by Benjamin Soileau
I knew as soon as that pretty little bartender asked me to lift a keg up onto a shelf that was chest high I should’ve said no. But it needed doing, so. As soon as I lifted it my marbles ascended like Jesus into the cavities of my nether regions. We’d always been warned about doing such things. I knew I had messed myself up, but I finished out my day anyway. By the time I got home it was getting pretty difficult to walk. When Lynn got home from work she made me sit on the edge of the tub with my pants off and my feet in hot water. She got in there and massaged my barren and shriveled pouch with some baby oil. She rubbed little circles on my belly and tried to talk them down. “Come on little ones,” she said. “Come back down now.” But they didn’t.
I woke up the next morning and they still hadn’t come out of hiding. I had to call in sick. I didn’t even toy with the idea of worker’s comp. I’d have to piss in a cup, and I’d just smoked a big one with my brother the week before while we were fishing. I swung my feet over the bed and tested the situation. I knew walking across the room that I wasn’t right. It felt like my doo dads were on some sort of elaborate pulley system, but they got hung up on something way up inside of me, and it was stretching the rope taut. I went right back to bed and called Lynn at work. “Just stay in bed, Boo,” she said. “We’ll do some more work when I get home.”
It didn’t hurt if I didn’t move so I just lay there and tried to read one of Lynn’s detective stories. It was about some private eye named Slade, who was on the search for this one-eyed tomcat with only three legs. Old Slade kept taking a little bottle of scotch from his over coat and nipping on it. He’d fallen in love with the lady who hired him to find the cat, and it turned out that the cat had eaten a very precious diamond that was worth millions of dollars, and the Russians were also after the cat. I fell asleep and never finished.
I was glad when Lynn got home because I hadn’t gotten out of bed all day, not even to drain the lizard. She tried to help me get up, but I couldn’t stand it, and she had to bring an empty Gatorade bottle over to me. I was scared. I felt certain that my baby making days were over, and I hadn’t even made one yet. Lynn’s good though. She fed me some leftover chicken. She’s got a hippy streak and she said that she wanted to try some things on me. She wears a lot of turquoise and believes that shamanistic aliens regularly visit places in the desert like Sedona and Las Cruces. I like listening to her talk about such things at night in bed. It’s better than the movies.
The first thing she tried on me was to burn a stick of white sage and then blow the smoke all over my belly. Then she put a little chocolate chip in my belly button and laid a warm wet rag over it for thirty minutes. After that she just looked at my sad little pouch and scratched her head. “Let’s give it the night,” she said. She gave me some pills to let me sleep and I didn’t wake up until the next morning. I called in sick again. I could tell my boss was pissed. Before I called him I balled up a Kleenex and stuffed it up my nose to make me sound the part. I hung up and went back to sleep.
When I awoke Lynn was still in her pajamas. “I called off today,” she said. “We gotta get you better.”
She pulled up the covers and took a peek. Still nothing. She suggested that maybe if we bumped one out then that would do the trick, but I shot that down real quick. I felt all backwards down there. I didn’t want to mess it up any worse.
“We might just have to get you to the doctor,” she said, finally.
I reminded her that we didn’t have shit for insurance. That’s another wonderful thing about the beer company I work for. I also mentioned to Lynn that they probably set a high price on doctoring testicles.
After a little bit she said that she knew somebody down in Ponchatoula who might could help me.
“Why can’t he come over here?”
“She don’t have no legs.”
“Well, is this sort of thing her specialty, then?”
“She does all sorts of stuff,” she said. “She practices holistic healing.”
I wasn’t sure about Lynn’s friends and so I just waved it off and said I’d wait it out. After a while it got to where I had to go number two, and so Lynn helped me get out of bed and slowly walk to the bathroom. Lord, have mercy, it was bad. I couldn’t walk and I turned around to get back in bed. I’d rather crap myself, I thought. I didn’t even feel like a man, what with Lynn helping me to lie down still in the bed, and my sad little empty nest down there, looking like somebody just glued a piece of chewed up gum between my legs.
“I feel like a eunuch.”
“Well, let me call Gayle and make an appointment for you.”
“I don’t want to go to no witch doctor,” I said. I told her I had a feeling that they’d drop soon.
“You’re hardheaded,” she said.
I pulled the covers back up to my neck and looked at her.
She shook her head at me and smiled. “What you scared of?”
“I ain’t scared. I just don’t want to go through no unnecessary trouble is all.”
“You just don’t have the balls,” she said, and started laughing.
I watched her smile at me and do a little dance in her frog pajamas.
That was pretty funny, I thought, but I hated to laugh. I turned over and asked her for some more sleeping pills.
The next morning when I called my boss he hated it.
“You better have leukemia,” he said. “We’re up to our necks in orders.”
I told him I had the flu and assured him that I’d get better with a quickness.
Lynn hopped out of bed and wanted me to try and get up. I put one leg over the bed and knew I needed help. I cussed like never before. Pure filth.
