Hygiene Conscious

The moment Keoki touched it, he wished he hadn’t grabbed the overhead handrail. Someone had left behind a trace of sticky and, he sniffed at his hand, some rancid smell.

Not wanting to rub his hand on his shirt or pants, he eyed the coat of a seated woman. She’d laid it over the armrest of her seat, well within striking distance.

He waited for the next stop. As the bus came to an abrupt halt, with some theatrical flourish, he lurched forward, grabbing at the armrest. As he touched the coat, he wiped his hand on it hurriedly. The woman turned and looked up at him. A queer look it was, as if she thought he might be trying to steal her coat.

He smiled at her, and as the bus started up again, he again sniffed at his hand. The smell was still there, if possible stronger than it was before, and when he rubbed his fingers together they were still sticky.

It’s at times like this that you wish losing a hand was as easy as losing a tail is for a lizard. He tried to hold his hand as far away from his body as he could without looking foolish.

His stop was next. Standing at the door, he could hardly wait to get out and find the closest place to wash his hand. Stepping off, he spotted a Longs Drugs. Many still had restrooms; he couldn’t remember if this one did. He cursed himself for now buying online everything he used to buy at Longs.

Entering the store, he searched the signs on the wall at the far end of the aisles to see where the restroom might be located. Spotting it, he walked as quickly as he could. Still holding his hand as far away from his body as possible without looking odd, he arrived at the restroom door.

The sign said: Restroom Closed, Out of Order.

Cursing, he turned and searched the overhead signs for housewares. Locating them, he walked swiftly down the aisle and found a collection of terry cloth hand towels. Before wiping his hand with them, he looked about to make sure no one was watching him.

The area was deserted at the moment, and the overhead cameras, if they were working ones, wouldn’t be able to pick up anything other than a customer feeling the quality of the nap.

Rubbing fiercely, he then nonchalantly held his hand not too near his nose and sniffed, rubbing his fingers together at the same time. Again it was as if the odor and the stickiness had grown more noticeable. He felt as though he’d jammed his hand into a bucket of some kind of nuclear sludge.

Exiting Longs, he headed for his office four blocks away. Surely he could find something there to end this problem. He began to run, holding his arm way out to the side as if he were trying to fly with one wing.

Pushing violently through the office door, he gave a quick nod to the secretary and rushed back to the restroom. After pumping the soap dispenser until a puddle of liquid sat in his palm, he began to scrub up like a surgeon preparing for surgery.

This went on for more than a minute, and he wouldn’t have stopped except for someone turning the handle and pushing on the door. He’d forgotten to lock it, so he kicked his foot backward to brace against the door.

“Someone’s in here!” he shouted.

“Sorry,” said someone outside.

He rinsed his hands for a good long time. Turning off the water, he tore a towel from the dispenser and rubbed at his hand frantically, feeling the burn.

Finally, he sniffed and touched his fingers together. Just as he’d feared, the smell and the stickiness were at least as bad as before. It was as if they were growing, spreading out as small colonies that would work their way to his wrist and up his arm.

Throwing open the door, he tripped his way out and saw his coworker, Bill, waiting to get in.

Bill gave him an odd look. “Keoki, you okay?”

“What? Sure. Why?”

“Dude, you look like someone just kicked you in the nuts.”

He shook his head and headed quickly for the breakroom.

Without thinking about it at all, he tore open the drawer where they kept the utensils.

When Gladys, another coworker found him, she screamed. All she’d wanted was a cup of coffee and maybe a donut, forget her no-carb diet. There lay Keoki, blood oozing in a growing pool around his body, a carving knife in one hand and his other hand looking so very strange resting there on the counter, so far from its arm.

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