Despite her fat, Eve had hard muscles.

Fiction by D Ferrara, Summer 2015


Shimmer snapped off the radio, sighed, and headed for the lobby, sorry, “greeting room.” Hoity-toity bullshit in Shimmer’s opinion, which she kept to herself. She needed the job, and her other one, just to get by. It was “the economy, stupid” time, as that guy said in his campaign ads, and Shimmer, who had never voted in her thirty-five years, heartily agreed. Not even the burst of mild patriotism she had felt over the recent golf war (which she thought had been about oil, not golf, but what did she know?) could change things. Mouthing off too much would get her fired. Shimmer knew the score.

In any case, there was a customer and she needed the money. The Sensual Arts Massage Spa did not pay her if she did not work, and little enough if she did. Checking her hair, makeup, and teeth in the mirror, giving her peach-colored uniform a last tug, Shimmer applied her professional smile and opened the door.

Immediately, Shimmer wanted to turn around. The only person there was a fat broad in a plain blue skirt suit that looked vaguely like a uniform. Shimmer hated fat broads. Every inch was extra work. But her smile never wavered. She held out her hand, ready for the usual small talk—Yes, Shimmer is my real name. Ever had a massage? Everything, even the panties. It didn’t come. Instead, the woman, very short, with oddly blue eyes, simply nodded, followed Shimmer’s directions to Room 6, and closed the door, almost in Shimmer’s face.

Leaning against the wall, Shimmer hoped that this one would tip better than her last fat broad. Shimmer glanced at the work slip for the customer name: Eve. No help. Women named Candy or Tiffany tipped better, she thought. Fancy names, fancy ways. She wished she could smoke.

It was time to tap on the door, and Eve said something that wasn’t “Go away,” so Shimmer came in. Eve was on her stomach, covered by a sheet to her shoulders. Her clothes were neatly folded—skirt, blouse, underwear, panty hose—on the only chair. Her jewelry, including a knock-your-eyes-out sapphire ring, was in her right shoe, under the chair. How did I miss that rock? Shimmer thought. Eve’s purse was on the hook, and Shimmer thought a smart woman would have put the jewels in her bag, but maybe it was a fake. She hoped so, because if it was real, then Eve was rich and rich women were crappy tippers. Shimmer knew that for sure too.

Eve’s skin looked paler in this dim light than in the greeting room, with a satiny sheen. No sun. Probably sits on her fat ass all day, playing cards. Shimmer’s patter rolled out on its own: What kind of oil? Any allergies? Is the light okay? Let me know if it hurts. She supposed she heard the answers. Shimmer always started at the head with a back-of-the-neck floating fingertip ripple, her signature move. The other students at massage therapy school had envied that move. At least two had stolen it. Eve did not make the usual murmur of appreciation, however. A little ticked off, Shimmer moved on.

Massage school had been a triumphant time for Shimmer. In her entire life, she had never done as well at anything as the ins and outs of muscles, ligaments, joints, and bones. To her astonishment, even the cadavers had not freaked her out. Instead, she had wished they had been alive, well, a little, so she could see the lactic acid actually squirt, to witness how muscle pain actually happened, instead of just reading about it.

For a time, it seemed she might graduate first in the class. She, Shimmer Sue Ellen Rudzianski, who had never been first in anything in her life! She had made the mistake of mentioning this to her loser boyfriend, Greg, who insisted on being called Gears. He decided to make sure she was first by hacking into the newly computerized grading system of the school to change her grades. Of course, he screwed it up, erasing all the records, so no one was first and all their licenses were delayed for six months.

But Greg—excuse me, “Gears”—was a man, a steady man, and nowadays a gal over thirty was lucky to have one, so Shimmer’s mom and sisters all said. He always meant well, even if it didn’t always turn out well. You had to take that into account.

Eve made a little squeak. Thinking of Gears had made Shimmer press too hard on Eve’s lower back. Shimmer pretended this was what she had intended and that Eve was giving the right signal. In fact, she had sensed something particularly odd here as she made the first passes.

Shimmer moved across Eve’s back, visualizing the bands of muscles, feeling the width, the thickness, the texture of each. She thought of her fingers as little cameras, finding knots—which were places where the muscles had pulled together tightly—coaxing them loose. Her sense of tension location was amazing, she knew. Eve had lots.

Despite her fat, Eve had hard muscles. Shimmer frowned. These were not aerobic-studio or dance-class muscles. Eve’s back had tough bands that had supported heavy loads. (Shimmer wasn’t sure how she knew the difference. She simply did.) The shoulders, wrapped to her spine with a harness of flesh and blood, had hauled more than dainty shopping bags. Shimmer’s fingers, alert as always, sent confused signals as they traveled down Eve’s strong arms to small hands, which were edged by both polished nails and unmistakable calluses.