“That’s it,” said Lynn. “I’m calling Gayle.”
I lay there in pure pain while she hustled around the bedroom getting her clothes on. Getting out to the car wasn’t easy. I wished for a little red wagon so that I could sit in it and she could pull me, but we don’t have a wagon because we don’t have kids. I was scared as shit now that we’d never have a little red wagon.
“How you feeling?” she asked while helping me into the car.
“I feel like I could give birth to a litter of chipmunks at any moment,” I said.
I knew right away when we pulled up into the driveway that these were acquaintances of Lynn’s. The house was a tiny blue thing, lopsided as hell with a few chickens strutting around in the front yard. It was in a pretty shoddy neighborhood. The house across the street had a bunch of tires on the roof. Lynn came around to my side and I leaned on her as we hobbled over to the house. I’d never seen so many wind chimes in all my life. There must have been a dozen of them hanging from the front porch. This tall skinny kid with dread locks was sitting on the front porch with a tape recorder.
“Hey, Lynn,” he said when we got to the steps.
Lynn asked him to get on my other side and help us get up.
“Whatcha doing, Starro,” said Lynn after knocking on the door.
“Oh, I’m recording the wind,” he said. “I’m capturing the music of the wind.”
The wind wasn’t even blowing and the chimes all hung there still as ice cycles.
“That’s great,” said Lynn and knocked again.
“That you, Lynnete?” The voice from inside called out. It boomed, like a love- sick bluesman. “Come on in, but take off yall’s shoes at the do.”
Lynn got my slippers off and we shuffled inside. It smelled like bug spray something awful up in there. The walls were all mustard yellow, and the wallpaper was peeling off in places. Even the damn doormat that we were standing on was yellow. We stood there until Gayle came scooting into the room on her wheelchair. She was 300 pounds if she was fifty. She had great billowing fat rolls that moved away from her chin like black waves. Her yellow mu mu came down to her knees, which is where her legs stopped. There was a cluster of moles on her left knee nub that looked like a bunch of raisins with hairs poking out of them.
“This him?” she said, nodding toward me. “Lynnete say you done got the torsion.”
“Not exactly,” I said.
“Where it hurt?” she said, holding her hand toward me and making a couple of circles in the air.
“Deep down in my bowels or my reproductive plumbing somewhere. It’s hard to say exactly.” I was tired of standing and I asked her could I sit down.
“Get them clothes off,” she said before doing a half turn and rolling herself out of the hallway where we stood. “C’mon,” she boomed from the next room.
I looked at Lynn and I know she knew what I was thinking because she gave me a scowl and started helping me into the next room. Gayle sat on her wheelchair in the middle of her tiny living room. The walls were covered with velvet paintings of sunflowers. There was one of a banana and one of Whoopie Goldberg. Even the damn couch was yellow. I couldn’t understand how somebody could tolerate so much yellow. It made my eyes hurt, and I already had a headache from the smell of bug spray.
Gayle reached over to her coffee table and lit a cone of incense, setting it back in the yellow ashtray.
“Can I sit now?” I said.
Old Gayle just sat there looking at me and nodding her head like she was listening to a sermon. After a minute, she made a great big circle in the air with her crooked finger and wheeled herself out of the living room with the speed of a tugboat.
“C’mon,” I said to Lynn, and she helped me sit in the rocking chair. We could hear her opening drawers in the kitchen. I couldn’t see what she was doing from where I sat, but I could see the refrigerator. It was yellow too and sounded like an old car climbing a big mountain, switching gears. Finally old Gayle came rolling back into the room with a big antique hourglass.
“What you still doin wit dem clothes on?” she said, drawing a big circle in the air.
Lynn started tugging at my sweat pants. Before I knew it I was standing there in my underwear, but that didn’t satisfy Gayle.
“I say get dem drawers off.”
Lynn finished the job and I stood there in my nakedness, trembling with shame. I looked up at the white popcorn ceiling and tried to find a face and when I did, it was laughing at me. Gayle leaned forward and fished a pair of spectacles out of her moo moo and adjusted them. “Mmm hmm,” she said, studying the lack of me.
After a second she pointed to a door at the far end of the room and said, “You go sit in there for ten minutes. No less.”
Lynn started helping me step back into my Fruit of the Looms, but Gayle slapped at her armrest.
“No,” she barked. “Keep dem pants off.”
I leaned on Lynn and she gave me a look that made me know I would tolerate this for a bit longer. I knew she was there and that was something. We hobbled on over to the room and Lynn opened the door for me and I went on in.
“Sit back on dat chair fo ten minute,” she yelled over to us.
“You stay close,” I said to Lynn before she smiled at me and shut the door.
I can’t even tell you how goddamned hot it was in there. I could hardly breathe.
“You alright, baby,” Lynn was asking through the door.
