The End Place

by

Arnold Emmanuel




"We're going to jazz you up," exclaimed Sharon, the young lady with long black hair. She wore a brown cardigan sweater, buttoned at the top, over a white t-shirt and light brown dress pants.

"Okay," said Crease groggily as she put his arm in hers, dragging him along. Crease was no puppy dog, but he was just wondering where his bed had gone. One moment, he's sleeping, next moment he's here with this Sharon person. He didn't mind -- she wasn't all that bad looking.

"We think you'll like what we have to offer," said Suzanne. She was blonde, and wore a white cardigan sweater over a white t-shirt with brown dress pants. The cardigan-t-shirt-dress pants combination wasn't exactly a uniform, unless the sweater color indicated rank or function (like the expendable red-shirt guys on that old TV show), but still ...

Crease felt the side of his face, wishing he had time to clean himself up, but he guessed that he didn't. He was led into a small room. To his left was an open closet filled with sweaters, jackets and shirts all hung up. Black, brown, blue, and many shades and hues he couldn't even name. The walls were all white, the inside of the closet a chestnut brown. He felt himself shoved into an orange beanbag chair. The thought of beans made him hungry.

"Well, Mr. Crease," said Suzanne, the blonde, holding out a beige sweater and smiling as if she had just won the lottery. "What do you think?"

"It's nice, but really this is too much." Crease wondered if he'd have time for a coffee.

"Not too much at all." Sharon held a pair of freshly washed and ironed jeans draped over her soft unblemished hands.

Crease was impressed. Maybe if she was through dressing him, she'd give him a massage. Crease rubbed the side of his neck a bit. Hard bed, or things on his mind? Hard bed, decided Crease. "I like those jeans."

"We figured you might." Suzanne danced lightly. "I just know today will be so exciting."

"Indeed it will." Crease smiled wryly. "So do you ladies take turns talking? Suzanne, why don't you say something again? Let's break the rules of convention."

"You're very silly, Mr. Crease..." Sharon blushed slightly as she laughed.

"And what would you have me say, Mr. Crease?" Suzanne tossed the sweater, hitting Crease's chest. She put her hands on her hips and kissed the air.

"Very mysterious." Crease lifted an arm and felt himself sinking into the chair. "Is there a place I can change or can you ladies handle a one-man show?"

Sharon giggled, covering her mouth. "Mr. Crease!"

Suzanne pulled Crease out of the chair, and then shoved him to the right, down a hall. "Dressing room over there, Mr. Crease." She floated close to him and whispered in his ear: "Dress, dress, dress, Mr. Crease."

"Dress, dress, dress, Mr. Crease," repeated Sharon. She threw the jeans and jumped up and down excitedly, clapping her hands, as the jeans landed on his head.

"Dress, dress, dress!" chanted Suzanne and Sharon together.

"You ladies have had too much oatmeal!" yelled Crease, bursting through a wooden door about 12 inches above the ground. He stepped in the change room then locked the door. As sweet as they were, he didn't need any surprise groping. He slipped off his grey jogging pants and ratty old t-shirt. The jeans were a snug fit and the sweater draped nicely along his body. On a small ledge he noticed a pair of black socks and dress shoes. He put those on, walked around in the small change room, then thrust the door open, holding his old clothes in his hands.

Sharon and Suzanne were standing there, still beaming, their teeth pearly white.

"How do I look, ladies?"

"Splendid!" exclaimed Suzanne.

"We'll take those." Sharon raised her dark eyebrows indicating Crease's personal items.

"Sure, they're old anyway." Crease shrugged as he handed over his old clothes and watched Sharon dump them in a huge plastic bag, taping the ends together with masking tape and writing something on it with a red felt marker. "Fancy. Speaking of which, how am I going to pay for all this?"

"All taken care of," said Suzanne, giving him a warm smile. She tossed her hair back.

Sharon walked out of the room, leading Crease and Suzanne down the hall. Crease put his arm around Suzanne, deciding that blondes were more fun. She giggled under his touch and winked at Sharon who turned her head slightly, smirking. Crease frowned slightly, noticing the little cross trinket on Suzanne's neck. He played with the necklace.

"Now, now, Mr. Crease, careful with those hands," laughed Suzanne. She kissed him lightly on his lips.

"I take it you're married?" Crease didn't see a wedding ring on her finger, but it never hurt to ask. It always set the rules for the playground.

"Does it really matter, Mr. Crease?" said Sharon.

"I was asking Suzanne, actually." Crease rolled his eyes. This stupid taking turns speaking was stupid.

"What's important is you," said Suzanne with tears in her eyes. The smile faded for a second and her body felt limp.

