Thursday, February 07, 2008

The Stuff Of Violent Transformation

Here's the second part of "Man In A Jar."

The second time she’d gone for a massage, she’d brought Annie, her sweet best friend from high school who weighed so much some scales didn’t go that high. They usually went out on Saturday nights to a chain restaurant like Outback or Red Lobster and filled up. Beth never weighed over a hundred and fifteen pounds, but she could eat as much as Annie. Then they’d cruise over to the Cold Stone Creamery and Annie would order a sundae, much to the laughter of the omnipresent teenagers. Beth wanted to tell them to shut up, that they were assholes, but the Lord would shut them up when He was good and ready. She could see Annie through their eyes, a woman with a pretty face and I-sized breasts, who had a habit of wearing spandex and t-shirt that said Hot Chick in day-glo pink.

When Annie got on Mac’s table, her sides hung over the edges. While giving Beth her free massage, Mac had suggested that she stay in the room during Annie’s turn and that she could help him since there was so much ground to cover, and Annie was afraid. Beth crawled under the table and made funny expressions at Annie through the face hole. Mac always had his clients start on their stomachs so he could use a machine to loosen up their backs, something that would make the rest of the massage easier. Beth massaged Annie’s hands as Mac worked on her legs, and Beth held up a middle finger and said, This one seems especially tense. Is your horn not working? to which she and Annie laughed. Mac kneaded Annie’s legs and answered her questions about the pains in her calves and thighs, about the popped blood vessels in her eyes, about her almost constant headache. He didn’t laugh at her the way the teenagers in the ice cream shop had or roll his eyes like the waiter at Red Lobster did when Annie had pointed out that they had not received the complimentary cheesy biscuits. Beth thought, here’s a good man. She tried not to think about the fact that he looked like a leprechaun and that he had hugged her as she exited the salon a beat too long and said, We’re so lucky -- we fit together.

Beth felt like she didn’t fit with anyone, though. She only now saw how unusual her relationship with her mother had been. She did everything she could for her mother, saw her through the last few hard years, the years her mother didn’t laugh or smile, the years of the colostomy bag and the endless supply of pain pills, of staying in bed for hours listening to Enya because she claimed it put her in another world. Beth would put sheets in the dryer to heat them and place them on her mother when she got cold, she would make her tea and get her water, she would pray for the Lord to take away her pain. All her mother’s former vibrancy had evaporated into her small bedroom equipped with a hospital bed lined with small stuffed animals that she and her father had bought. Her mother watched violent televisions shows to pass the time surrounded by the little toys, stories about the most horrible things that could happen to someone, the saddest, the strangest, the stuff of violent transformation, something Beth understood better now than she ever did when she was watching it happen.

And now she found herself in a room trapped with Mac, having wanted to take her sister before she went home after her spring break. And she had set up a appointment for her father next week in order to get this massage free. What would she tell him? She and her mother had always protected him from hard truths, had chosen to deal with bad things in their own way. Mac said, I see everything, as he lifted the sheet for her to roll over. She tried not to cry and wondered why he’d chosen her, what about her signaled to him that he could do this to her. Her sister had told her not to wear so many shirts underneath everything, that she would have to show the goods a little more to find a man. She didn’t believe in putting herself on display, but she did love leather and scoured thrift shops for perfect leather pants. The secret was to pray before you went inside and the Lord would lead you to the pants. If the Lord had a man for her, that man would not have to see the goods first.

At the end of the session, Mac kissed Beth on the back and said, Thank you. As soon as she heard the door close behind her, she grabbed her clothes, putting on everything as quickly as she could. She could feel her face flushing, her temper rise. Mac stopped her before she could get to her sister and gave her two pinwheels, one green, one red. He told her they were for her and her sister, both lovely child-like spirits that reminded him of more innocent times. She had heard that people put pinwheels in the ground to keep pests away from gardens, that certain animals didn’t like the vibration all that spinning produced.

Michelle's Spell of the Day
"I'm always making a comeback but nobody ever tells me where I've been." Billie Holiday

Cocktail Hour
Drinking music suggestion: Rumours Fleetwood Mac

Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy Ash Wednesday!


the walking man said...

Love the story a lot...but I think the transition from Annie's massage to the end of Beth's massage is a bit choppy.

All that is in between is relevant yet you only use the word "now" "And now she found herself in a room..." as the transition, what about the massage with her father which is mentioned as "Next" or is that the "Next" after the massage where she gets the pinwheels.

Just my opinion and not of much value but I did have to re-read it until I figured out what time I was ending in.

Please don't go back and change any of my grades.



Charles Gramlich said...

Very well written. I had trouble reading about her caring for her mother, but only because my own mother is quite elderly and I worry about this so much for her.

bringhimglory said...

Beautiful Michelle, it's been so long since I've visited your blog. I caught up on the last few weeks worth of your writing over my lunch hour. You're so brilliant. Hope you're doing well, my dear!!

Lana Gramlich said...

That picture is creepy--did the couch fall over on your legs or something? Maybe it's just the angle, but it looks painful!

tui said...

Beautiful writing as always.. You've created some fasinating characters here.
Makes me want more!


Michelle's Spell said...

Hi everyone -- hey Mark, your grades are safe so far, Mister! Seriously, thanks for the help -- transitions are always tough. Hi Tui, Jill, Lana, Charles -- and don't worry, it's just a curtain, no pain involved!