I completely misread this prompt and, when I’d finished writing the story, decided I liked it better than if I were the one buying the curse.
You always wipe down the chair once your appointment has left. Basic hygiene. People sweat, or very occasionally lose bladder control (although that hasn’t happened nearly as much since we got the new chickens in). Once I’d finished my quick wipe around, I sat behind my desk and tapped the intercom.
“Hello Susan, would you send my two o’clock in?”
It’s already two fifteen, but I’m lucky to be only fifteen minutes behind. The last one, Mrs Shapiro, was a talker. I busy myself with the computer for a moment. Next on the list is Mr. Blakeney of Hatch End. The door opens, and in he steps clutching a trilby in his hand and looking pale and nervous in his sensible tan raincoat.
“Hello, Mr. Blakeney. Do take a seat.”
Mr. Blakeney twitches at this apparent evidence of my powers, even though he filled in the new patient card at reception. But that’ll be Susan for you; a woman so glacial that people forget their own names as they speak to her. Mr. Blakeney sits, and I notice that he’s wearing sensible brown corduroy trousers and some battered Hush Puppy shoes. He hasn’t bought clothes since the 1980s. Oh dear.
“And what can I help you with today, Mr. Blakeney?”
Mr. Blakeney peers at me through his black framed glasses that look to be in need of a good clean. He grips the mean little brim of his hat and rotates it nervously. The hat makes it through 360 degrees before he says
“I thought you’d be, you know…”
“Well…errr…” He falters. He stands up and sits down again. “Yes?”
I smile. Time to do the reassuring professional bit.
“Not to worry, Mr. Blakeney. Ever since the National Health Service started offering Complimentary Medicine and Sympathetic Magic, the two disciplines have attracted less…traditional…practitioners over time. I got my degree from Bristol. You can’t get much more British than that.”
He seems relieved and disappointed at the same time. The idea of blacking up is, of course, massively racist but sometimes I think people expect it. And for me to wear a bone through my nose. No one understands that there are European traditions that go back almost as far and…
Mr Blakeney is talking again, which is good, but I’ve been ignoring him which is bad. In my defense, he’s terribly easy to ignore.
“…fence” says Mr. Blakeney with some finality. I raise an eyebrow.
“I am, of course, here to help you feel better Mr. Blakeney, but I find it helps if you just cut to the chase, as it were, and tell me what it is you actually want.”
He blinks. He doesn’t know.
“Well,” he says “I thought you might…curse him? A bit?”
“Yes, you know, nothing fatal. Nothing horrid.”
“Just mildly, then?”
“Yes. So he’s inconvenienced, and he knows it!”
Ah. I don’t say things like ‘not enough for him to countercurse you, or litigate or anything’. I flip through my copy of Crowley’s Almanack while I think.
“Well, Mr. Blakeney, it all rather depends on whether you can provide me with any further information about the target. I can work with a name, or a physical description, or…”
“What could you do with a name?” he asks.
“Well…I could make sure his shoe laces never tie, or once they’re tied never untie. Or I could ensure he always loses his bus ticket?”
Mr Blakeney considers this.
“No good,” he says “he wears slip ons. Orthopedic ones at that! And he never takes the bus.”
“Well, for something stronger we’re going to need more. Fingernail clippings, or a strand of hair, for example.”
Mr Blakeney reaches into his coat pocket and pulls out a plastic bag, like one of those little evidence bags the police use, and there’s something pale and semi-translucent inside. After a moment, it’s like when you’re staring at an optical illusion and can suddenly see a rabbit or a woman’s head instead of a duck, or something, because suddenly it’s a little sandwich bag containing a used condom. Oh dear. This isn’t a neighbourly tiff over a garden boundary at all.
“Well, I think I could probably do rather a lot. The question is, how far are you willing to take this?”
The sad, doughy little man is changing before my eyes. The evidence of his wife’s infidelity before him, his lips pulled away from his teeth in a nearly savage smile that has nothing whatever to do with humour, Mr. Blakeney looks like a very angry guinea pig that has somehow got hold of a gun.
“Maybe” he says “we can do more than just inconvenience him?”
“Don’t forget, Mr Blakeney, the NHS can’t cause actual harm. It’s not like I can drop a piano on him or anything.”
“What about limiting him in some personal way?”
I think about this. I nod.
“Oh yes” he says. “That would be satisfying. Perhaps when he’s been drinking? I know he likes a drink before they have their…trysts”
I’ve never heard the word spoken with that much venom before.
“So you’d like his bedroom performance to be hampered and limited whenever he consumes alcohol..?”
“More than one glass of alcohol” says Mr Blakeney “Yes.”
“Any particular reason for being so specific?” I have to ask.
“Well,” says Mr. Blakeney “I don’t want to inhibit his performance with me“.
Which is why you should always, always pay close attention to the initial consultation.