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CONTACT LESS by Adam Lock

Reaching with a blind hand, Rebecca pulls a loaf from the back row and reads its scarf. David buys the wrong sort; he buys bleached, ghost-bread, even though he knows she doesn’t like it. The price of bread is an economic barometer. There’s a trick to selling a house: bread in the oven. She sniffs the loaf. Bread is as old as farming, as old as the domesticated dog. She wants a dog. David doesn’t. In the UK, we throw six million loaves into our waterways each year. This disrupts the whole ecosystem and is bad news for amphibians, fish, and ducks. Bread is wrapped in plastic. She watched a TV programme about the Pacific Trash Vortex. There was a time the baker would take a loaf from the shelf and hand it over, dusting the counter in flour. No plastic. Her nan had a breadboard, breadknife, and a square yellow gingham towel to cover the bread. Only self-checkouts these days. Less contact. Next to the self-checkout machine are three loaves, white, the ones David buys, each with a sticker: ‘Still Fresh.’ She hovers the barcode over the glass. Beep. Contactless. She hovers the card above the machine. Plastic hovering above plastic, a sliver of space between, like reiki, hovering hands, ch’i. Contactless. She moves the card closer, narrowing the space, and she can’t remember the last time David kissed her, or a time he went down on her, or a time they did that thing with their hands, interlacing fingers so it looks like a zip on a coat. Beep. She swaps the loaf for one that is ‘Still Fresh,’ and walks out of the shop, the loaf, expiring with every second, held close to her chest.

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