By David Satterlee
A Fergus Johnson story of gender relations
[Note: Contains some suggestive allusions and mild profanity.]
“You know, I think that women like to touch me” mused Fergus Johnson. Fergus obviously hadn’t actually intended to speak although this was a men’s support group and everybody was expected to share. It had just kind of slipped out as the subvocalization of a personal epiphany. Bobby, who had been revisiting his whine about striking out with women at bars, stopped in mid-sentence and looked puzzled.
Dr. Anderson, always looking for something to add some semblance of newness to the weeks-long rambling bitch session [pun might or might not be intended], urged Fergus: “Go with that.”
Fergus seemed to stare vacantly at the Kewpie doll on one of Dr. Anderson’s shelves across the room. “I’ve just been starting to notice a trend is all.” He paused again, his eyes flickering up and to the right as he searched his memories. “My waitress at breakfast this morning put her fingers on my shoulder several times. And, I’ve started noticing that when I stand talking to a woman, it’s not unusual for them to reach out and briefly put their hand on my arm.”
“That kind of thing happens.” Observed Larry the Letcher, hopefully.
“Yes,” Fergus continued, “but I’ve just started noticing how frequently it happens. I’ve always just taken it for granted. It’s like my uncle Bucky who always heard a little voice in his head telling him the answer to math problems in school. He named the voice Minerva and assumed for years that everybody had the same kind of experience.”
Larry wasn’t done being jealous. “My uncle, the Reverend Poleaxe, is always talking about what Our Lord Jesus tells him to do.”
Fergus considered this briefly. “Yes, but Minerva’s answers were usually wrong.”
It occurred to Larry that his uncle, the Reverend Poleaxe, was prone to some rather lameass decisions that probably shouldn’t be laid at the hem of Our Lord Jesus’ outer garment.
Things were starting to drift out of focus again and Dr. Anderson, beginning to entertain his own fantasies, redirected: “You were talking about women touching you.” Jordan Nickerson and Lucky Joe leaned forward in their chairs.
“I guess it has been going on for a long time. It’s more than Aunt Fancy mussing up my hair and Granny Gooch insisting on being kissed on the lips. I mean, I must have assumed, as a little kid, that I was just exceptionally cute like everybody said. Mom used to take me to her club meetings. I was as popular as free chocolate.” Larry didn’t have anything to say to this; he just sat there with his jaw kind of slack. Lucky Joe was getting an intense and slightly feral look on his face.
There was no turning back, so Fergus plunged on. “The thing that really got my attention was last week. We were visiting my second wife’s second daughter, Becky. She was having a very stressful time with a difficult situation and was getting really agitated. She was sitting on the sofa and I just got down on my knees in front of her, reached out, and held her hands. She relaxed a little. And then, like an Eskimo offering a visitor the comfort and warmth of his best wife, my wife told Becky: ‘Hug him.’ Becky looked as confused and uncertain as I felt. My wife urged her, ‘There’s something special about the way he holds you. All the tension just goes away.’ I suppose I already knew this at some level, but her definitive assertion was news to me. Becky scooted forward and I reached out and we embraced.” Fergus took a deep breath. It was very quiet. It seems likely that he was the only one breathing at that moment.
“At first, she was real tense; she gave my shoulder a few quick, nervous pats and a short jerky rub. We had both been well-trained in the politically-correct way to formally and safely hug someone when you wanted to be sure that they, and everyone who might notice, didn’t misunderstand your intentions. It didn’t help that, at that moment, we could hear her ex, who had been coerced into helping her move, backing his trailer into the driveway. This was going to have to be quick.
“I was at ease and kind on cruise control at this point. This was as comfortable and natural as holding one of our cats. I told her, ‘You don’t have to pat. You don’t have to rub. You don’t have to worry. Just let it be.’ Her breath caught for a few moments and then she slumped a little: like she had just lost five pounds. ‘There it is’ I said. ‘Okay, we can do that again, later.’ We untangled our arms and our auras and I glanced at my wife. She was just sitting there with a little satisfied half-smile.”
Larry looked up from his reverie and asked, “So did you ever, you know, do that again?” Fergus glanced up with an intense and slightly feral look on his face, held out his arms and replied, ‘No, but do YOU need a hug?”
Copyright 2010, David Satterlee
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