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Missed Copyright Š 2013 by Paul Sherman All rights reserved. No part of this story (e-book) may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without written permission of the author, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or book reviews. This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidences are either a product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to any actual person, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. Edited by Terry Wright Cover Art by Terry Wright ISBN 978-1-936991-61-7


By Paul Sherman A zit! A bloody zit had appeared on his chin. Jim Trumble poked at it with his index finger. Pressed it. Put a finger on both sides of it and squeezed until his eyes watered from the pain. But nothing happened. The zit was not ready to burst, so he couldn’t relieve the angry red bump that shone out like an arrant beacon on his face. He could never go out in public looking like this. Jim stood naked in front of his full length mirror, as he did every morning, and scanned his perfect skin for any other imperfections. There were none, just this ugly mother of a carbuncle. Where had it come from? He’d kept his body, his Temple, healthy, ate the right food, and got enough exercise. For instance, he never missed his morning jog. It was a compulsion his body thirsted for. On wet days, he revelled in the splashing noises his feet made, whilst on sunny days, the dry earth felt firm and good under him. Best of all, early in the year, the grass was starched with frost and made a satisfying crunching noise, while his breath left a vapour trail in his wake. Most of all, he just fell in love with the sound of the blood pulsing healthily in his ears.


So there was never a blemish on his body. His diet and exercise saw to that. Not a mark, not a spot, nor any rough skin, nor any unbecoming blotches. No eczema. No acne. No psoriasis. Until now. Until zit o’clock had happened this very morning. Breakfast always consisted of muesli and grapefruit, washed down with a large quantity of black decaffeinated coffee. No dairy products for him. They contained fat and cholesterol, both of which Jim shunned with fanatical passion. Unhealthy foods were guaranteed to invite unwelcome visitors to his face. Jim ate more than his five fruit and veggies a day. He ate five times five every day. With all those vitamins and minerals pumping through his body, how could his perfect skin develop a zit? It was unacceptable...especially today of all days. Because today he was going to ask Elaine out on a date. Jim was the man in charge of the local branch of Wilkinson and Green – Footwear Specialists. And Elaine Jessup was his senior assistant, a dusky-eyed girl who was one of the reasons that Jim adored his job. They stared longingly at each other over shoes, boxes and invoices. Neither spoke their feelings, but Jim knew the attraction was real...and intense. He could see the unbridled passion smouldering in Elaine’s eyes, and his well-toned body responded to her nearness. In fact, the mere sight of her made his senses scream. Jim’s life was about to become perfect. He had mustered sufficient courage to ask the girl for a date. He was actually looking forward to asking her. He was just brimming with confidence. And he


knew in his heart, that she would accept. “Elaine,” he would say, “I have wanted to ask you something for such a long time.” “Yeth, Mr. Trumble?” she would reply. Her soft lisp was one of the things about her that he absolutely adored. It enhanced her sexiness. She had always called him Mr. Trumble. That would have to change. “You would make me a very happy man if you would agree to come out with me. On a date, I mean.” And if the shop was empty, he might even presume to put his hands on her waist and lean down and kiss her gently on those sexy lips. He was certain she would respond, kiss him back, tenderly at first, then with rising passion until... He just sensed it. But not now, not with this wretched, ugly zit that was a bright enough shade of red to stop traffic. He didn’t want Elaine to catch sight of the zit. Regardless of whether he asked her out or not, he did not want her to scrutinize his blemished face, his imperfect skin. He would be mortified. So he did something he had never done in five years of working at Wilkinson and Green’s. He called in sick. Elaine would be perfectly capable of handling the shop for a day...and the time off would give him the opportunity to work on the zit. To eliminate it. Or at least to reduce and conceal it. Zap the zit would be the order of the day.


