Coming Out of the Rub

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Mystery and Crime  |  House: Booksie Classic

Featured Review on this writing by AdamCarlton

LOOK WHAT I FOUND! (LIVE AT: www.isittodayhjfurl.com) .....‘Darling?’ she says, tucking her shirt into her waist as she reaches the door.
I look up from drying my veined feet, ‘Yup?’
‘You’d never hide anything from me, would you?’
I clutch the towel protectively to my chest, ‘What an odd question, of course I wouldn’t.’
(I haven't told Cherith about the stains in the bathroom floor, the knife in the garage, or Jason)

Cherith

Coming Out of the Rub

I had the bathroom re-carpeted last week to hide the stains. The estate agents, Bunty Fleiss, assured me the house was fully refurbished, that every last stain was removed. But they are still there. The stains belong to Marcus Firman, a cardiovascular surgeon, and his jaunty wife Annette, the special needs teacher at our local primary school.

I climb out of the lukewarm shower, stand on the rug and towel my torso dry. She ambles up to me in her smart black shirt and trousers, I let the wet, turquoise towel slip. We embrace. She clings to me like a semi-permeable membrane in the humid heat.

‘Made you wet,’ I say to her, un-sticking her from me.

She presses her palms into the small of my back, ‘Doesn’t matter! Feels nice!’

Inhaling deeply, I savour the fragrance on her neck. ‘You smell delicious. What is it?’

Her body tenses. ‘Don’t remember, do you? You bought it me, duty-free?’

‘Duty-free?’

‘The flight to Crete?’ she despairs of me, pinches my arm, vents her frustration. ‘Try, won’t you?

‘You lost me I’m afraid.’

She brushes my nipples with her soft lips and murmurs into my chest, ‘Dirty Velvet.’

‘I forgot.’

She wilts. I feel her body sag into mine. ‘It doesn’t matter.’

She glances at the glitzy watch I gave her for our fifth anniversary.

‘It’s nearly six. Have to go. See you!’

I let her go. ‘Yeah, see you.’

‘Darling?’ she says, tucking her shirt into her waist as she reaches the door.

I look up from drying my veined feet, ‘Yup?’

‘You’d never hide anything from me, would you?’

I clutch the towel protectively to my chest, ‘What an odd question, of course I wouldn’t.’

‘Just checking.’

I tell her I’ll be in bed when she gets back. I always rest after lunch.

‘Might just join you!’ she chirps. 

That pleases me. I want her to be happy every single day of her life. She leaves. I hear a door slam, and miss her already. Lonely, I wipe the steamed-up mirror clean with toilet tissue and study the spidery stress lines etched into my face, permanent dark rings around my eyes. My heart aches for her when we’re apart. Silently, I pray I die first.

Most men spray their body head to foot after a shower. I prefer to beautify myself feet-up and leave my head till last. Stretching my muscled legs, propping them high, on the avocado toilet cistern, I spray my feet with refreshing mint, witch hazel and cypress. Skin allergies are the bane of my life. When I was at high school, I developed an allergy to copper sulphate and blue-vein cheese. Copper makes my lids swell. I love Stilton, Cambozola. But they bring me out in an embarrassing red rash, oral herpes. I flush the same way under my armpits when I use bad deodorant. Just to be sure, I use 48-hour, motion-sure sensitive roll-on. It contains aluminium chloralhydrate. Doesn’t aluminium cause dementia? I honestly can’t remember.

The brutal murder of Marcus and Annette Firman made the national headlines. The couple were slayed by a crazed maniac who stabbed them to death as they slept in separate beds. It marked them with three signs on their backs: a diamond, heart and club. Police are treating the killings as the work of a bizarre cult. Whatever culled them, and cut them up, is still at large.

I’m not frightened of dying, just petrified of getting old. Most men are, but are too scared to admit it. I wish I was female. At least they have a longer lifespan. Anyways, I’m not sure what it means to be male nowadays. I struggle to understand modern relationships. Are they based on love, sex, trust, consensus, equality, necessity? What are they based on? Are the flowers of romance dead and buried?

I keep a range of anti-aging solutions on the top shelf. Apart from the niggly osteoarthritis in my neck and back, my body is in good shape. Every day I perform stretches. Four times a week I work out at the gym. And I visit my sports physio for a punishing deep tissue massage once a month. It wouldn’t be an understatement to say that Jason changed my life. I wrote him a personal testimonial:

I would like to record my appreciation for the excellent sports remedial therapy services provided by Jason Ashleigh. When we first met I suffered from excruciating neck and back pain due to osteoarthritis and took ten painkillers a day. With Jason’s caring support, his personal motivation and encouragement, I achieved recovery in under four months. I have improved my mobility, core strength and fitness to the extent that I returned to regular weight training and no longer require painkillers. This therapy was a positive life-changing experience for me. I really can’t praise Jason enough for the undeniable improvement in wellbeing, health and fitness he brought into my life.

