I wrote this short story on September 2. It is my very first creative story written originally in English, not translated from Russian. Now I know that you my friends always compliment how well I write in English (blog writing is also a creative writing of course, and I do write these two blogs, In and Out, in English). But I know that I have a lot to learn about English, and I know I make some pretty basic mistakes as I am 99% self-taught and not paying attention sometimes. So I've got myself an editor - Justin! Justin is the best editor one can have, and my only wish is that he some day learns Russian better than I know Russian, so he can also be helpful with my creative Russian writing. That's a joke, but every joke is only partly a joke, as you know. Justin is very attentive, sensitive to what you as a writer try to express, and only corrects grammar or a choice of words when he knows it will help my writing to be clearer or more effective. He never questions my ideas or my style. He is one intelligent, insightful and loving editor I wish every writer to find one day. :)
dedicated to Justin
I showed my palms to hubby.
“Hmm,” said hubby. “We better make an appointment and show it to the doc.”
I knew I was in trouble the minute he said it – my hubby is not known for going to doctors.
The doctor was young, handsome, and exuded enthusiasm.
“Hmmm,” said the enthusiastic doctor. “Did you change your soap recently? No? A dish soap then? A detergent? Did you have any direct contacts with bleach products? Paint? Pesticide? No? Hmmm. I’ll prescribe you this lotion, it’s not available over the counter, and quite expensive. I’m pretty sure it’ll help. Three times a day for two weeks, and don’t miss once. Give it a go and come back for a check-up in two weeks.”
In two weeks, I showed my palms to hubby.
“Hmmm,” said hubby. “We better get a second opinion.”
He talked to folks in his office. They advised a very experienced doctor – Harvard diploma, award winning, best clinic for miles and miles around. Waiting list was typically three months long. We got in only because hubby’s boss owned him one and was able to quickly pull some strings. The doctor was middle aged, a bit tired looking and seemed mostly interested in his fingernails.
“Did you change your diet? No? Then you better change it.”
He scribbled a long grocery list and handled it to me.
“These are things you can’t eat,” said the tired doctor. “Stick with this diet, for three months straight, and no cheating, all right? Come back for a check-up in three months. I don’t have openings earlier than that anyways.” He looked rather smug.
And, I mean, he drives a Porsche. He must know what he is talking about, right?
In three months, I showed my palms to hubby.
“Hmm,” said hubby, and let me tell you he is not as easily puzzled as it seems.
“Wanna try a spiritual guru?”
For crying out loud, I’ll try anybody, I’ll try anything; just get me off this horrible itch. I did not even know that fingers can itch, did you?
A few days later, I was taking a bus downtown. I needed a break from doctors’ offices from time to time, didn’t I? I headed for a museum – looking at art used to be my therapy. Aimlessly staring at the window, itching the hell out of my fingers, I suddenly I heard a little cough next to me.
“Sorry for startling you, love,” said a cozy looking elder gentleman with the most charming British accent, who apparently was sitting right next to me, and I hadn’t even noticed. He was like Mister Barnaby and Mister Poirot blended together, happily retired in a Seattle suburb.
“I noticed you were itching your fingers. Doctors ain’t no help, are they?”
“Medicine has never known such a mysterious case,” I replied.
“Eczema is not uncommon,” he disagreed.
“I know, but it was never known to affect two symmetrical fingers and not a spot anywhere else.”
“Show me your fingers, love,” said the Barnaby-Poirot.
What could I lose? I opened my palms in front of him.
“Most curious,” he concluded. “And you are… let me guess… a librarian? No, no, that’s not it… A writer?”
“Well sort of… not really… I am trying…”
“Curious, most curious. Now just show me the fingers, love, nothing else.”
I tried to move my other fingers as far apart from the one on each hand which was affected by the mysterious case of eczema. But as you can imagine, it’s not an easy task – it’s all sort of connected, and not like you can snap off the fingers you don’t need to demonstrate.
I looked at him with hope.
“No, no, that won’t do. Just like that, come on, you know what to do, love,” said Barnaby-Poirot.
I was confused, I admit. I started slowly closing the fingers which weren’t affected by eczema, and I mean slowly, like in slow-motion film, you know – it’s not a gesture they teach us in school and make us practice at home. Well, at least not in schools and households which are committed to raise good girls and good boys. And even those that aren’t all that committed are not known for teaching this particular gesture.
“Ah, there you are, see? You can do it.”
Barnaby-Poirot looked at my middle fingers sticking out right at him as I closed my fists, I kid you not, with a victorious look on his face. One would think he had just solved another mystery.
“Now listen to me, love. Do what you enjoy and if you don’t enjoy, then don’t do. Eat what you enjoy, and if you don’t enjoy, don’t eat. And if something bothers you, practice this.”
He showed his middle fingers with the coziest smirk I’ve ever seen.
“I know it doesn’t come easily in the beginning. But the more you practice, the less itch you’ll get. Till it’s all clear.”
“So… when do I do this exercise? Morning, afternoon? Before bed? How many times a day?”
My voice sounded unconvinced. I wanted to believe, but it was difficult to embrace such eccentric advice, you know what I mean? And I’ve always been a lousy pretender. I’d probably not fool you if you were Barnaby-Poirot and sat next to me that very moment.
“You’ll know, love, you’ll know,” he smiled.
“Come and check up with me,” he added then. “Some time in this lifetime.”
I swear there was a little purple sparkle in the air when he disappeared as suddenly as he made his entrance on the bus.
It’s not been always easy to follow his advice, but I noticed that as soon as I see a sign of disapproval on the politely distant faces of grown up people playing their grown up games, I do my little exercise. I noticed that I even if I do it in the privacy of my own mind, my middle fingers clear up as fast.