The preventive

Mateus had a horror of being unwell. He loathed television and videogames and the numb dead ache that flooded his hindquarters when he sat too long in one place.

When the man in the baseball cap appeared beside him on the bus, Mateus shrank away. He did not enjoy sharing space. He smushed his shoulder into the dirty glass; watched the traffic, counted commuters’ purposeful strides.

The man coughed: one, twice, a phlegmy rattle. He looked like an immigrant. Mateus, feeling fate’s heavy hand on his shoulder, thought: TB, probably.

He held his breath for the rest of his journey.

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