The challenge with staying young is in my head. The vitreous jelly behind my right eye shrunk last week. Now I see a thin line at the extremity of my vision, not a floater, a line that turns yellow at night. I had a bad fright that morning. Saw a shadow person. I try to control the devil with different glasses. Sutra, my exotic optician, tells me I should stay focused. Now, I wear multi-focal distance glasses for shaving, the same specs I wear when driving, and computer glasses to write a story. Today, I’ll need sunglasses as she has planned on me going out in the glary sun to the market to buy fruit.

Jason was great, twenty years my junior. We argued about age, sex, men, sex, women, health, robots, age. I told him stories as he gouged the scar tissue out of my lumbar region. He made me tingle all over. He pulled the waistband down on my tracksuit bottoms and massaged my buttocks, then made me roll over, so that he could fondle my penis and testes. We grew close, kind of fond of each other?

I can’t stop thinking about the knife. I shave carefully, gliding the blade round my cheeks, chin, neck, over, under, my lips without cutting myself. I rinse my face with after shave from a blue energizer I bought from The Salon. Luba, my stupid Czech bald beauty therapist, told me it’s the only male smell in a range dominated by female smells. That explains why it’s so expensive, does it?

Still, the astringent is my only treat now that I can’t afford to see Jason. Friday was my last appointment.

I clean my teeth with a dirt-cheap cavity protection caries paste, followed by a gargle of unbranded minty mouthwash that costs less than a bar of milk chocolate. Ross, my bronzed hygienist, doesn’t want to see me for a year. I wonder what I’ll look like when my teeth fall out. Perish the thought!

I miss Jason. He was my confidante, my closest friend, my lover. I worry about him, hope he doesn’t do anything stupid. I wouldn’t want him to come to any harm. We all have secrets.

My secret is my hair. At least, I tell everyone that it’s my hair. It is really regrown head fluff stimulated by a prescription-only scalp solution and sky-blue finasteride. The tablets are meant to be cut in four. I cut them in half. Despite the warning on the label, I haven’t experienced any side effects. I always make a point of wiping the knife on the dish cloth after cutting the tablets. Apparently, they can cause excessive body hair growth, hot flushes and nausea in women, and genetic defects in babies. A strip went missing last week. I think she took them! She doesn’t appear to have suffered any tell-tale skin reactions. I still stashed them out of sight in my sock drawer - along with my Men’s Health magazines.

I apply the rapid regrowth lotion to my scalp, combing the cloudy solution into my thin grey hair. Before I leave the room, I check the list pinned onto the back of the door, to ensure I haven’t forgotten anything:

Darling, here’s your bathroom list:

Left you a fresh towel to dry yourself with, babe.

Spray your feet, make them smell nice for me.

Use lots of deodorant for me, won’t you?

Take care when you shave. Hate it when you cut yourself.

Don’t forget your blue after-shave, my favourite.

Don’t forget your hair tablet!

Love you,

xxx

I pad across the landing to her bedroom, proud to call myself her house husband. That doesn’t mean I keep the place clean. The net curtains are filthy, so the nosy neighbours can’t see in. I throw the towel on the carpet, and perform stretches in front of the mirror. Jason taught me to contort my body into spectacular positions: the cat, doggie-style, the cobra. His pelvic thrust. When I feel especially brave, I perform them in front of the young on the mats in the gym’s Core Strength Zone. Dawn, the shifty receptionist, tells me Jason hasn’t been in since Friday.

My second list is lying on the bed. Ever since my amnesia started, she writes me a daily to-do list. My head is full of stories. But I can’t write them until I complete the list. I flop on the bed in a bedraggled heap and read:

Darling, here’s today’s to-do-list:

Water garden. Don’t forget my hanging baskets!

Spray my courgette plants with slug spray.

Empty the washing machine. Wait a minute before you open the door. Hang out our laundry.

Left you out a tin of Mackerel in Teriyaki Sauce. Make yourself a salad.

Take my party frock to the dry cleaners.

Buy me toothpaste and mouthwash. Can you buy milk and a paper, too?

Check our e-mails. Check WhatsApps from Li and Lou.

Water the allotment. See if the beans are ready to pick.

Go to the market, buy me clementine.

Good job! Very good job!  Ha! Ha! Now you have a lovely day. Don’t overdo it.

I love you,

xxx

I feel overwhelmed. Now, where to start? How to start? Go back to bed? No! Start getting dressed, something bright. It’s a blistering hot day, a vest and shorts day. To my amazement, my silk-embossed t-shirt from our Vietnam trip four years ago still fits. Think young, man! I unwrap my skimpy black shorts. Act your age? What the hell!

I pull out the sock drawer and they are still there: the azure and crimson ankle socks by Pepe I bought in Crete. I walked five kilometres in the blazing heat to find a shop that sold socks - as she lay in the health spa thrilling to a full body massage by Andreas. I quickly lace up my smelly trainers, and skip downstairs.

