The Healing Butcher

Gary checked the time on his phone before slipping it back into his pocket. He picked up his car keys from the counter, jangled them a few times in his hand and then threw them with a clatter back onto the counter. No response. He smoothed his trousers and straightened the knot in his tie before pulling out his phone again.
​“Mum, it’s almost 3 o’clock. It’s gonna take us well over an hour on those roads and your appointment is for half four. I’ve been here twenty minutes all ready and don’t feel like wasting my entire evening, as well as afternoon, ferrying you around the place,” he pleaded to an empty room. ​His mother’s silent reply was to purse her lips and apply yet another coat of dark pink lipstick in the hall mirror by the front door. Gary waited in the same spot his father had waited in for thirty years while his wife checked her face. He had spent too many years himself tapping, fidgeting and bouncing next to his dad while his Mum made them wait. His mother’s brown hair never changed so the purpose of patting and poking with a brush was a mystery. The powders and the paints were another delay tactic to irritate him further. His brother Noel had never noticed because he was usually still in the shower or rummaging through the hot press looking for socks while Gary and his Dad waited by the door. His phone buzzed in his pocket and interrupted his growing frustration. He read the message from his very punctual wife, Marie, “Drive here. Had cancellation and will see her straight away.”
​“Mum, I’ll be in the car. I have to give Marie a quick ring back,” Gary called out. The opportunity to interrupt his phone call might lure her out the door a few minutes sooner than normal.
Marie answered on the first ring, “Are you on the way here?”
​“Are you joking? We’re not on the way anywhere. She hasn’t even checked her handbag for her purse or began searching around for her phone. I’m sitting in the car waiting, “he replied.
​“You mean you’re sitting in the car hiding from your Mum like a teenager so she can’t hear you talking to me? “ Marie chuckled.
​“I am not hiding. I am waiting. And I don’t want her butting in on our conversation.”
​“So you told her I had a free appointment and you were bringing her here instead of to that guy?”
​“She won’t come, Lou. I tried just now but she’s dead set on me taking her to the healer out near Kilfinane,” fibbed Gary.
​“Why are you doing this, Gary? It’s crazy. She needs to see a medical professional if her back is that bad and if you think she’s faking than you shouldn’t be condoning her childish behaviour. Best case scenario this joker will just swindle her out of €50 but he could do a lot of damage…Wait, you didn’t even ask her to come here again did you? You didn’t even want to annoy her by suggesting she go see her daughter-in-law, an experienced physical therapist, rather than some bullshit spiritual healer!”
Gary saw his mother appear at the back door with her town coat and handbag. “Marie, I am not afraid of my Mum. She’s going to go whether I bring her or not and you know Noel won’t bother his arse over it. I don’t think it’s a good idea that she drives all the way there alone to some man’s house that she doesn’t know from Adam while he ‘lays hands on her’. We might never see her again. Don’t say it.”
“Well, I don’t think it’s a good idea for you to encourage her blatant disrespect for me by bringing her to see a charlatan rather than insisting she should come see a physical therapist who also happens to be your wife, “said Marie.
​Gary snapped, “This has nothing to do with you and if you’d kept your mouth shut last weekend and ignored her moaning and groaning maybe I wouldn’t be stuck wasting a whole day down here. “
His mother opened the door and stiffly lowered herself into the passenger seat. She tapped her watch for emphasis, “Excuse me Gary but we really better get on the road.”
​Gary rolled his eyes and spoke into the phone, “Never mind, Lou. I should be back by seven so we can meet somewhere for dinner if you’re finished up in the clinic. I’ll ring you after I leave here this evening. Bye.”
​His mother shifted around next to him in the car and clasped her handbag onto her lap as he reversed out of the driveway. “It’s great to have all my chores done and be heading off for the afternoon,” said his Mum. “There’s shepherd’s pie all cooked for Noel’s dinner. I hate to think of the poor créatúr coming home to a cold house with no fire and no food. I should text him and let him know his dinner’s there so he doesn’t stop and waste his money on fast food. “
​“Mum, he’s thirty years old. I think he should be able to sort his own dinner out by now…might even be ready to sort out a house for himself one of these days,” Gary muttered.
​“You don’t understand what it’s like to be all on your own. You have Marie and I’m sure she has dinner ready when you get home in the evening. Well, except for tonight, seems you’ll have to eat out…again. Anyways, you’re in a comfortable office, poor Noel is doing hard farm work all day out in that cold and rain.”
Gary ignored the digs about the farm, his wife’s ‘career’ and the obvious fact that it was neither cold nor rainy today. She always whispered the word career in the same hushed voice she used to describe someone’s ‘nerves’ or fondness of ‘drink’. They never should have gone home for Sunday dinner last week. No matter how many times he had warned Marie to stay away from the topic of his mother’s aches and pains she’d fallen for it again and now here he was ferrying his mother around the country to find a seventh son of a seventh son healer to ‘lay hands’ on her instead of meeting a new client.
His wife’s exasperated voice from last night echoed in his head, “It’s just polite conversation, Gary. How am I supposed to ignore the fact she’s writhing with pain at the dinner table and groaning every time she sits or stands? It wouldn’t be great for business if my mother-in-law is going around crippled with untreated back pain.”
His mother and Mags Kennedy had become experts in alternative therapies in the past few years. The homeopath up the road had built an extension from their business alone. His father had almost had a real heart attack when he’d discovered his wife was lacing his tea with a blood pressure potion for weeks. Then there was the ‘allergist’ who had swung a dangling ring above a piece of paper and declared his mother had an undiagnosed ‘intolerance’ to dairy and wheat. It was just a coincidence that she and Mags had the same intolerances. They both drank black tea for about three days.
