Wednesday's Three Word Wednesday

The words over at Three Word Wednesday at crumple, illicit and nerve.

Worth Every Penny

The first thing you’ll notice is the cardboard sign, torn from what looks like a packing box, rough-edged, but the lettering, immaculate.
Then you’ll notice his hands, but only when he takes off the cream-colored cotton gloves.
Lotioned and perfumed hands, soft and supple. Clean and pink.
And the nails. Ohhhh, the nails. Professionally manicured, each nail on each finger was filed to a elegant point, not like a spear of a missile nosecone – sharp and overtly sexual – but refined. Mesmerizing.
The rest of him? Unremarkable. Another homeless guy with a beat up Dunkin’ Donut coffee cup begging for your change. Wool trousers that needed mending, a black sweater and a tweed jacket over it, fraying fabric at the elbows, cuffs.
The sign read “Backs Scratched, $20 for 10 minutes. Guaranteed Satisfaction.”
He’d made an easel out of two dented aluminum trash cans and brownstone brick of the building near Washington Square. He was tucked into alley, keeping a sharp eye out for the cops.
“You for real?”
“What you mean, ‘Am I for real?’ he said, cracking his glove-covered knuckles, working the tendons, staying limber, moving his hands in gentle circles like he was conjuring a spirit from his chest. “Course I’m real. Twenty bucks, you’ll see.”
I laughed, despite myself. Looked at the sign. Looked at him. He took off the gloves, put two squirts of lotion into those magnificent hands, raised them, palms up, motioned me in with a wag of his fingers.
I fished out a $20 from my wallet, and pulled it back, just as he reached for it.
“You do anything illicit, go for my nuts or anything like that and I will crumple your ass.”
He laughed through dark teeth and told me to take off my jacket, loosen my tie.
And preceded to rake those nails across the Oxford cloth of my dress shirt. Deliberate, a pattern that seemed to hit every inch of skin across my back. Eyes closed, a dreamy trance, I didn’t see the line forming behind me until he patted the hollow between my shoulder blades and announce the end of 10 minutes.
I looked at my watch, woozy.
In a world where bliss is measured in ticks of clocks, it was one of the most satisfying 10 minutes I’ve ever spent. Top 5, anyway. Nearly better than sex. Nearly.
“This is my outlet location,” he said as he readied for the next client, more lotion, more knuckle-cracking. “Usually, you can find me on the Upper West Side, West 78th, near the museum.”
And tucked a cream-colored business card into my shirt pocket.
All it read was “BACKSCRATCHER” in bold block letters.
My back tingled the rest of the afternoon, the occasional gooseflesh shiver, bliss.
I got out of the taxi on Columbus Avenue, absently flipped the cabbie the fare, began a nervous search for the back-scratcher. Licking my lips, sideways glances, desire like burning lust guiding my breath. Short, addict gulps.
And there he was, six deep in waiting customers.
Except he had a new sign, same torn edges, same tidy lettering.
“Backs Scratched, $100 for 10 minutes. Guaranteed Satisfaction.”
Crestfallen, I cut in front of a woman dressed like Annie Hall, and blurted out my argument.
“You’ve got some nerve, jacking the price like that!”
He smiled through those dark teeth, sucked on them, grinned, put those glorious fingers together, pulled them apart, so just his fingertips touched and pointed them at me.
“The nerve? The nerve? I’m providing a valuable service here, my man. Get in line or get going down the road.”
Wiping sweat from my brow, I absentmindedly gave the last guy in line a $5 bill to hold my place, while I searched out an ATM.
“Worth every penny,” he called out, laughing.


Sepiru Chris said...

Mind find.

gautami tripathy said...

Just as writing for 3WW is worth it...

illicit nerves crumple

anthonynorth said...

We'll do anything once addicted. As Gautami indicates. As with these prompt sites - NEARLY as good as sex ... as you say.
Great story.

Tumblewords: said...

Upwardly mobile...

missalister said...

That’s a top-flight piece of work, ThomG!

Lucy said...

haha this was great Thom! what exactly did he do that was worth going back for extortion? that was no normal back scratcher! loved this line so much...
“You do anything illicit, go for my nuts or anything like that and I will crumple your ass.”
haha still smiling over here!

~willow~ said...

I will crumple your ass? LoL! Was this written before or after the Christian Bale outburst hit the news? :D

The homeless backscratcher is going to learn too soon about how jacking up prices might work in the short term, but will hurt in the long term...

This was really well done, Thom, I was so totally there with the MC as the back was getting scratched, and that feeling a little woozy afterwards - perfect! :)

Sepiru Chris said...


I had to come back to read this again. It's that much fun. Those fingernails are so creepy. I dreamed of them; high praise.

Also, I wanted to clarify something I said on my comment site, about you writing in Finnish, but not.

The allusion to Finnish is that Finnish is an incredibly dense language.

People think that Finns are shy, but they are really just trying to get fifty or sixty verbs conjugated, and nouns declined, in one word.

Lord of the rings, all three volumes? haiku in Finnish...


Ann (bunnygirl) said...

I loved this. It's weird and quirky, delightfully real to its own internal logic.

Pretty Me!! said...

Wow !! where do you come up with such brilliant ideas ??

Fledgling Poet said...

This was fantastic! What a gift you have. Wow. And this part made me laugh out loud:

“You do anything illicit, go for my nuts or anything like that and I will crumple your ass.”

Your writing always draws me in immediately -- thank you for another great read!

M as in Mint said...

haha! Quirky story, super detail ...absolute fun!

lissa said...

great story, nice take on 3ww

Amarettogirl said...

Oh my ... I remember reading you way back when I was more regular at 3ww...what a high this was... I don't ever remember being this glued to the screen during a long read - one that was oh so well worth it! I absolutely love this and what eloquent writing, the descripts in the beginning are excellent and I agree with Lucy - thats no regular backscratcher! What a wonderful piece of writing - brilliant - thank you!

Daily Panic said...

excellent story. Out of the ordinary characters with real temptations.

rebecca said...

That's one hell of a backscratcher! And, just one question: is this non-fiction?

totomai said...

it was an enjoyable read. made me feel i was there witnessing the events. lol