Another day, another client - then a bombshell remark

Welcome to the Evening Echo’s annual feature — Summer Soap. Launched last year, Summer Soap is a daily fictional serial run over 12 parts, which began on Monday and runs each day in the Echo for a fortnight. Called Personal Services, this story was written by Sue Dukes of Skibbereen, and is one of two soaps chosen from work submitted by students of the MA in Creative Writing Programme at UCC. In this third chapter, the secret of Madge’s tattoo is out!
Another day, another client - then a bombshell remark
"They all talk sooner or later, I put it down to the couch, with its white faux leather and glitzy trim."

Episode 3

THE jangle of that door-bell reminds me I’m alive, and God knows, there are times that surprises even me. Annie is one of my regulars. She’s getting on a bit, but still in love with herself, and that’s unusual.

“What can I do you for, today?” I ask.

“Just a quickie today, Madge.”

“What, not the full McCoy?”

She sighs. “You have no idea how I’d love to lie back and get a good going-over, but life gets so damned complicated at times. Alan’s being a pain and Julie’s at work so I’ve got to get the grandkids from school in an hour, and they have no respect.”

“Get your togs off, then. Hop up onto the couch.”

“Start at the feet and work up, would you, Madge?”

“My pleasure.” Some have a thing about butts, some about bellies, but no-one’s enigmatic about feet. It’s love or hate; all or nothing. “Now, lie back and get it off your chest.”

They all talk, sooner or later. I put it down to the couch, with its white faux leather and glitzy trim. It takes people into a different world, one where they’re special and the pressures of living vanish.

‘I thought it was hard being Mum,’ Annie says, ‘but then you get older and you’re looking for a rest and your kids want you to be Mum all over again. I’m tired, you know, with all that fetchin’ and droppin’.

“Oh, it’s just today, then just tomorrow, and just the next day, and ‘Oh, gran, you’re the best’. I don’t know why they had the kids at all if herself can’t be after taking the time out to rear them.

“I mean, she goes on about how hard it is, and her with a four-bedroomed house and two bathrooms. Two! I ask you, and us back-along with just the four walls, an outside lav’ and a line of kids. Oh, God, Madge, that’s good. Press harder will you, dear?”

I press and she practically growls with enjoyment. If I say so myself, I’m good at what I do. I’ve seen a few bones in my time, and know only too well how they all fit together. Yeah, I’ve seen it all, and then some.

“See the thing is, they want it both ways. They want the kids, but they also want the freedom. In my day if you had kids you couldn’t work, and that was that. It was the law. I’m not saying that was right, but new things aren’t always for the better, you know. Not that I’d have thirteen kids again, not if I had the choice. Just look at me!”

We both look.

“Sure, you’re a big baggy in places, love,” I agree, “but you have lovely skin, still.”

“Oh, do you think so?”

“There’s youngsters would give their eye teeth for skin that clear,” I lie.

We’re silent for a minute while I work away where she most needs it. Then she gives a big sigh.

“Madge you’re a bloody treasure. There’d be a sight less stress about the place if there were more like you.”

I chuckle. “There’s more like me than you know, love. They aren’t all as open about it, is all. There, get yer togs on.”

“Lord, is that the time? I’d better hurry and get those kids.” She tips me a wink as she smartens herself up. “Go on, show us your prison tattoo, Madge.”

Hell’s chiming bells, was that all over the neighbourhood? I’d have the bloody Guards knocking on the door next.

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