick move, stick flop, stabbing metal sound, hard into the earth, moving the earth, he would move the earth. The sound made a rhythm that soothed Jose’s mind and body. With every shovel full of dirt he could feel the ongoing rhythm of is breathe, the ongoing rhythm of his life.
    Suddenly, He heard a faint noise becoming steadily louder and more real.
    He turned to look up and saw John from drafting standing at the foot of his desk. He could hear Johns voice asking, “Are you okay man, are you okay?”
    Jose quickly wiped his face and said; man I had something in my eye.” Oh yeah, John said, “maybe it’s all the dirt flying around from the construction site below.”
    So you want to go grab a burger or something?

  2. Deborah Patino Says:

    Two Sisters of Similar Grain

    She thought she was different from her sister, which sometimes made her

    angry and other times elated. A sibling rivalry dating back to when they were

    teenagers, fighting for attention from their dysfunctional parents – to busy

    with pills and alcohol. She wondered why her sister had a middle name and

    she did not -Nichole and Morgan Sam Sallas, nine months apart.

    Nicole slams the bathroom door, turning the lock, her arms strewn with

    fresh blood scratches, screaming at the top of her lungs, “I hate you!” This

    should get someone’s attention other than her rabid sister, banging on the

    door, threatening her with a quick death. Morgan was getting ready for a

    date, trying on Nichole’s new canary yellow Ditto pants and that didn’t set

    well with Nichole.

    “Take those off you slut.”

    “No, I’m wearing them.”

    Two entangled sisters struggle through the suburban three-bedroom hall,

    Nichole losing the battle, takes refuge in the toilet. After about ten minutes

    the house is quite and Nichole sedately comes out of the bathroom, receiving

    a stinging slap from her mother, wondering where dad was during all of this.

    A Sallas family drama, nothing more. Morgan flips her off with a smug smile

    as she applies cheap drug store make-up, hiding her acne, a constant

    reminder of Nichole’s porcelain face and long curly locks.

    On a still father’s day, Nichole logs on to Face book and punches up Family.

    Reading her sibling’s tender post for dad, she feels closer to Morgan than

    ever. Morgan has posted a lovely picture of mom and Morgan at her First

    Communion, a picture Nichole has never seen. Nichole touches the computer

    screen, runs her fingers across mom’s image, how stunning she was,

    yearning for that time, way back when. And Morgan, that smirk, a devil child

    at times. Nichole remembers her First Communion picture – by herself in

    the church – her pretty shiny dress hidden beneath a robe, a deer caught in

    the headlights. In the photo with Morgan is their cousin Jan, Morgan’s age,

    that same look, and with her mom, Aunt Betty. The background of the picture

    is their old home on the hilltop, serene graceful trees, a time when the family

    was young and happy. Nichole sees another picture that Morgan has put up,

    the two girls with mom and dad, dressed in matching outfits, two sisters of

    similar grain, two sisters cut from the same cloth.

    Later that evening, Bob and Judy join Nichole and her husband Jeremy for

    dinner. While Nichole is occupied over the stove Bob says, “So now you’re an

    orphan, like me”. Nichole hadn’t thought of herself as an orphan and certainly

    didn’t feel like one. She wondered if her sister felt like one and then thought

    not – they have their memories and their pictures to warm their hearts.

  3. Val Y. Says:

    [I am a HUGE HUGE fan! I adore your work, I’m 20 and an aspiring writer. THANK YOU!]

    Old Man Granger’s Boy

    It was Sunday afternoon, and Jim Granger, a tired-looking logger from Missouri, sat down on his rocking chair, eying the children playing in his yard. They ran on and around his old swing set, rusted and red, which gave out a faint metallic smell that clung to the childrens hands whenever they grasped the iron chains. Jim sighed. He remembered building that swing set himself, for his sun, Rudy, when he was just five. There was no red then, no rust eating at the set, like decay, reminding him how much time had passed.

    He sighed again.

    Although he was a logger, Jim Granger did not have the regular burly, strong, physique thought of in a man of his profession. He was tall, lanky, with silver-white hair on his head with an equally silver beard to match. Old Man Granger they called him in town, because of his hair, but he was hardly old. He was in his 50’s, barely, his silver hair aging him beyond that of his years. Silver hair, the hair of worry, early worry. And death. After Rudy’s death, Jim’s hair turned gray.

    Rudy was his everything, his passion, his life and entire being. Jim’s wife, Laura, died in childbirth and it was only the two of them to fend for themselves. Yes, they were inseparable. Rudy with his yellow-orange hair and buck-toothed grin, and Jim with matching orange hair and a smile bigger than the sun. He was proud of Rudy. Rudy, who, like his mother, acquired the exact knack of carving anything out of wood. He would carve with the grain and against the grain for hours and hours, creating a menagerie of animals. Whales, dolphins, turtles, skunks, you name it, Rudy carved it. And he was only 7 then, too.

    A 7 year old carving a Noah’s Arc of animals. It was enough to make Jim smile and smile and jump off to the moon. “Wouldn’t Laura be proud of our boy?” He mused, watching Rudy swinging on the set. It was clean white and shiny then. New metal. It was just what Rudy wanted.

    “Poppa!” Rudy yelled at Jim, who was sitting down at his rocking chair, minding the day. “Poppa! What’s an elephant eat?” Elephants. Jim Laughed. They were his favorite animal, with their long squiggled trunks and wrinkled skin. Rudy said they reminded him of his Old Aunt Rose, equally wrinkled and gray, with big ears to match!

    “They eat grass, son, grass.” Jim replied, smiling at his little boy.


    There was a lot of it where they found him. Red and decayed like the swing set he used to play on. He was only 8 then. In his hand was his favorite chisel, clean, shiny and sharp, and a wood block, halfway carved into another elephant. He clutched it against his stomach as if shielding it from whatever or whoever did this to him. And although Rudy lay silent, asleep, dead like cold iron, a smile was on his face as if to say, “Poppa, I’m fine where I am now, next to Momma.” At least, that’s what Jim Granger liked to think.

    They buried him under the large Willow tree out back, Jim seeing it fit for his boy to be buried beneath the wood he so loved to carve. And there Rudy lain, orange hair fanned out with cowlicks still, clutching the unfinished elephant in his hands.

    After that, Jim’s hair turned silver-white, the swing set rusted and that metallic smell just never went away.

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