Sammy Wilson was easing his aching bones in the sauna when the topic of massage parlours first arose. At seventy-nine, Sammy enjoyed his Saturday visits to the Sports Centre, where congenial company had eased his loneliness after his wifes death. He had soon become used to sitting among large naked bodies with tattoos and hairy genitals and played his full part in putting the world to rights. It was like a little club.
Sammy was very doubtful. Massage? Im not going to any massage parlour. At my age? Dont be so daft.
There was a roar of laughter from the group. Hes not talking about massage parlours, you silly sod, said a builder on the same shelf. You can get one through your doctor. Why, if you pay privately theyll even come to your house. Look, the wife knows someone. Ill make enquiries if you like.
And so the following Friday afternoon Sammy stood looking out of the window of his neat semi-detached house waiting for the aromatherapist to visit him. Hed already spoken to her over the phone, and she sounded very nice. Married with three grown-up kids. Sammy didnt know whether to be relieved or not.
Questions flashed through his mind. What would it be like? Where would he lie? Had he made the bed? Could he wear his underpants? And more to the point, would it hurt?
Sammy stiffened. A car was drawing up outside. Thats her, he muttered. Shes lifting the boot. Whats that shes lugging out?
His question was soon answered as a trim young woman in black jeans and white T-shirt manoeuvred a folding bed up the drive. Sammy let her in, and she hefted her load through the door with a practised swing.
Hello, Mr.Wilson, she said with a smile. Just a tick. Ill get the blankets. As she came back with her large bundle, Sammy remembered his cantankerous nosy neighbours and rushed to help.
His visitors name was Mrs. Robinson (but you must call me Kath), and she did indeed have three grown-up children. She asked him some questions about his health while he admired her slim figure and marvelled about modern motherhood.
And then while Kath unfolded the bed, Sammy was introduced to the World of Aromatherapy. He learned about carrier oils and essential oils and their different effects. Until then hed assumed that the word essential meant absolutely necessary but no, it was all about essence. He was offered a bewildering choice. Geranium, Lemon, Peppermint, Lavender.... the list was endless. Oh, and Ylang Ylang! That sounded very exotic.
It depends what you want, said Kath, arranging the blankets. Peppermint is stimulating, lavender is calming, and so on.
Whats Ylang Ylang? said Sammy.
Oh, thats sensual and soothing.
How about a mixture then? said Sammy. Lavender and Ylang Ylang. I feel like being soothed. (He didnt mention the sensual bit.)
Now thats a good combination. You just nip and get ready while I mix them. Ill use sweet almond as a base.
Sammy hesitated and looked uncomfortable How shall I...? You know...." He wafted his hand vaguely about his body.
Kath laughed. Oh, a pair of briefs and a dressing gown. And dont worry. Ive seen bare bums before, you know.
So eventually, Sammy found himself lying face down on the bed while Kath covered him solicitously with towels. There was a hole at the top of the bed where he could put his face, and he felt quite comfortable.
He braced himself as a towel was removed, and then he felt Kaths warm hands applying a soothing lotion along the whole length of his left leg. She began to massage--pressing, squeezing, and sliding, and Sammy relaxed, giving himself over to the whole luxurious experience.
After a while Kath adjusted the towels and moved over to his other leg, which received the same treatment, so by the time she reached his back Sammy was in a very euphoric state and almost asleep. Then Kath asked him in a quiet, gentle voice to turn over.
As he struggled into the new position he murmured, I do find this very soothing. Almost like listening to relaxation tapes. I do that occasionally. With earphones. It enhances the sound."
No reason why you shouldnt do both. A lot of my clients do. Ill bring some tapes next time I come, unless you prefer your own.
And then, with practised ease, Kath straightened him out, replaced the towels, and continued the whole delightful process.
Finally Kath placed herself at the head of the bed and began work on Sammys chest, shoulders, and neck, gradually easing out the tension. It was then she realised that Sammy was still wearing his hearing aid and persuaded him to put it on one side.
Mind you, she said. You have my sympathy. Im getting a bit that way myself.
But what about the tapes? said Sammy. And the earphones!
I notice youve got a very nice stereo system. Those speakers look grand. Put the music through there, and then I can enjoy it too.
Sammy looked doubtful. Ive not used them for years. Got used to my headphones. But why not?
During the next few days, Sammy looked through his tapes and selected a favourite. As so often in the past, he lay on the floor with a pillow under his head and relaxed to Fly with a Dhow--Oriental music with such titles as Music of the Seas, "Ocean Rain Storm, and Eagle's Flight, where evocative musical phrases were hypnotically repeated.
Just the job, said Sammy finally. He removed the earphones and waited eagerly for the following Friday afternoon.
In the event, they had a little trouble adjusting the speakers, and Sammy was forced to realise how deaf he had become. But eventually all was arranged, and he spent every Friday afternoon over the next few weeks being pampered while the room was swept with the sounds of Oriental music, crashing waves, and eagles cries. Sammy found it all very therapeutic.
That was until last Friday. Kath had moved round to Sammys head and was working on his throat when there was a furious knocking on the sitting-room window.
It was Mr. Shaunessey from next door, red hair standing on end. For Gods sake turn that racket down, will you! he bellowed. Week after week. Its getting on our bloody nerves!
And then he took in the scene. An old man lying on a bed, bare feet protruding, and a handsome woman caressing his cheeks.
Everything seemed to slow down. Shaunesseys mouth dropped open and then gradually closed. He took a step back as his face assumed a grimace of amazement. Then he half-raised his hand and wiggled his fingers in a sort of embarrassed greeting and finally shuffled sideways, his other hand fumbling for the low dividing wall.
"What did he say? asked Sammy sleepily as his neighbour disappeared.
He hasnt seen Mr. Shaunessey since....
Ron is 80 years old and served with the British Army in India (and Ceylon) during World War II. He retired from the teaching profession in 1985 and, following his wife's death shortly afterwards, took up creative writing as a hobby. Since then he has had short stories and poetry published and broadcast. The North West Network of the B.B.C has broadcast seventeen of his stories.