Tuesday, 25 September 2007


(August's assignment was set by Gloria who selected an opening sentence onto which we must add our own 500 or so words to create a work of either fiction or non-fiction. The opening sentence reads:
"The lot of us met on Saturday afternoon as arranged.")

The lot of us met on Saturday afternoon as arranged. The pub was dim, the conditioned air sharp with the tang of stale beer. It was a little awkward until we’d downed the first round of drinks, then little knots of conversation tied us more firmly together. Besides our reason for meeting, we had nothing in common, so feelers were put out to establish some connection, to soften the business of the meeting with token familiarity.

I looked around at the disparate group with an inward smile. What had I expected – them all to be archetypal nerds, like me? My eyes lingered on a gorgeous woman, too curvy for current tastes, her full hips and breasts somehow perfectly in synch with her pouty lips, as if she could not quite close her mouth properly. Very sexy.

She was chatting with a fortyish, innocuous looking man. In his “casual” chinos and Ralph Lauren polo shirt, he looked pale and soft, probably from hours behind the desk telling others what to do. He cleared his throat several times, and looked at his feet self-consciously. What a place to try to pick up. Oh well, if you got lucky, at least you’d know what to expect later. A skinny girl with dreadful acne on her chin and neck hovered at the edge of the group. She was swathed in black layers, with pants that drain piped her thighs but bagged around her ankles. I’d never liked that look, and the pigeon toed, shuffling walk that went with it. I always think the person is in imminent danger of tripping over.

A solid, shorthaired woman in her mid thirties with a slightly impatient air was standing near an anxious looking younger man in jeans. She gave a cursory nod then looked away whenever he spoke to her. I’ve heard that looking past people when talking to them means you want to be somewhere else. Well, no one dragged her here. The young man was quite ordinary except for his stance; hunched with hands jammed in pockets so hard it’s a wonder he hadn’t torn the bottoms out.

And there was me. When I’d put the notice in the community pages of the paper, I was only half serious. I didn’t think any one would come forward, and here were six of us. I squared my shoulders and cleared my throat loudly to call the meeting to order. The others slid into their seats while I stood at the head of the table.
“Welcome to the inaugural meeting of TA,” I began. “Perhaps we could start with introductions, a brief history of your problem, and what you have tried so far to control it.” I took my place and glanced around enquiringly.

The businessman took the cue, “I’m Stephen. I’ve been doing it forever. It only really became a problem when I moved into my current position, which is quite high-pressure. Before that I could control it.” He took a breath. “I’ve tried all the usual methods to stop, even hypnosis, but I can’t. That’s why I’m here.”

The impatient woman stood. “I’m Anne. I’m a nurse and you’d think that in itself would stop me doing it. So far, nothing has worked, even the rubber band on the wrist to sting myself whenever I want it. I hope coming here isn’t another waste of time.” She sat abruptly.

Mr Average with the pocket problem spoke up. “I’m Tony. I’ve tried all sorts of things, from cognitive-behavioural therapy,” this occasioned a few interested murmurs, “to chemicals. I always find a way to do it, even though I hate myself for it. This is my last hope”

“I’m Jen,” the Bombshell. “I know this sounds bad, but I just really love doing it. No one worried much when I was younger, they just let me go, and now I’m not sure I can stop. Or even if I want to. But I’m getting married next year and my fiancĂ©e says I can’t do it anymore.” Sympathetic looks all round.

“I’m Vanessa,” Girl in Black. “I do want to stop. I’ve got enough problems without this stupid habit. I feel like a freak.”

I stood, “Thank you, every one. I’m Evan, as most of you know. I didn’t really think anyone would come, but I’m really glad you all did. If we achieve nothing else, at least we know we’re not struggling with this alone.” I looked at each face – sullen, impassive, eager, dubious, thoughtful.

“I think I came out of the womb doing it, and I do it every chance I get. Like Jen, I enjoy it, but also, like the rest of you, it causes problems in my life. I too feel like a freak, Vanessa, and hate myself, like Tony.” I nodded at each of them. “I do it when I’m stressed, when I’m tired, lonely, sometimes even when I’m hungry.” Someone snorted with suppressed laughter. “Part of me believes I’ll never stop, but I really want to try. That’s why I created the twelve step program based on AA principles and started this group.” A few nods. “If alcoholics can do it, drug addicts, over eaters and sex addicts, why can’t we?”

Stephen raised his glass, “Here here.” The others murmured in agreement, and Jen smiled and gave the thumbs up. “Here’s to Thumbsuckers Anonymous,” she said.

Gloria Moress ©

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