Crease ran his hand along Suzanne's back. "You okay?"

"She's fine," answered Sharon.

"And here we are," Suzanne said, her smile back in place. She took Crease's hand and led him into the new room.

"Jacques," said Sharon folding her hands in front of her, still holding the plastic bag of clothes. "This is Mr. Crease, the newest addition here."

"Oh my..." Jacques jumped out of a big chair. He was blonde as well, his hair short, but sticking up all over the place. He wore a long sleeved red shirt with flowers on it and pink pants. "Well, well, have a seat, Mr. Crease."

It was obvious to Crease that he was in a hair salon. The chair he sat in was big and had armrests that supported his arms nicely. From the look and feel, they were covered in good-quality leather with enough padding underneath to make them as soft as pillows. He felt the chair move up in small increments, then a black curtain hit his chest. Jacques taped tissue paper around his neck and fastened the black drape with the deftness of long practice.

"Comfy, Mr. Crease?"

"Naturally." Crease noticed someone in a chair beside him. He was balding and sported a brown mustache. Almost looked like a prizefighter. The balding man had creases in his forehead and looked sad. Crease laughed softly at his choice of word. "No pun intended, Crease," he mumbled to himself.

"What's that, Mr. Crease?" asked Jacques shaking a water spray bottle. He sprayed Crease's head gingerly.

"I figure just a bit off the top."

"Oh, I'm afraid I'm suppose to do more than just a little, Mr. Crease." Jacques smiled at him in the mirror, brandishing a pair of sterling shining silver scissors.

Crease closed his eyes as he was getting cropped. It didn't hurt a bit. Felt better. His head felt lighter, more moveable. From time to time he would open his eyes and watch as Jacques lifted the scissors in the air and charged at Crease's head again. Crease shrugged at the strange motion. The haircut was presumably free, like everything else in this place. Then he felt the bristles slap his face gently, signaling the end. The cut looked good.

"Well," said Jacques, slapping Crease's shoulders lightly with his hands. "I'll just get a mirror so you can see the back." He danced away to the back room.

"So what are you in for?"

Crease looked around, then saw the balding man staring at him. "Me?" The balding man's hairdresser was probably in the back too, guessed Crease. Crease felt the stubble along his cheeks.

"Yes." The balding man extended a hand. "I'm Alex ,by the way."

"Alex?" Crease shook his hand. "Nice to meet you. I'm Crease."

"Crease?" Alex extended his bottom lip. "That's an odd name."

"You got a problem with it, take it up with my mother." Crease admired himself in the mirror, examining the sides of his head. It was almost a military kind of haircut.

"So what are you in for?"

Crease sighed. He hated that question. "Just a haircut. And you?"

Alex sighed, looked at the floor. "Well, I beat my wife to death."

"Good for you."

"Yeah. She had it coming though. Always pushing me and pushing me, and finally I really had it. Complaining about this and that. Guess this time, she never woke up. You know how it is, man. They just get in your way and you have to like push them away." Alex wiped his eyes.

Truly pathetic, thought Crease. "Yeah, I know how it is. You did the right thing." Crease was glad he was more of a man than this wimp was. "I know how it is. You try to lay down the law and they become ungrateful."

"Ah, getting acquainted!" Jacques danced to the back of Crease's chair and held up the mirror. "Well, sir?"

"Nice work, Jacques."

"I aim to please, Mr. Crease." Jacques flung off the black curtain and removed the tissue paper collar. "You're free to go. Someone should be outside with the key to your room. There you may freshen up some more and order room service --"

Crease leapt from the chair. "Room service I like." Crease looked over at Alex who was just staring at the ground sadly. Crease smirked. "Lighten up, Alex, you get room service."

Life never felt better to Crease. The shower was great and the place provided shaving materials. He hoped everyday was like this. He had on his new jeans, shoes and beige sweater. The walls were white. There was a double bed, beside it an end table with the bible and a phone on it. A table with a couple of chairs was near the window that provided a nice view of the ocean. He had already called room service. Now all he had to do was wait.

A knock on the door.

"It's open," said Crease curtly.

A blonde boy wearing red pants and a red jacket came in, wheeling a cart. He lifted a plate with a steel dome lid and set it on the table. "There you are, sir. Please enjoy." The boy lowered his head and walked to the hallway.

"Hey wait!" Crease ran after him.

The boy stopped, obedient. "Yes sir?"

Crease felt inside his pockets, but there was nothing there. "I thought I'd ... have something."

