The Medium is the Massage

“So was it worth it?” Kenny bleated. “Was it worth all that money, all that trouble, all that flesh-pressing with these slimy, delusional third world… glamballers, all the humiliation? Walking around for a solid week with our ball sacks dripping sweat and fungus?”

“I thought you were getting your nads de-sweated by that child who thinks he’s a cameraman… and that you’re a director.” Gareth looked around to see if the there was a sufficient audience of young and bi-curious noshing the dinner buffet around the pool at El Faro to bring out the full flower of Kenny’s pissiness. Saw nothing but tepid, wind-down conversation at the pool bar, micro-mini-mogulettes and mogulitos slacking off after ninety-six hours of everybody pretending to be at some branch eye of the Glamorwood tornado.

“He’s twenty-two, very talented–if raw–and if I’m not a real director of our real film, then what aren’t you?” Kenny somehow managed to give the impression of stamping his feet even though sitting down. Actually so slumped in a lounge chair that he could barely glare over the tabletop into Gareth’s tired and bloodshot eyes.

Gareth sighed. “We got that award.”

“Ooooo, we got an award. A Plexiglas trophy made out of melted-down six-pack thongs for our excellence in cultural portrayal of jailbait poontang wearing nothing but rectal floss and gallons of ersatz blood! They love me, they really love me. I think I spotted one of the busboys who didn’t get an award.”

“Well, I can see somebody got up on the wrong side of the bidet this morning.” No point in trying to talk to the little cumbucket when he was like this. “Tell me when you can do enough of an impression of a sentient being to discuss how we’re going to handle meeting Francis Ford Fucking Coppola and trying to get him in on our film.”

Kenny started to say something twatty, but stopped. He seemed to sort of shake himself off, a Springer Spaniel quiver that shed a rain of petty fuckwittedness all around him and left him reasonably in the clear. He looked at Gareth grimly and said, “We’ve got to grab their attention up there. All of them, not just Mr. Godfather. We have to come on, you know.”

“I know, I know. I just don’t know how, know how. All I have to do is impress a bunch of world-class impresarios.”

“Well think about it. I’m hatching an idea myself.”

“You’re going to think and scheme all evening?”

Kenny stood up and squinted towards their cabana. “I am going to take a nice little nap. What do you think?”

He grabbed his linen man purse and turned to mince off, then turned for a smile he thought was naughty, but actually came off as sort of desperate/degenerate and said, “And star in a little film production of my own.”

“Kenny,” Gareth said, and something naked and plaintive in his voice cut through his partner’s usual camp-out. “Can we get the hell out of this tourist trap piece of shit?”

Kenny started to say something flip, but Gareth slowly stood up and approached him, shaking his head slowly. “You’re right. The award was a sick joke. This whole fiasco was a waste of time, money… air. We’ve got two days until we have to be up at that lodge. Let’s go somewhere quiet and simple and regroup.”

“But Jorge…” Kenny started to say, then stopped and gave Gareth a rare genuine smile and foppishly punched his shoulder. “You’re right, he’s not near as talented as all that. Nor as hung as I’d like, either. Look, how about Tulum?”

“Perfect. Let’s just pack up and check out, right now. And maybe that way we can also lose…”

“Fat chance,” Gareth said in a hollow tone, gesturing towards the deep shadows under the palapa by the steps to the beach. Where a pair of long, lovely legs led up to a white swimsuit filled out by a classy brunette. And beside them sat a hulking figure looking right at them with a relaxed vigilance.

Kenny stiffened, and his whole poise fell apart again on the spot. He lunged over towards Bannock and Loris practically howling. “Bannock, we told you. That first night.”

That first horrible night, Gareth thought, as he followed Kenny over to the man who had dogged their steps for four days. Check into our room and here’s the Angel of Contusions sitting there like he owned the place. Which I suppose he did. Unless somebody wanted to contest the title.

He was past being afraid of Bannock or even angry. He walked over and pulled up a chair, plopped down two feet in front of him as Kenny stood there quaking and making little gibbon faces. He started to speak, but Loris rolled over, graced him with a beautiful smile and passed him a cold beer from the bucket on the table. He took it and nodded to her, genuinely grateful. Something in the gesture redefined the conversation before it even started.

“Look, Bannock,” he said wearily, “What I told you is true. We don’t have it… him. We shipped our gear on ahead so it could clear Belize customs. Oxo’s already in Belize. Safe and sound. There’s nothing you can beat out of us and no point in following us, really.”

Bannock nodded amiably. He was in no hurry. He was like the Mounties or something. Always got his skull.

Kenny finally subsided, sank into a lounger muttering to himself. Loris offered him a beer, too, but he just shook his head and kept on shaking it for awhile.

It was Loris who finally spoke. “Gareth, why don’t you just invite us to come with you?” she said.

Gareth and Kenny stared at her, dumbfounded. Why not just invite us into your bank so we don’t have to fret with all those pesky details like breaking in? Gareth could only think of saying, “It’s by invitation only. Francis’ invitation.”

“But you need an entourage,” Loris told him, and he realized they’d heard what they’d been saying. He opened his mouth, but didn’t get very far.

Loris swiveled gracefully, stood, and walked over to Kenny. “Sweetheart,” she said, “You’re a bundle of nerves. Lie down.” Kenny obeyed, numbly. “No, on your tummy.”

Kenny obeyed silently and humbly, as if he was in the habit of taking orders without thinking about them. Loris moved to his head, knelt, and reached out her hands to cup the back of his skull. The other men watched without speaking or moving: she seemed to broadcast a wave of silence around her, calm spreading out from her like ripples on a pond. As if independent creatures, her hands began to move.

Kenny lay on his back, eyes closed, smiling slightly and radiating a deep, organic peace. Gareth stared at him: the man seemed taller, more substantial, the lines of his face altered by the lack of ego-grubbing and drama. He looked at Loris, sitting beside Bannock on the other lounger. She said, “I’ve been around film people before. You’re a nervous lot. This guy used to take me to parties with him, once to this retreat up in Santa Barbara. I gave massages to whoever wanted them. He said it made them easier to do business with. I thought it made everything more sane and human, is all.”

Gareth stared at her with wonder and even a trace of trepidation. Yea, not only had she heard his prayer, she had answered.

Loris stood smoothly and motioned him to his feet. “Let me show you something,” she said. “This great little club off Fifth.”

Bannock stood up as well, darkening the glow of pool lights and luau lamps, from Gareth’s point of view. He got to his feet and gestured at the raptured Kenny. “Think the hotel will lend us a stretcher?”

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