February 1, 2009

Health & Beauty


by KJ Hannah Greenberg

Lila carefully trimmed around the mosquito bite. She smoothed soap over her thigh and calf, using her razor to wipe away aisles of lather. Thereafter, she shaved her other leg, rubbing soap into curls, rinsed her shampoo, applied conditioner, and sheared under her arms. Gingerly, she cut.

Next, Lila rubbed over her belly’s rounded fullness, and swabbed her breasts, her shoulders, her neck and her face. She lifted her chin to the faucet, rinsed, checked for lingering soap and then turned off the water.

Lila stepped onto the mat where the droplets ran off of her. She leaned naked, over the sink, to brush and to floss. An oral surgeon had said that Lila’s mouth was exceptionally healthy.

The bathroom door opened a few inches. The fat, grey walked in, back arched, whiskers protruding. It rubbed against Lila's calves, turned around and rubbed again, singing as it caressed.

Lila wrapped a towel around her head, walked to the bedroom and dressed. Marty was still sleeping. The tan and brown lay curled by his feet, purring at Lila, who was donning underwear.

The black, curled around Marty’s head, meowed. Lila petted him while opening her sock drawer.

After securing her shirt and sweats, Lila plodded into the kitchen. She pulled milk, and whole grain bread, yogurt and a banana from the refrigerator. She put everything, except for the bread, into the blender. Adding vanilla and cinnamon, Lila frowned her forehead into creases. The doctor wanted her to lose fifty pounds. Soon, she would have to tell her friends that she was on a diet.

She would have to publicly declare "no thank you" and maybe even cart special food to picnics and parties. Ordering in restaurants would elicit comments. Entertaining would become nightmarish. “Proper” people did not need diets.

“Proper” people exercised regularly, drank moderately, and swallowed their tranquilizers in private. Such persons ate salads with their steaks and ordered decaffeinated coffee with their cream pie. Marty drank diet cola alongside of his jumbo sundaes.

Lila stared at the food plan. Exchanges. Free foods. Tofu.

Lila liked tofu, but had forgotten to buy it. Upon discovering her omission, Lila had meekly raised the point with Marty. He reminded Lila that they had agreed to shop only once a week, kitty litter and white bread, excepted. The doctor had asked if Marty sabotaged Lila’s eating or exercising. Lila had meant to say “no,” but was interrupted by the doctor, who answered for her that “men are insecure.”

In truth, Marty had scoffed at the doctor’s vision. Lila had answered him with declarations of love.

Some of Lila’s corpulence had come from Thomas Jefferson College’s cafeteria--one faculty benefit had been free chow. Lila, who had been resentful about salary, had exploited the school’s dessert line.

Other pounds were attributable to the lawsuit. Doughnuts, chocolates, and corn chips eased the process. Lila stopped nightly, en route from lecturing, at convenience stores. An older woman who managed one of those small town stands had begun to recognize Lila as “the snack lady.” Subsequently, Lila stopped for treats at the gas station in the next village. Lila bought three chocolate bars each time she stopped.

Although Lila had rung up the miracle place in Florida, she and Marty lacked the requisite twenty thousand dollar payment. Besides, Marty had argued that Lila’s pathology warranted no rehab. Lila’s doctor, too, had countermanded against committing Lila; Lila was not obese, just overweight. The doctor, however, had insisted that Lila pay to see her twice weekly. In the end, Lila stayed home and measured yogurt smoothies. She weighed cherries and leveled off cups of oatmeal.

Silently, but expectantly, the cats padded to the kitchen. Noiselessly, they waited for their kibble and clean water. It was their morning ritual.

KJ Hannah Greenberg’s layered narratives have been published/accepted in an eclectic mix of dozens of venues worldwide, including Australia’s Language and Culture Magazine, and Antipodean SF, Israel’s Mishpacha Magazine, The Jerusalem Post, and The Shiur Times, the UK’s Morpheus Tales, The Mother Magazine, and Winamop, and the USA’s AlienSkin Magazine, The American Journal of Semiotics, and The Externalist. KJ Hannah Greenberg is a former National Endowment for the Humanities scholar, the mother of adolescent sons and daughters, and the caretaker of an entire hibernaculum of imaginary hedgehogs.