by Charles C. Cole
Mid-chemotherapy, Lita craved relief. Convenient parking was rare at the clinic. She waited impatiently as a distracted white-haired gentleman backed his van toward her car. “Come on!” she snapped. “My oncologist will think I’ve died.”
The elderly gentleman didn’t notice. From the other side of the van, Corky didn’t see Lita. He waved at the old man and drove into the free spot. Lita advanced, then slammed on her brakes.
“Sorry, didn’t see you,” said Corky.
“I’ve been driving in circles for twenty minutes.”
Corky opened his wallet. “Here’s twenty: a dollar a minute. If you’re lucky, we’ll collide on the way out. I pay real well for physical contact.”
“I bet you do.”
Later, Corky dressed while Dr. Talbot reviewed his chart.
“So, should I quit my job or just end the affair with the boss’s wife? I don’t know which is more stressful. Just joking.”
“How do you feel about changing professions?”
“Sure, work’s stressful, but it takes pressure to make a diamond. Besides, some people are just morons with money. I want to slap them and say, ‘What are you paying me for if you’re not going to listen?!’ But it wouldn’t be good business.”
“You need to get rid of that tension which, frankly, is acting like a corrosive. Now therapy—”
“Racquetball? Kickboxing? A punching bag.”
“Unless I can hang one in my office, I’ll never use it.”
In the Ladies’ Room, Lita threw water on her face. Corky stormed down the hallway as Lita exited. They collided, knocking Lita to the floor.
“Sorry. Bit of a hurry.”
“The parking lot lady? A deal’s a deal.” He pulled out his wallet. “Here’s another twenty.” He disappeared around a corner.
A passing nurse stopped to assist Lita. “You okay?”
“Not even close.”
* * *
A loan officer handed a box of tissues to Lita, who was quietly weeping. “To be perfectly honest, the terminally ill aren’t exactly a good investment. You don’t even have a full-time job.”
“Can I just have a minute, time alone to pull myself together?”
“Sure. I need coffee anyway. How about you? Can I get you something?” Lita gave her a cold stare.
Outside, Corky recognized Lita’s car. Lita rushed out. They nearly collided.
“You get off on hurting people, is that it?”
“I think I owe you.” He reached for his wallet.
“Stop! What is this habit of throwing money away? We’re having an argument. Yell back at me!”
“I don’t yell.”
Lita collapsed against her car, weary.
“Let’s get you comfortable.” Corky helped maneuver her into her seat. “Okay?”
“Everyone wants to know if I’m okay, but no one can do anything about it. I don’t wish to sound unkind, but have you tried therapy?”
“I don’t need to talk; I need to hit someone,” Corky said.
“And you’ve chosen me? I should make a living doing this. Aggression therapy: Hit me to heal you.”
“You might be on to something. There’s a market. Sometimes, I think all I need is a good, swift kick. Not my butt. Someone else’s.”
“One hundred dollars sounds fair,” Lita said.
“For a kick in the butt?” Both realized this could be serious.
“With the sole of your boot, a hundred bucks,” she said. Lita extended her hand to seal the contract.
Corky hesitated. “Seriously?” he asked.
“If you can’t afford me...”
They shook hands with mock solemnity, then burst out laughing.
“I could use the money. Bills are piling up like dirty laundry.”
“And I could use an exorcism.”
“When do we start? I mean it.”
* * *
Corky looked out his office window. He removed a piece of paper folded inside his wallet. He dialed.
Lita returned from treatment. She shut the door, looking profoundly tired, and grabbed the phone, too winded to speak.
“They call it treatment, but I call it torture. What’s wrong?”
“Nothing. I just lost a major deal because the client didn’t like my taste in ties.”
“These things happen, right?”
“I just want to punch somebody!” he snarled.
“Of course you do.”
“You know anyone?”
“Maybe, but she’s not cheap. In fact, I hear her rates have just gone up.”
“Good for you,” Corky said.
“Body shot or head shot?”
“This is crazy!”
“Don’t hang up! I’ve had worse things done to me lately. What’s another bruise? I hear you can do wonders with modern make-up.” She grabbed a magazine, pretending to read. “In a recent survey, three out of four physically abused women—”
“If you could use the money...”
* * *
Corky filled up at a gas station. He noticed a fundraising event across the street. Attendees were demolishing a car with a maul. A student sat in a patio chair holding a sign: Dollar a swing. Corky walked across the road and paid his money. He smashed down one, two, three times, then handed the maul back.
“Feel any better?”
“It’s just not the same.”
“Same as what?”
* * *
Corky cradled the phone close. “Lita, is that you?”
Lita looked defeated, with deep circles under her eyes. “I hadn’t heard from you in a while. I was afraid you’d found someone else.”
“No one else is your kind of crazy.”
“Tough times call for tough choices,” said Lita.
“Still need money?”
“Poor dear, the mattress full?”
“I’ve hit bottom,” Corky said. “My wife’s leaving. My business partner’s disappeared with a chunk of company capital. I’m mad at the whole world! And I’m afraid.”
“Afraid of what?”
“You’ve done so much for me.”
“You’ve done so much to me.”
“I need something bigger.”
“Tell me.” She fanned through her bills. “Maybe we can help each other.”
* * *
Lita, with her wig and makeup, appeared more vital than she had in weeks. It was an act. She walked the quiet street, humming a song playing through her ear buds. Corky raced along Main Street. Lita paused at a crosswalk. She looked expectantly down the street as a familiar car approached, then she stepped off.
Copyright © 2017 by Charles C. Cole