​No, she had informed Gary and Marie (Noel was of course exempt from Sunday dinner) this man was the seventh son of a seventh son kind of legitimate. He performed miracles; the real deal. Not medical school, board certified, insured with a practice kind of real deal. Most definitely not referred by his wife, her daughter-in-law the physical therapist, kind of real deal. Mags Kennedy insisted he cured her arthritis by harnessing spiritual energy through his hands. She could feel the warm energy radiating from his hand into her bones and muscles. He had almost choked on his roast potatoes when his mother said ‘magic hands’. That phrase had sealed his fate and now here they were trundling towards a healing. His mother spent a good portion of the journey composing a two line text to his brother about his dinner and then another twenty minutes trying to read his reply. Gary drove past the sign marking the entrance of the small town just before half four and slowed the car as they approached Main Street. He turned to his mother, “Ok, do you have directions from here?” He waited for her to rummage through her handbag and pull out an envelope with fragments of impossible directions down boreens and turns at crosses written on the back. It was inevitable his new car would end up stuck on a muddy track or leaking oil or air out of somewhere. He’d end up knocking on a suspicious door asking for help and then have to admit why they were creeping around these roads. The squinting window brigade would have his PPS number,Twitter handle and blood type sussed before he’d taken his first forced sip of milky tea, let alone choked down a ten pound slice of fruitcake.
​But his mother didn’t even open her bag and instead instructed him to pull over in front of the pharmacy without even pulling out her glasses. Gary was encouraged. If this joker had an office on Main Street, he couldn’t be too dodgy. If he could afford to pay rent on a proper office rather than a cow shed, he must have some track record. If he had lasted on Main Street without being run off by a mob of angry husbands protecting the honour of their mass- going, girdle wearing wives then maybe he wasn’t a sleaze ball. Mags Kennedy and her alternative therapy disciples might have done this seventh son a disservice. He had assumed this creep would be hiding out in a shit stained cow shed up a mountain somewhere if he was ‘the real deal’ according to Mags and his mother. His relief was short-lived.
​“We can park here. His wife said the shop was on the same side as the pharmacy so let’s stroll away until we see it, “suggested his mother. She then hopped out of car with the ease of a twenty year old.
​“What’s the name we’re looking for?” Gary asked as he scanned a couple gold shiny plaques on the doorways they were passing.
​“Michaél Moriarty. That’s the third time I’ve told you that Ger. Tut-Tut,” replied his mother as she halted on the footpath, “Aha, here it is. Mrs. Moriarty did say we couldn’t miss it.”
Ger looked at the butcher shop in front of them and scanned the doorway before the display window. “I don’t see any name plaque. “ Gary tried the door handle but it didn’t move. He turned back to his mother.
​“His office isn’t upstairs.”
​“That’s a butcher shop, Mum. It must be a relation of your man.” His mother stayed quiet.
​He tried again, “So you have to go through the butcher shop to his office upstairs or outback? Well, that’s still better than a shitty shed. I’ll follow you until you knpw he’s here and it’s all above board.”
​“No, Michaél is a butcher. He shares his gift out of a sense of duty, not for money. I’m sure I mentioned he was a butcher. It’s very good of him to fit me in this afternoon during business hours. It looks like a fine shop too. Mags said they do a lovely sirloin. I might treat Noel with a nice piece of steak for tomorrow. Keep his strength up.”
​“You dragged me out of work and all the way to this god forsaken town so that we could buy Noel a nice bit of steak?!” shouted Gary. He released a slow breath and continued, “Ok, if we leave now, I can drop you home and beat rush hour. “
​“I thought we might try out that café next door after my treatment. Mags said-”
​“For fuck s-“
​“That’s enough, Gary. I don’t appreciate that language and I don’t appreciate your attitude. Now I am off to get my back sorted by a seventh son of a seventh son with miraculous powers and I expect you to be waiting right here when I come skipping out- with my sirloin,” interrupted his mother. She pulled open the door and marched into the magic butcher shop. He watched as she ordered and paid for a piece of sirloin from man in his sixties with sagging jowls and two chins. The hefty butcher then motioned for her to come around the counter and his mother disappeared amidst the hanging sides of beef. Gary scuffed back to the car and pulled out his phone. He replied to an e-mail and considered texting Marie. Five minutes later the passenger door opened and his mother stuck her head through and dropped the white plastic bag of steak on the seat next to him.
“What happened? He’s done all ready?” Gary asked.
​“Well he’s done with me. That’s for sure,” his mother answered and then slammed the car door. Gary hopped out and she continued, “What a pig of a man. His wife and grown daughter watching Judge Judy and eating pink wafers on the couch while your man slapped two fat hands on my back. He was still in his bloody white coat and then had to cheek to ‘suggest’ a donation of €50 to cover the cost of his time after I just spend €20 on steak in his shop. Harumph!”
​“I hope you didn’t pay him anything. Oh god. You know Marie will kill me when she hears about this!”
​His Mum snapped, “No, I didn’t make a ‘donation and thanks for your concern.” She sighed and continued in a quiet voice, “Good thing your father’s not alive or he’d have that butcher strung up like a pig by now. And my ear would be burning from the lecture on the way home too. A hot water bottle will sort my back. I just exaggerated a little because I don’t know how else to interest Marie except with aches and pains. Maybe we can just pretend this Moriarty healed my back and not mention Judge Judy or the butcher?” questioned his mother. Gary looked at his mother standing in her rumpled town clothes and thought about the morning of his dad’s funeral. He’d waited that morning too while she applied her pink lipstick in the hall mirror. He saw now that her lipstick was smudged. Black smudges and bags framer her eyes and a few stray hairs stuck up from the back of her head. He pulled his phone out of his pocket, turned it off and brought his mum for a cup of tea.

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