"Oh!" The boy laughed, waving Crease's words away with his hand. "No worries sir, gratuity already taken care of." Crease watched the boy turn, go down the hall, and enter the elevator.

"This gets better and better," said Crease to himself as he closed his door and sat down at the table to his meal. He lifted the lid, setting it on the other chair. Steak and potatoes, his favorite. Too bad his girlfriend didn't know how to cook potatoes. No matter how hard he had tried to teach her, she just never got it right. They were always undercooked, almost as crisp as an apple. Now, these potatoes were perfect. "Just great." Crease took another spoonful of potatoes. "Room service, you've really outdone yourself, my compliments to whoever." The steak was the juiciest he'd ever tasted, obviously aged and marinated well. Again, no matter how hard he had tried, his girlfriend never got it right. "Guess some people were born stupid." He flexed his hand.

####

The elevator opened to the basement floor. Crease stepped out of it and looked at the piece of paper that the blonde boy had given him. B34. There were doors to his right and to his left. Even numbers on the right: 2, 4, 6. Crease kept moving. He felt his stomach and let out a small burp. He didn't think anyone heard. Who would have an office in a basement? Usually the basement served as the janitorial area. Oddly enough, the floor was well lit. 34. Crease opened the grey door. He closed it and saw a desk with a woman seated behind it.

She wore a lab coat, glasses, and her hair was cut short. Not Crease's type, although from the desktop up, she had a great bod, firm but curvy. If he could only get a look at her legs ...

"Can I help you?" The woman put down her pen. Her lips were thin, though affable.

"I'm Crease. I believe I was told to come here." Crease stood taller, surveying the possible kitten. "Guess I'll take a seat." Crease looked over at the few chairs that served as the waiting room.

"Ah, yes, Mr. Crease." She smiled for the first time, devilishly. Crease decided she was worth it. "The Father is expecting you."

"Great." Some religious nut.

"Go right in, Mr. Crease."

Crease saw a door to his right, this one brown. Grey door, then a brown door. Crease shook his head. Not exactly color coordinated, but at least he had a good meal. He opened the door and laughed. Close to the door he saw a girl holding a balding man -- the balding man from Jacque's little salon.

So Alex wanted to see him? Father Alex. Very amusing, thought Crease. Alex was crying and his face was red. He looked like one of those bawling babies, except in this case you wanted to smack the man back into him.

"There, there," said the girl, patting Alex's back. "Why don't you go back up to your room and we can talk more later, okay?"

"Okay," said Alex glumly, letting go of the girl and wiping his eyes with the sleeve of his sweater. "So, no massage?"

The girl laughed. "No, no massage. Not today."

Alex held a hand to his chest, letting out a breath. "Thank you, God."

The girl smiled, opened the door for Alex and watched him leave.

Crease came to a realization after the girl closed the door: Alex had flipped his lid. Who would be happy about not getting a massage?

"Mr. Crease?"

"Yes, that's me." Crease saw the girl smile. She wore a white long-sleeved blouse with light blue jeans. He liked how he almost towered over her, but that was mainly because of her reserved, demure demeanor.

"Have a seat, Mr. Crease." The girl gestured to the chair with its back to the door. Crease sat down and she sat down opposite him. A table separated them both. Crease wasn't interested in removing the table. The receptionist would be good enough. The girl crossed her legs. "We've been expecting you."

Crease smirked and saw a teddy bear on the floor. "So I take it the bear talks too?"

"No, he's just there if you need to hold him."

"That sounds like a good idea." Crease shook his head. "If I was five." The girl had auburn hair and her eyes looked glassy, tired, but still receptive. "I take it you're the Father?"

"Yes," said the girl with a small smile. "I am the Father."

"But you're a girl."

"Yes, I am."

"Okay, I'll bite." Crease covered his mouth with a fist and coughed lightly. "Anyway, Father, what's this massage? That sounds like a plan."

"I thought we'd talk first. Help yourself to some tea."

Crease noticed two cups on the table along with a Kleenex box. He took a sip. "Tea time already?"

"To help you relax."

"As well as yourself." Crease gestured to her cup.

"Precisely, Mr. Crease." The Father took a sip of her tea.

"Don't like talking to shrinks though."

"I'm not a shrink, Mr. Crease. I am the Father." The Father furrowed her brow. "So, Mr. Crease, do you know why you're here?"

"Because I'm getting a massage?"

"Well ... not exactly. Tell me about your girlfriend." The Father drank some tea, looking at Crease with watery eyes.

Crease smiled. Damn shrink. "What's to tell? She was my girlfriend, now she's not."

"That's because she's dead." The father sighed.

"At least you get to the point, Father." Crease clapped his hands. "Didn't think you shrinks had it in you."

