Matt visits his own private corner of Hell

Matt looked out the front window of his dry cleaners at the police cars. There were ten of them, like they’d come to arrest a gang of armed robbers or some terrorist group. But they were all parked in from of the Lotus Spa, the ‘massage parlor’ that had been operating in the corner space of the strip mall for almost two years now.

Why did they think they’d need that much manpower? It wasn’t all local police either. There were state police cars, county sheriff’s units, even a plain dark-colored sedan that screamed FBI or some other federal agency. All that to bust a place everybody knew about and up until now, nobody had cared about.

Matt remembered when the formerly empty storefront had suddenly been invaded by construction workers. They’d spent months working there without a hint of what sort of business was going open there. Then the day had come when it had opened, and more than a few people in Carswell’s Corner had been shocked to find such a business operating in their ‘fair’ city.

Matt wasn’t.

Hell, pretty much all of the bars in town had a woman or two who hung out at corner tables where men came to talk to them…men they would leave with, only to return fifteen minutes, a half hour, or even an hour later. Then they’d be back at the same table, waiting for the next man who wanted sex and was willing to pay for it.

One of them had been there working when Matt had gotten his first drink in the Corner Pocket. He’d gone on an epic drunks after his wife had been killed in a traffic accident and had woken up with one in his bed, shaking him and demanding to be paid.

Matt had paid a visit to the Lotus one rainy day when nobody seemed interested in getting clothing cleaned. The Asian woman who’d greeted him at the door had been older than he was, leaving him wondering if he should turn around and leave. Then she introduced him to another, younger Asian woman, and he thought his chances had improved. The older woman had asked him how long he wanted his appointment to be, and he opted for half an hour, a time he’d seen more than a few of the men visiting the establishment stay for.

The younger woman had taken him to a room dominated by a long, low table and told him to undress before leaving. The clock on the wall told him she had been gone just short of five minutes when she came back. Unsure what he should do, Matt had been sitting on the edge of the table, the broad towel that had been setting folded in it’s center wrapped around his waist.

The woman, he found out later her name was Jun, had told him to lie face down on the table with his face in a hole on one end. What happened next had surprised Matt: a thorough, firm massage of his back and shoulder muscles, followed by an equally strong massage of his legs. There was no hint of sexual contact, and that would have been Matt’s last visit if his hand hadn’t brushed Jun’s leg.

He hadn’t intended to touch her, but his hand was lying near the edge of the table, and as she worked her way down his leg, his and and her leg had touched. When it happened, Matt half expected an outraged outburst. Instead, Jun had giggled and rubbed her leg against his hand for a moment before proceeding to work her way down his leg to his foot. When she switched sides, Matt had made sure his hand was at the edge of the table, and this time, Jun rubbed her leg against his hand far longer.

Matt was tempted to see what would happen if he tried to actively touch Jun, but her announcement that his time was up (it was still five minutes before half an hour from the time he’d entered the room) had ended such thought.

Jun had not left the room as he dressed. She had helped him dress, finishing with tying his shoe laces before standing. Then she’d stepped close and whisper in his ear that if he made an appointment for an hour, he might get to do more than rub her leg.

Matt was back a week later, this time after closing his shop, and he’d made it clear to the smiling older woman that he wanted an hour-long appointment with Jun. This time, rather than stay in the room, Jun had led him further back into the storefront, Wrapped in his towel, he was taken to a room tiled from floor to halfway to the ceiling that held another table and a large, industrial sink with an over-sized spray head running in it. Jun took his towel and told him to lie face down on the table, where she proceeded to spray him with surprisingly warm water before scrubbing him down.

This time, there was sexual contact. Jun worked her way from his shoulders down his back to his butt, which she scrubbed well before letting her hand dip between his legs to give his crotch a quick feel. Then she worked her way down one leg, back up for another quick touch before scrubbing the other leg. Then the spray nozzle played over his body, rinsing away the suds from the scrubbing before Jun told him to turn over.

Face up, his arousal was hard to hide, so he made no effort to. Jun, on seeing his state, had smiled and teased him verbally before scrubbing the front side of his body. This time, there was no sexual contact until every part of his body but his crotch had been washed. When she did that, Jun had paid special attention to that area while letting Matt know she was available for more if he wanted it.

He did, and after rinsing him down, Jun had used the towel he’d worn to the room to dry him off before taking him back to the massage room. There, Jun informed him of what she was willing to do, and how much it would cost. Matt had guessed how much money to bring based on his past experience, and was glad to learn his guess was close enough to right to get what he wanted. Jun had dimmed the lights, and with a whispered caution to be quiet so her boss didn’t know what was happening, she’d undressed and satisfied Matt’s needs.

It wasn’t an intimate act like sex with his wife had been, Jun turned her face away every time he tried to kiss her. And Jun was particularly insistent that he wear ‘protection’, which Matt could understand, given what she did and perhaps how often. But he had enjoyed being able to have sex, and when he had finished, Jun had actually lain with him instead of getting up immediately. Her warm, sweaty presence that had given at least the illusion of satisfaction on her part. Then she’d gotten up, dressed, and again helped him into his clothing before walking him to the exit. There she gave him a peck on the cheek and asked him to come back again soon.

