Thursday, February 07, 2008
Expensive Handmade Candles
Here's the last part of the story! Thanks for reading!
Her sister greeted them in the reception room, the usual low-key salon business around them. She looked up from her stack of papers and smiled, “I bet you feel good.” Beth couldn’t do anything but nod. She wanted to stick both pinwheels straight up Mac’s ass. He’d let her down, like so many people had after her mother’s death, pretending to care and saying things would get better when she knew they never would. She felt alone, like an orphan, a stupid little fool in her pink hat. She wanted to spit at all the smug, intact families who kept asking her how she was holding up or why she and her dad didn’t drag themselves to the adult Sunday School classes; Kingdom Seekers for her dad, some corny adult singles group class for her.
Even though they attended a liberal Methodist church, people were not particularly sympathetic. Her sister took the dark view -- judgmental pricks, all of them. They weren’t all like that, though. She was a steward and knew her small group of parishioners on her call list personally, had prayed on the phone with some of them for their heartaches. Once Joseph, the dead son of one of her group’s members, had come to her in a dream and told her to please not to forget his mother for Valentine’s this year. Not one to ignore the requests of the dead, she brought his mother a red and white teddy bear that she’d had for a little while. It had creepy eyes that seemed to look at you no matter where you went in a room. She put a bow on its head and bought a card from the Dollar Store. She wondered if she should have given her something nicer, but the son hadn’t specified what to give his mother and she didn’t have money to burn. When the mother heard the story, she cried and wouldn’t stop hugging her. Which led Beth to wonder why her mother hadn’t sent her a message yet. Was there nobody receptive enough?
When her sister made to pay, Beth glared at Mac to let him know that she knew what he was, despite the cute salon with its artsy jewelry, and expensive handmade candles. She couldn’t wait to get into the car and tell her story, the exposure of another crackpot. Her sister handed her a small brown candle.
“It’s called Man in a Jar,” her sister said. “Smell.”
The candle smelled like cologne, like a man who’d cleaned himself up for a date. Her sister set it on the counter and asked if Beth wanted one. She looked at the candle and back at Mac. She shook her head. Even though she liked the scent, it wasn’t anything nice enough to display.
The next time Beth saw Mac, he handed her a white carnation with wilted petals and said, This one’s been avoiding me. Since she’d only told her sister and Annie about Mac, her father insisted that he was looking forward to his massage and didn’t understand why Beth didn’t want to take him anymore. Her sister had returned home and urged her over many phone calls to stay the hell away from Mac and tell their father, but Beth didn’t want to hurt him. She watched her father cry every time he looked at all the stuffed animals they had bought that now sat on the television, and she thought back to the time when her cousin Ned had tried to touch her during a sleepover, and she’d told her mother. It had been decided that nothing would be said, but there would be no more sleepovers. The night before her father’s massage, she’d dreamed Mac was naked save for a tool belt with two syringes in it. In the dream he kept rubbing her and telling her that there would be no shot, but she grew terrified. When she woke up, she prayed that Jesus would surround her with a protective hedge or that Annie would be able to get off work to go with her and drop her father off so she wouldn’t have to see Mac without someone as a buffer.
Unlike the Mac in the dream, the real Mac seemed pathetic, holding out an almost dead carnation from God knew where. While her father prepared for his massage in the dressing room and Marcy was waiting in line to buy a necklace, he asked her to come see his new room, told her that he’d upgraded and put a new soothing fragrance oil to calm his clients.
“I prefer nothing. That stink gets to me,” Beth said. Beth followed Mac to his new room. She looked at Annie, signaling with her eyes that she didn’t want to be left alone for too long.
“Did I do something?” Mac asked. “I know you’ve been avoiding me.”
For the first time in a long time, Beth felt powerful. She could smell the new smell, but the familiar scent of the lotion overpowered it. The sounds of people talking filtered into the room, a comforting sound like a fountain. Mac held out the flower in a trembling hand. Her mother would have told her to take it, to be nice. But Beth didn’t feel like being nice, didn’t want some stinky dying flower that would sit in her car and roll around until she remembered to throw it out.
“Did I?” he asked again.
When Beth’s mother died, none of the doctors or nurses could look at her. She’d kept asking them if her mother would wake up from the coma, kept watching the fluctuations on the monitor as if they meant something. Beth had heard the night nurse tell her sister that Mother had one day, maybe two, and that she needed to prepare her sister and dad. Beth had made flyers at work with her mother’s face on them, asking people to pray for her, and they sat in the corner because she didn’t have the heart to finish handing them out. When Beth questioned her sister, she told her that things didn’t look good, but she didn’t say dead. But Beth knew. So many painful things started with words, words like things don’t look good.
Annie walked in the room, bag hanging from her hand and asked if Beth was ready to go. Mac looked pissed off that he hadn’t gotten an answer, but too bad. He wouldn’t be getting an answer when she returned for her father. Silence had its place. The old minister at the church had demanded that the church stay quiet before the service so that people could feel the presence of God when they stepped in, so they could release the burdens of their hearts. The latest minister encouraged socializing before church, idle chitchat that didn’t mean a damn thing. She thought about how she didn’t never had to justify herself to her mother, that they instinctively believed the same things. That was a kind of love that couldn’t be explained or replicated. Mac, for all his faults, had understood something of her pain, and she would try to remember the goodness and some of the pleasure he had provided before things went to hell. She prayed that he would be kind to her father, prayed that Annie would remember what he said about drinking more water and not so much Diet Coke. She would try to hold onto what her sister said about risk, that true risk meant the possibility of mercy, that rare commodity that came in strange and wondrous forms. She knew that she had entertained angels unaware, but what she now realized was how an angel and demon could inhabit the same body, speak in the same voice. The best times during the massages with Mac had taken place when neither of them were speaking, silence like the most perfect prayer to someone who knew exactly what you needed, a silence so still she could hear what was going on outside the door without wanting any part of it.
Michelle's Spell of the Day
"I used to live in a room full of mirrors; all I could see was me. I take my spirit and I crash my mirrors, now the whole world is here for me to see." Jimi Hendrix
Drinking music suggestion: Are You Experienced Jimi Hendrix
Benedictions and Maledictions