I found the dagger in its sheath soon after we moved in, strapped beneath a rafter in the garage. I climbed my spattered decorating ladder to examine it. The scabbard was made of black leather, stitched down each side, fastened with metal studs. Its back was badly frayed, stained with dry blood. The haft of the knife was stamped with symbols: a diamond, heart and club.

I drew the knife from its sheath. Its bevelled blade glinted in the early evening sun. I ran my thumb down one edge. It was razor sharp. The knife tip was bent as if it had been rammed against concrete, or a bone. I turned the weapon over in my hands. The obverse was speckled with dry blood. Hearing her calling me for supper, I replaced the knife in its sheath and hid it in my galvanised metal tool box.

I haven’t told her about the dagger or the stains soaked into our bathroom floorboards. She’d only worry. Instead, I decided to inform the Police when they hold their next knife amnesty.

I stand in the hall, staring into the street, in disbelief. My personal organiser left the front door open. Fearing for my safety, I wedge it open with the doormat, step outside. We live in a three-bed, semi-detached in a quiet cul-de-sac surrounded by neighbours who mind their own business. The road is empty. Angry, I stomp inside and slam the door. Glossy pamphlets litter the castellated rug: another new pizza takeaway outlet, a special offer on double-glazing, the latest tree surgeon. I scoop them up and walk into the kitchen.

She’s laid our fake pine table for my breakfast: pink grapefruit, honey granola, stoned prunes, seeded granary toast, stem ginger marmalade. Bless her! I’m just about to switch on our precision-pour kettle and make a coffee when I notice the back door isn’t closed. I curse her, swearing at her like a fishwife in a rant.

I told him we were finished. He couldn’t accept that. He held me tightly in his strong arms and tried to fuck me. I was stunned, I had never been fucked by a man before. I pulled myself off of him and got dressed. He started crying, saying he couldn’t live without me. I left him heartbroken in the day nursery which doubled as my treatment room, with no-one to console him. I walked out of his life forever.

I step into the garden and take in the carnage before me. Our new lawn is dead, blanched to straw by the devastating heat. The dwarf apple tree will bear no fruit. All the tomato plants have wilted. I must save the leeks, water the leeks. The watering can is inside the garage. The door is shut. I swing it open. I step inside.

He is waiting for me in the shadows. He swaggers up to me, unshaven, and unwashed. His breath smells stale, as if he’s been out drinking all night. He rolls up the sleeve of his navy sweatshirt and reveals three tattoos on his shaven wrist: a diamond, heart and club, then says:

‘My, you’re a handful today, aren’t you, man?’

I won’t keep still. I flail my arms, bite, tear, scratch and gouge. Anything to stay alive. But the murderous grip around my throat only tightens, constricting my strangulated windpipe, weakening any residual resolve, stifling my futile resistance. I am petrified! I fight back the asphyxiating nausea.

‘Relax your neck.’

I give up all hope of survival, unable to fight back, to free myself from the relentless chiropractic grasp. One of his strong hand masks my mouth, its steely digits pinching shut my nostrils. The other is firmly clamped under my chin. The two hands entwine and I find myself being hauled up, barely able to stand tip-toed. A human flag hoisted by the scruff of my neck.

My flimsy body dangles like a wriggling caterpillar about to pupate. My heavy legs swing freely, like dead turkey legs, limp, numb, blued, dead. I swallow hard as a putrid lump swells in my throat. A sour-tasting sore-bud that blooms into a violet flower of bruises. 

‘That’s better, boy!’  

I burst into tears. My puffy cheeks stream sadly-salted tracks of abject despondency. Jason shows me no mercy, taking my prone head in both hands, double-twisting and bending my neck until the bones crack, sending intense waves of pain undulating down my spine.

Seemingly intent on tearing my head off, he rips open my lower jaw, stretching my mouth until it gapes. Forcibly pushing and pulling my throbbing bonce in-and-out, in-and-out, of my make-believe tortoise shell.

I hear her call me from inside the house: ‘Hiya! It’s only me! Forgot my glasses.’

I manage a howl, a pathetic, hoarse, strangled, whelp. One final strong-armed wrench and my neck snaps. My spinal life-cord severs. My thoracic vertebrae break, fracturing into bony fragments.

I exhale her name in my last breath: ‘Cherith!’

My insignificant world fades to unwelcome release as her cheerful voice trails off into the distance.

‘Honestly! Forget my head of it wasn’t screwed on. See you!’

*****

Jason


Submitted: November 28, 2021

© Copyright 2022 H-J FURL. All rights reserved.

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Comments

AdamCarlton

House-husbandry and testosterone are not, I believe, a marriage made in heaven.

I like the embedded wry humour in this story.

Mon, November 29th, 2021 7:21pm

Author
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Thank you for reading this story, Adam, it's not (as you'll know) my usual fayre, and it's also (as you'll remember) the story it took me ten attempts to write! So, I'm glad you called by! HJ

Mon, November 29th, 2021 3:23pm

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