That had been the first time he’d visited, but it hadn’t been the last. Matt became a weekly visitor to the Lotus, usually going in after closing up shop on Friday. He always asked for Jun, and she had always been there with a smile and a warm greeting. After a month, Jun began to talk to him. At first, it had been simple questions after sex. Later, she had begun talking to him during the time spent being cleaned, something she told him was called a ‘table shower’. Matt told her a little about himself, then much more. Jun, in turn, had slowly opened up about her own life.

She was from Inchon, a now-single mother of a daughter in college (something Matt would never have guessed from her youthful appearance). Her husband had deserted her, and with few job prospects to pay for feeding and housing a then-young child, she had reluctantly turned to prostitution. In Korea, the working conditions for prostitutes were brutal, and the pay nowhere near what she made working in America. So when a fellow prostitute had disappeared, only to reappear several months later with tales of how much she’d made working in America, Jun had asked how she could get there.

Jun told him this was her last trip to America, that she was due to go back to Korea in a few weeks to be with her daughter. She’d made enough money to allow her to allow her to buy a small convenience store in Inchon, and she intended to retire. Her daughter knew nothing of what she’d done to help pay for her education, and Jun wanted it to stay that way.

Matt watched as officers led the older woman out in handcuffs, followed by Jun. It wasn’t fair. She hadn’t stolen money. She hadn’t hurt anyone. She’d just done what she needed to so her daughter would have a better life than she’d had. Now, she’d be sent back to Korea because she was a ‘criminal’, and that would no doubt go on her record. Would her daughter find out? Would the police take Jun’s money, the money she’d hoped would get her out of a life she lived but did not enjoy? Matt didn’t know, and a part of him felt ashamed he didn’t speak up. But admitting you visited prostitutes wasn’t something a small businessman did in Carswell’s Corner, so Matt stood in his shop, staring out the window, and did nothing.

Settling in for Fall

Fall has been here for a while now, and the weather is giving every indication that winter’s none too far down the road. Yesterday, in the middle of some drizzly rain, snow flakes could be seen. So, it’s time to get ready for colder temperatures.

If, like me, you live in an older house, you know that windows are a major problem…at least if you’re like me and not rich enough to replace to old windows that old houses come with. So today was the day I set aside to deal, with the really serious offenders. That’s four windows, all of which have a tendency to be cold spots any time the temps drop close to freezing. Time has taught me that the best way to deal with them is to cover them on the inside. Experience has taught me that getting the cover in place means I’ll be using my extensive stock of ‘colorful’ language. Experience was right, I cussed a lot more than would be considered ‘proper’, but the job is done and the house is already feeling warmer.

The other big chore was doing some leaf raking. People who live in Florida think Fall leaves are nothing more than a spectacular show. They are nice to look at, but they can also be hell to clean up. If you’ve got a yard like mine that makes it almost impossible to rake leaves from Point A to Point B, cleaning them up can get ‘interesting’. In years past, I would take a tarp, lay it out, then rake it full of leaves before using the tarp as an improvised travois. Using this, it would take two to three trips to haul the average year’s leaf fall. This year, with the leaves still clinging to the biggest tree in the back yard, I knew I’d be making several trips over the course of multiple weeks. So I indulged myself in an old tradition: a leaf burn.

It had been a very long time since I’d done one, but I found it to be a cheering experience. Getting a decent-sized pile wasn’t all that hard, and there were several dead-falls that had come down in the past week’s storms/high winds. They went on top of the pile, and a sheet of newspaper served to light the entire pile. People think leaves smoke terribly when you burn them, but that’s only true if you’re trying to burn wet leaves. In this case, it had been long enough since the last rain for what was on the ground to be dry. Once things started burning, the only time there was any smoke was when I would rake more leaves into the burn area, temporarily ‘choking’ the fire. Burning clean, it was a surprisingly hot fire, and the leaves were soon consumed. In the end, I was left with a small heap of branches and twigs that burned cheerfully down to a heap of ashes

There will be more fires, and I hope I get days equally ideal for having them: calm to light winds, sunny skies and just enough chill in the air to make being next to a fire feel good. I’ll find out, but for a first time in a long time, it was fun. Who knows, maybe next time I’ll start just before lunch and grill myself a hotdog?

Again and again

The cold breeze blows,

and the flags flap.

Their flat slap echoes across a land

stunned to silence

by grief and horror

by disgust at inaction

from the ‘leaders’

who mouth the same words

over and over again.

“We mourn the loss…”

“Our hearts and prayers…”

“We will never forget….”

Yet prayers will not bring back

the dead,

nor heal those crippled,

nor sooth the souls

of those who have lost

a loved one or friend.

And the saddest thing

in this appalling spectacle

is that soon, it will happen again.

And the same words will be said

and the flags will again flap at half mast.