Returning to the spot where Eve had squeaked, Shimmer moved carefully. Her left hand, the more sensitive, cupped Eve’s left side as if it were a baby’s butt. Eve tensed briefly, relaxed, tensed again—not as much—then relaxed completely as Shimmer found the muscle contractions and made them release. In her head, Shimmer saw the stringy bands of flesh obey her, the blood flow more freely. At the same instant, she and Eve breathed a tiny “Ah-h-h.”

The right side was more difficult, although Shimmer didn’t know why. Both hands were telling her not to go there, but she forced herself to rub around the right side of Eve’s waist. Tension flooded Eve, pouring up Shimmer’s fingers in a shock wave. It was all she could do to keep from throwing up her hands. Slowly, she rubbed a gentle fingertip circle on Eve’s back, then moved down her right thigh. Eve relaxed.

Eve’s thighs were hard, strong, without any fat. It was difficult to work on such muscles, taking all Shimmer’s concentration. Both calves were ropy, tapering to small feet and ankles. The feet, like Eve’s hands, were clean, polished, and callused.

To Shimmer’s sensitive touch, the left ankle gave up secrets. The bones had been pinned together. Shimmer felt one, two, three metal screws beneath lumpy, barely healed scars. Eve made a small sound, something like pleasure, as her battered feet were rubbed gently.

When it was time for Eve to turn over, Shimmer held the sheet up. Normally, she’d make a big show of turning away, giving the customer privacy—as if she’d never looked at a naked body. This time, she couldn’t help it: she looked at Eve as she turned. She almost gasped, then turned her head quickly.

Just below and to the right of Eve’s navel was another wrinkled hole, larger, ugly, and crisscrossed with scars. Shimmer’s brothers and uncles were hunters. She knew a bullet hole when she saw one. Holy shit.

Eve settled down under the sheet. Flustered, Shimmer found a gauzy square, applied a drop of fragrant oil, and laid it carefully over Eve’s face. “Lavender oil,” she said, hoping Eve wouldn’t say she puked at the smell. Eve smiled and Shimmer continued, relieved she did not have to risk being seen by those deep blue eyes.

The session continued in a blur, running a little long. Not that it mattered—not many people showed up on weekday mornings. By the end—the ritual of stepping out while Eve dressed, fetching her a glass of water, telling her “rehydrate and relax,” walking her to the front—Shimmer had regained her composure. Eve detoured to the ladies’ room, and Shimmer heard a man’s voice talking to Jeannie, the receptionist. She couldn’t catch every word, just bits and pieces like:

“…ran back in at least three times…”

“…there was shooting all around…”

“…saved those kids…”

Eve came out, shook Shimmer’s hand, and said, “Thank you, Shimmer,” and “Good-bye,” in a soft voice. The man, dressed in a chauffeur’s uniform, smiled at Eve in a funny way, sort of proud and happy and respectful, like Eve was his favorite teacher and the President of the United States at the same time. He held the door for Eve, winked at Jeannie and Shimmer, then raced to a shiny car to get that door too.

Shimmer thought that he didn’t look much like a chauffeur, or Eve like a woman who had one, or the car like one a chauffeur would drive. Then again, maybe she didn’t know as much as she thought about such things. Maybe she didn’t know a lot about anything.

Jeannie babbled something about Eve and an orphanage in Africa, and how she was visiting the Shriners hospital in Watertown, and Eve being on television, and look, her chauffeur left your tip envelope.

As Jeannie continued to chatter, Shimmer took the envelope. She was thinking about how she would finally tell Gear they should do something about their relationship—break it off or get serious. Tonight they would begin that discussion. No tears, no yelling. She needed to get it resolved. Tomorrow, maybe she could look into volunteer work at that Shriners hospital, or at the VA—there were returning veterans, she had heard, in a lot of pain.

She could help them. Her fingers could help them. There were classes she could take too. Get out of this into something more serious. Somehow, it was time to Do Things.

She hardly heard Jeannie’s yelp as she folded the hundred-dollar tip into her pocket.


D Ferrara is a professional writer, editor and collaborator, with a passion for short fiction fed by journals such as Broadkilll Review, Greenprints, Penmen Review, Crack the Spine, Amarillo Bay, Adana and others. She is also an award winning playwright and a screenwriter. While her web site is resting, she posts current news at “Knowing” can also be found in Adana

Image by B Carroll.

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