Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Hands That Heal

Dear readers,
I'm still working on my new story so I'm going to publish an older one in three parts. Friday and Saturday will be my Detroit series of pictures, and Sunday will be a regular blog. Hope you're having an excellent Fat Tuesday, friends!

Man In A Jar

Man In A Jar
It wasn’t until her second free massage that Mac showed Beth his erect penis and said, Look what you do to me. The smell of lavender and eucalyptus candles filled the air. She closed her eyes and said, My word, as if she were an eighty-year old granny instead of a single woman verging on thirty. Enya implored someone to sail away with her, the music loud, in a vain attempt to muffle the sound of the hairdryers directly outside Mac’s private room in the Bella Day Beauty Salon.

Before his display, Mac and she had spent most of the massage talking about prayer, how it gave the angels more power to guard a person from evil, how it gave a person the strength to accept the unacceptable. She told him that her mother had died over a year ago, her precious mother, her best friend, her life, and that she couldn’t imagine then that she’d be breathing now, much less enjoying herself. That’s the power of the Lord, a God thing, she told him. Mac offered his own testimony. He said that Jesus had cured him of his desire for the bottle, no AA necessary. She said, yes, Jesus can do that if you ask and he’d told her that she was his favorite client and she should consider his room in the back of Bella Day her room, Miss Beth’s sanctuary, said as well that he would be glad to give her a free massage whenever, not just when she’d referred someone. She’d already brought her best friend Annie to Mac, who had claimed she’d never experienced anything so relaxing.

Beth smiled, and he bumped into her hip and said, That’s not my elbow in case you’re wondering. She was not wondering, did not like to consider such nastiness. Then came his little show. The massage went from something to be relished to something she had to endure. Funny how often that happened in life, with so little warning. She thought of her older sister in the receptionist area, grading papers, having come out of her massage looking as she did when drunk. She’d have to tell her sister everything.

Her first massage from Mac had felt like what she imagined heaven might be, all dim lights and twinkly music, everything warm, the sensations all drippy. Sue, a waitress who went to Mac once a month, had told her that a massage from him was better than sex, not that Beth would know. She had never gone down that road even though she’d had several boyfriends, including her ex-fiance Johnny Bethune, a mailman who stole people’s magazines and begged to lick her pot of gold. He respected her beliefs, he said. Still, it wasn’t enough to go through with the wedding that she had not once imagined. Sue gave Beth a coupon with Mac’s name on it, above a picture of two hands surrounded by angel wings. Underneath the graphic in ornate cursive script, he’d typed: Hands that Heal.

Beth made the first appointment on Christmas Eve for her and her sister, a distraction from holiday misery. Right from the beginning, she had never entirely trusted Mac, someone so close to her skin, touching her more intimately than anyone ever had, even though his mannerisms led her to believe he was gay. With her mother dead, she thought it would be good to look for a husband, but she didn’t like thinking about sex. Her mother’s advice for the wedding night had been simple -- take a sleeping pill. That way you won’t realize what you’re doing and you can fall asleep without any trouble after it’s over. Her sister had a cheerier view of the whole process, but told her that it was good to remember that things weren’t always what they seemed. Her ex only had one testicle -- earning him the name One-Ball, post divorce. Life, it seemed, was full of surprises, most of them not particularly wonderful.

After the first massage, Beth had quizzed her sister on what had happened while they sat in the car, swigging water from oversized bottles of Aquafina, courtesy of Mac to help with the toxins he’d just released into their systems with the massages.

“Did he touch your butt?” Beth asked.

“Yes. And?”

“Don’t you think that’s weird?”

“I would think it was weird if he stuck something up it.” Her sister laughed, and Beth laughed too. Even in December, her sister refused to dress anything near sensible. Beth would freeze if she dressed like that. She liked that her sister didn’t think too much of what other people thought was appropriate. Her mother had been a worrier long when everyone else had stopped caring.

“Bind up the demons,” Beth said. “Plead the blood of Jesus.”

They drove home, Dolly Parton’s “Hard Candy Christmas” playing on the radio, one of the few Christmas songs that didn’t annoy Beth with its relentless cheer. That night, Beth, her sister, and her father opened presents. Her sister lived halfway across the country and had brought two suitcases full of gifts, trying to make everyone feel better. This year didn’t feel that much different from the last, the first Christmas without Mother. She wondered if it would ever change. Grief narrowed everything to each wretched moment, no future hope, all energy used to get to the next day, to remember to take a bath, to work, to eat, even though she didn’t know why she bothered. It didn’t seem fair. Lots of people had mothers they didn’t appreciate at all. Beth had spent the ten years since high school doing nothing but working as an aide for a Mental Health/ Mental Retardation group home and taking care of her mother. She’d told her mother every day that she loved her, to which her mother had replied, get real. It was all Beth could do not to cry at the thought that there would never be another day like those.

Michelle's Spell of the Day

"So I'm not worried about the emotions I carry with me, because I'm happy that I have them; I think it's good for the work I do. The emotions that are not healthy are the ones you hold inside, like anger. " Diana Ross

Cocktail Hour
Drinking music suggestion: Africa Unite Bob Marley

Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy Fat Tuesday!


Brian in Mpls said...

I see some one else has their copy of the playboy bartenders

Great Story...

Cheri said...

"That's not my elbow."


I've had massages lots of times and have always had women. They are just as horrible as men. One chick rubbed my feet so much it was like she was making love to them lol. Another "accidentally" kept swiping the sides of my boobs with her palms. Some accident, five times in a row. But I didn't care hahaha. She just got a shitty tip.

the walking man said...

Just load it up and fire a good story can't hurt about now.



Charles Gramlich said...

Dynamite opening. And wonderfully realized characters, as always.

Sheila said...

Great story Michelle. good luck with the new one you're working on. I will see you in class tomorrow and I look forward to our lunch together next Thursday. Take care.