After he made the phone call, he rushed to the chemist and returned to his house with TCP, Savlon, Dettol and a concealer. Half an hour’s work and he couldn’t see the damage the zit had done to his chin. Well, not quite. Yes, it was still slightly evident but not anything as bad as before. He could return to work tomorrow with his chin held high, literally, and chances were that overnight, the redness would disappear anyway. Jim felt cheerful. He would only have to defer his invitation for a date with Elaine for one more day. By the end of work tomorrow, he would have a firm date. And from a first date, who knew what might develop? In fact, Jim felt so sprightly, he thought he might take another jog that afternoon. Why not? Maybe the blood coursing round his veins would carry the poison in the zit safely away. Yes, jog and be damned! Jim’s jogging routine never varied. Outside his house he turned right. Where the footpath forked, he ran up the hill, clambered over the stile and descended towards the railway line. He pushed himself to the limits, always onwards and upwards with that extra bit of thrust he was capable of coaxing from his muscular legs. The sun was high in the sky when he came to the churchyard and its stoic rows of weather-beaten tombstones. He pushed his way through the gate, let it swing shut behind him, and carried on jogging down the neatly groomed path. As he was passing the church, he suddenly felt an intense


stinging sensation on the instep of his left foot. He stopped, removed his left sneaker, pulled his sock down and looked; there was no sign that anything was wrong at all and yet there was that intense stinging sensation that made his eyeballs hurt. Felt almost like a nettle sting, but worse. Stinging nettles? Unusual in this churchyard. He glanced around. The verger kept the place beautifully weeded. Another examination of his foot showed it to be completely unmarked. But it still stung like billy-oh! He hopped up and down on one foot, clutching and rubbing the affected foot. His ridiculous antics took him to the path’s edge. There, a motion caught his attention. By the side of the path, a plant he didn’t recognise swayed in the breezeless air. It was an odd looking plant, a nettle perhaps, but he was no botanist. The small, curly and tightly-clustered leaves had a purple shade to them, and the flowers were elongated and sharply pointed. There was something else. Those peculiar-shaped flowers weren’t swaying in the breeze, no; they were leaning towards him as if they...sensed they were watching him. When he moved, they moved. He was about to dismiss the movement as a tropism, but flowers didn’t respond to humans. Plants grew towards certain stimuli like light and water. This was a tropism. The plant was leaning towards the sunlight. Phototropism.


Except the flowers couldn’t have been leaning towards the sunlight because the sun was almost directly overhead. Thus it had to be a tropism, an anthropo-tropism...the attraction of plants to man. However, he was sure that no such tropism would appear in any biology book, botany reference, or the Guinness Book of World Records, but it was strange all the same, how that little plant was leaning towards him, straining towards him, almost reaching for him. Had it already touched him? Had it stung his foot, somehow penetrating sneaker and sock? There was still no sign of anything on his instep. He redressed his foot and ran on. Within yards, the stinging sensation had gone, and he didn’t give it another thought. He erased the incident from his mind completely. He had more important things to think asking Elaine out for that date. The obsession was absorbing him more and more every second. And so, in the storeroom the next day, during a less busy period in the shoe shop, Jim faced Elaine, brimming with confidence and with a clear face, all fears of the horrible zit gone. From her dreamyeyed expression, it seemed she knew what he was going to ask her, and further, that she was going to say yes. Excitement was welling up inside him like a dormant geyser about to erupt. “Elaine...” he began. As soon as he spoke, he felt the sting on his foot again...that maddening and infuriating pain on his left instep was back.


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About the Author

Paul Sherman has been a teacher pretty well all of his life, specialising in Chemistry and Youth Theatre, an unlikely combination, but one which has worked brilliantly. He has directed a number of successful straight plays and musicals, including ‘The Crucible’, ‘West Side Story’, ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ and ‘The Entertainer’. His writing credits include short stories and poetry for a number of UK publications as well as TWB Press. He also writes drama having had a pantomime produced at the Rutherglen Repertory Theatre near Glasgow and a play at the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh. He is a bit mystified by the success in Scotland since he comes from the other end of the country.

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