“It’s too hot,” I called out, but I didn’t hear anything but some heavy mumbles through that door. I thought that old witch was trying to cook me or something. After only a minute I could feel big beads of sweat breaking out all over me, sliding down across my skin like rain on a windshield. I thought to myself that it was hotter than two rats fucking in a wool sock. My Daddy used to say that in the summer. Hell, it never got this hot. I thought that if he could see me sitting here naked as a jaybird in this house that he would laugh his ass off. I leaned forward and pushed the door open. I stood up and wobbled out of that death trap and Lynn came over and helped prop me up.
“Shut dat do!” old Gayle was hollering.
Lynn reached out and shut the door and put her hand on my forehead. “You got a fever,” she said.
“It ain’t no fever. That room’s hotter than hell.”
“You need heat works,” Gayle said.
“I ain’t getting back in there.”
Gayle dismissed me with her hand and shook her head at me. “No No,” she said when Lynn picked up my underwear and started helping me put them back on. “Leave dem off and go stand next to that mirror over der.”
She backed herself back out of the room and when she did I heard her mumble, “Crazy damn white boy.”
Lynn started helping me walk over to the mirror I told her to just take me to the doctor.
“Let’s just give it one more try,” she said. “I’ve seen Miss Gayle do some mighty things.”
“I’ll bet you have.”
The old lady rolled her way back into the room and came over to where I stood by the mirror with my back to it. She stopped her wheelchair right in front of my junk and then leaned forward a little and held up this big black crow feather. “Put yo hands down at yo sides,” she said.
I did what she told me and felt like the stupidest person in the world. She started waving the feather around in front of my pecker and talking some kind of nonsense about water and air and moonlight and spider webs. Every once in a while the feather would touch me and it tickled a bit.
“Now, turn round,” she said, and started feather dusting my ass. I looked in the mirror and frowned at myself. Lynn was leaning on my shoulder and looking in the mirror too. She was trying to find my eyes in the reflection and I could see her burying her head in her arm and laughing. I could feel her shaking on me.
“Turn round again.”
Then the old lady dipped her fat finger in some kind of jar and rubbed what looked like ashes all over my naked belly. When she touched my pecker with that feather again I swatted at it and backed up into the mirror, knocking it to the wooden floor. “That’s enough of that,” I said.
I could hear Lynn apologizing to the woman, still shaking on my shoulder a little. I somehow found the strength to bend down and pull my clothes back on. After that I went and let myself out the door and stood on the front porch and waited for Lynn. Old Starro was holding the tape recorder up to the chimes and blowing on them softly. I looked across the yard at the chickens peck the earth.
Lynn couldn’t stop laughing until we got at least a mile down the road. I was too, a little, but I looked out the window and tried to be serious, for fear of pain.
“Let’s just get to the doctor,” she said.
“Wait till tomorrow,” I said. “Then I surrender.”
I’m not a religious man, and it’s hard for me to believe in a God who would let so much evil run wild in the world, but every time I get in a pinch I sure do start praying. “Dear Jesus,” I say. “Deliver me from this conundrum.”
I asked Lynn to read to me in bed. I told her I knew about that cat and the jewels and the Russians, too. I told her I wanted to find out what happened. She scooped the book up off her dresser and began reading. I lay there, listening to the soft drone of her sweet voice ease me into peace. Turns out the cat got captured by some Albanian spies, and they bribed the Russians, but not before they extracted the jewels via some sort of cat type enema. The hero, Slade, ended up giving up the case, only to find the diamond in question for sale in some cheap Japanese pawn shop. He purchased it and gave it back to the lady who hired him and everything ended happily for all involved, except the Russians, I guess. At the end of the story, Slade is sipping on some scotch and milk in front of a roaring fire with the lady who’d hired him to find the diamond. They became lovers and she had the diamond on her finger and the cat sat there purring in old Slade’s lap. I thought that was pretty good.
Lynn got to the end of the story and leaned over to peck me on my cheek. When she did, her hand went down to my ailment out of habit. Her warm hand caressed me down there and we both looked at each other like we’d scratched off the lucky numbers. One of my boys wasn’t AWOL anymore, but was back snug in his nest. Funny, I never felt him come down, but he sure felt good in her hands. I pushed her hand out the way and replaced it with my own. I pet him for a while and welcomed him back to the world. I left him be for fear of spooking him back up.
Lynn smiled big and leaned over to smooch me on the forehead. “Keep reading,” I said. “We need one more good story.”
She went on to another one featuring Slade. He was back in his office, sipping scotch, and some dame walks in and asks him to find her son who’d been kidnapped, she thought, by some bad men who she owed money to. She got down on her knees and cried in the office, said she’d pay any amount to have her little Jimmy back. Slade sat on his chair with his feet up on his desk and sipped his scotch.
I lay back and listened to her and shut my eyes. I knew old Slade would find that boy and get him back to his momma. I figured that Slade and that boy’s mother would become lovers too, but that things would be difficult for a while, and he would probably have to go through many trials and tribulations.