"I don't think I've reached the point, Mr. Crease. Maybe you could do that? Might help you feel better."

Crease sipped more of his tea. "I feel fine. How about you? I've never felt better. I have new clothes, had a good meal. You look hungry, doctor. You know they have excellent room service. Have a pen, I'll give you the number?"

The Father shook her head. "I'm giving you a chance to make confession." The Father reached over and held Crease's hand gently, feeling the fingers with hers. Her fingers were white, so soft that it was if they weren't even there. "Your hand still feels bruised."

"Bruises disappear, and I have nothing to confess." Crease shot out of his chair, standing tall. "So, about that massage?" Crease drained the rest of his tea, then spun the cup on the table.

The Father looked down at the table and waited until the cup stopped moving. "Yes, the massage." She stood up and smiled again, opening a door behind her. "Right this way." Crease followed as they walked down a long hallway to a grey door with the poison symbol on it. The father knocked on the door, and then opened it.

A lady wearing a lab coat tossed a tongue in the garbage bin. She smiled when she saw the pair enter her lair. She had blonde hair in ringlets and a preternatural shine to her face. Her lips were red. Crease put her on his list -- near the bottom, but definitely way before the Father. Then again, the Father wasn't even on the list. "Hello, Father." She had a husky voice.

"I have someone here for you, Deborah."

"Ah, excellent!" Deborah rubbed her hands together. "Always like clients."

"I'll leave you to it then." The Father smiled but it never reached her eyes. Her eyes were sad, hollow, and still glassy. She put a hand on Crease's shoulder. "I'll pray for you, Mr. Crease."

"You do that." Crease rolled his eyes after she left.

"So, Crease, are you ready for your massage?"

"That I am." Crease smiled and walked over to the massage table that had a long white paper towel on it. "You know, you're the only one in this place who got it right. They all call me Mr. Crease, and that's been really annoying."

Deborah laughed. "Yeah, they can be that sometimes. Me, I don't believe in formalities. I just like cutting straight to the point."

"My kind of woman. What's say after this you and I go grab a drink?"

"More than a drink?"

"Naturally."

Deborah blushed slightly. "Well, I think after this massage, you won't be able to move."

"Sounds like my kind of massage."

"Good, then take off your clothes and we'll get you started."

Crease undressed, then lay on the table on his front. Deborah put a towel on Crease's lower half. She rubbed her hands with bath oil and began kneading his shoulder blades.

"Yes, Crease, you really are tense. It's a good thing I'm here, otherwise your bones would be too hard."

"Yeah, this place has tension. Don't get me wrong, I've enjoyed some of the hospitality, but some of it is weird. Like the Father."

"She is weird, but she means well. The End Place isn't bad. I enjoy working here. You get to meet different people. And the food!" Deborah worked on his neck, licking her lips. "Yup, tension. Usually when you're under a lot of stress or anger, tension mounts in this area."

"You're not asking me to make confession, are you?" laughed Crease. Crease would've been angry, but the tea and Deborah's hard hands were relaxing him.

"Goodness no."

"So this place is called The End Place?"

"Depends on how you look at it, but pretty much, yes." Deborah worked on his lower back. "Not too much tension here. How do you feel?"

"Very relaxed. You have good hands, Deborah."

"Why thank you." Deborah now worked the legs.

"So sad, soon the massage will be over."

"Well, the important thing is that you're very relaxed. Some of my clients end up running around, then I have to chase them. I mean sometimes that can be fun."

"That's so funny, but yeah, I understand. Met a guy who was happy he wasn't getting a massage. Weird guy." Crease yawned as she worked on his arms. "God, I'm tired."

"Feel free to close your eyes."

Crease closed his eyes.

"I'll be right back, just have to get my axe."

"Damn, can't people fax you after the massage?" mumbled Crease.

Deborah returned and felt Crease's neck. He was sleeping now. Deborah lifted the axe in her small hands, brought it close to the neck, then lifted it high into the air, relaxed, and then chopped off Crease's head. The head fell on the floor and she had another mess to clean up. She didn't mind though. "A nice clean cut. No tongue on floor. Good work, Deborah." She smiled, set the axe down and grabbed a couple of knives. She licked her lips. "I think the cook will like this one, very tender."

THE END



2005 by Arnold Emmanuel

Mr Emmanuel tell us: "Currently, I work part-time at a fast food restaurant and try to find time to write. My story Devlin and the Robot Assassin appeared in the July issue of Aphelion, and one of my poems was published in my local university newspaper in 1995.

E-mail: Arnold Emmanuel

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