Short Something

(left ambiguous on purpose)



     He shoved his hand into his pocket, rummaging around. He gave a grimace and sniffled wetly as his nose ran and tickled. No handkerchief, no tissues, not even a napkin to help him out. His breathing grew uncontrollable, and he cupped one hand over his nose and mouth as his body shook forward. "ehh-IHkshhh!" He paused, waiting, eyes shut. A second would be coming. "IHksttuhhh!" With a sigh, he debated what to do, from pushing his way out and down to the nearest lavatory, to wiping his hand on his trousers and turning his head away from anyone watching. None of the ideas that popped into his mind were very useful, so finally he settled on muttering, "Adybody have a Kleedex?" behind his still cupped hand.


     Across the compartment, a handkerchief was pulled out of a back pocket and tossed to him. Its owner gave him a sympathetic look. When he didn't immediately pick it up, the boy egged him on. "Go on, take it, mate. Looks like you could bloody well use it." The boy ran a hand through his hair casually but did not watch the use.


     He picked it up cautiously, turned partway around so his head was towards the back of his seat, and honked his nose gently but thoroughly. There was no denying that feeling in his nose now; he was coming down with something, all right. Weak and sniffley all morning, but the sneezes hadn't started until a little bit ago. He sniffled and turned back around, feeling much better in the nose, though a bit worse for the realization.


     The girl sitting across from him was looking aghast. "Don't say thank you, will you!" she spat, crossing her arms in front of her chest, and nodding her head towards the boy who had lent the hanky.


     He sniffled and bowed his head a bit, looking up at the boy through long, thick strands of brown hair. "Yah, well, thanks then." With a deep breath to build his energy, he leaned forward to return it.


     But the boy shook his head and pushed it back, flat palm against his fist which clutched the handkerchief. "It's for keeps." Then, with a laugh at the absurdity, "Course I don't want it back."


     He folded it carefully so most was hidden in his hand. "Of course," he said under his breath. Then he quickly raised it to his face, nostrils flaring, eyebrows raising, eyes closing. "hehhh-IHKulchuhhh!" Miserably, he rubbed his nose dry and lowered the handkerchief to his lap, where his eyes met it. He could feel everyone staring at him, wondering what was wrong with him, wondering if he was coming down with something, wondering if he felt as bad as he sounded. Well, he wasn't going to tell them, even if they asked. As far as they needed to know, he just had a few tickles in his nose, that was all. Nothing to worry... about... "ehh...EHKushhhh!" He blew his nose again and closed his eyes tightly. He hated being sick, hated everything about it from the aches and pains to the helpless loss of control and everyone watching him suffer through every second of it. But the least he could have done was remembered to bring his own handkerchief along.