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Contemporary Fiction

“You were doing it for how long?”

“You mean, formally?”

“With them, I mean.”

“A few months.”

“And how long since you stopped?”

“Three months. Two and a half.”

“And why?”

“I just couldn’t do it there anymore. I was in agony. I couldn’t make them understand.”

“But you want to resume? It was valuable?”

“I think so.”

“So you came to me. Why me?”

“We’ve known each other forever.”

“Yes, we have.”

“You’re not a stranger. I trust you.”

“I said I’d help you, and of course I will, but I need to ask a few questions.”

“About what?”

“Lots of things. So I can figure out the best way to go about it. With you, I mean.”

“You already know a lot about me.”

“Not the right things.”

“Okay. I guess.”

“Do you know specifically what they were having you do before?”

“I don’t remember exactly.”

“How often did you go there?”

“Twice a week. I think. Maybe once, come to think of it.”

“And it hurt?”

“Torture. They changed it when it hurt me, but it never helped. Oh, wait, I just remembered. I did it twice a week for awhile, and then once a week.”

“Whose idea was it to cut back to once a week?”

“Theirs. They wanted me to do it at home too after that. To show some progress.”

“And did you?”

“A little bit, for awhile. No, not really, I guess. No.”

“Why not?”

“I was busy?”

“That sounded like a question mark.”

“Well, sometimes I was busy. Sometime I’d have something more important to do. And I didn’t want to do it anyway. I wasn’t up to it. It felt like it hurt even more when I did it on my own.”

“Why do you think that is?”

“Why it hurt more by myself?”

“Yes.”

“No.”

“Then can you tell me which specific parts of it hurt the most?”

“All of it, I think.”

“But some more than others?”

“It’s hard to say. There must have been. It’s hard to remember. Everything sort of blended together.”

“This all seems so vague.”

“It was a blur. A nightmare, really.”

“Can you try to remember? This will be so much better if I know some things.”

“I don’t know what to say.”

“Does this hurt?”

“Ow! Yes!”

“How about this?”

“Oh, ouch! Ow! Ow! Ow!”

“Do you feel like it ever got any better with them?”

“No. They didn’t take my pain seriously.”

“What do you mean?”

“I’d say it hurt and they’d say it shouldn’t hurt.”

“Shouldn’t hurt?”

“Like what we were doing shouldn’t hurt. Like I was overreacting and not being compliant enough.”

“Are you sure that’s what they said?”

“Maybe they said they didn’t know why it should hurt.”

“Big difference.”

“They still thought I was overreacting.”

“Were you?”

“Now you don’t believe me either.”

“It’s not that at all. Sometimes we exaggerate to make a point. Do you think you ever did that?”

“I had to make them understand.”

“Understand what?”

“That I was … that I am different. More delicate than most people.”

“How do you mean ‘delicate’?”

“I feel more pain than other people. No one understands that.”

“How do you know you feel more pain than other people?”

“I just know it. When I’m with someone and they say they’re hurting or sick, I can tell they aren’t suffering as much as I do. I’m very empathetic.”

“You’ve said that before. How do you know you’re empathetic?”

“I can just feel it. I know it deep inside me. We know what we are.”

“Do we?”

“Well, I do.”

“Do you?”

“Some people stifle their inner voice, but I listen to mine. I will not be deaf to myself.”

“That sounds like something in a book.”

“I have a program. A subscription. I listen to it.”

“And it taught you that you’re empathetic?”

“It has helped me to see many things about myself.”

“Why do you want to try this again, if it was so painful?”

“I now know that the pain is important.”

“I don’t know if I can help you.”

“You said you would.”

“It sounds like you welcome the pain, so how can I help you by ending the pain? Why don’t you just go back to them?”

“I don’t welcome pain. I welcome the whole journey. Pain is part of it.”

“Did you expect the pain when you walked in there the very first time?”

“Of course.”

“Then I have to ask. Do you think when they asked you to do these things —“

“Forced me to do them.”

“Ah. When they forced you to do them, did you really feel physical pain or was it just the expectation of pain that made you think you were feeling it? Because you’re so extremely empathetic.”

“I hadn’t thought of that.”

“Consider it. It’s one path to a solution for your problem.”

“I am very sensitive. I feel emotion as much as physical sensation. I feel it here, in my spirit, in the center of my being.”

“The center of your being. I see. Why did you come to me?

“You know.”

“No. Other than our family connection.”

“That’s not it. It’s the other thing.”

“What do you mean?”

“You know.”

“No, I really don’t.”

“You don’t have to deny it. Now I actually know too. In a way, I always knew.”

“Knew what?”

“That you were a powerful healer in a previous life. You are an old soul.”

“And that’s why you trust me.”

“Yes. I give myself over to you. Inflict terrible pain on me. I will bear it.”

“Sorry to laugh, but that’s just silly. I’m not going to inflict pain on you.”

“As you will.”

“I’m your aunt, but I’m also a licensed physical therapist. I’m not here to cause pain, quite the opposite. And I’m not some kind of mystic healer. My soul isn’t any older than anyone else’s.”

“I know you have to say that.”

“Believing this about me is why you were willing to come to me, when the other physical therapists couldn’t help?”

“You understand me better than they ever could. You are wise and powerful. Far more than just an ordinary physical therapist.”

“I see. Then … you know the secret now. What do you feel when I lay my hand on your shoulder, like this?”

“I feel warmth.”

“Take a deep breath and let it out slowly. As you do, can you feel the pain begin to dissipate?”

“Yes!”

“You do. Well. In that case… Yes, I can cure your pain. It will take sixty days. And you have to follow my instructions exactly. Do you believe me?”

“Of course. What do I need to do?”

“Come here twice a week. I will lay my hands on you and you will feel my healing power coursing through your body.”

“And my soul, my spiritual being?”

“Yes, of course, your soul too. I will also teach you some simple body movements that you can do at home, every day, that will help to move the healing energy throughout your body and then into your spiritual being. If you do this, the pain will recede a little bit every day until the end of the sixtieth day, when you will be healed.”

“I knew you could help me.”

“You are so empathetic, no one could fool you.”

“Sixty days?”

“Exactly. Sixty days.”

February 23, 2023 20:26

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15 comments

Kathy Trevelyan
14:16 Feb 27, 2023

Hi Kathryn, I like your story, and the not knowing quite what had been going on. I wonder what she was doing that hurt her so much.

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Kathryn Kahn
20:31 Feb 28, 2023

Thanks for reading it, Kathy, and I'm glad I made you wonder!

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Mary Bendickson
00:46 Mar 08, 2023

Being a Massage Therapist for over 30 years the beginning had me suspicious of some sort of hands on treatment going on. Turned out my hunch was right. Amazing being able to predict exactly when she would be healed. Power of the mind. Good read.

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Kathryn Kahn
20:12 Mar 08, 2023

Very insightful! I've never been a therapist, but I was a physical therapy patient myself for a few months, and it was so interesting to observe how the patients' attitudes seemed to affect their sessions so much. It's impossible not to notice that kind of thing in a PT gym, and I imagine massage is similar.

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Zack Powell
08:36 Mar 03, 2023

This is great, Kathryn. I love you how took something mundane - physical therapy - and really twisted it into something more spiritual, more mysterious. This story has just the right amount of intrigue, just enough details about the patient's past, to keep the pace and keep our interest. And then to layer that past with the faith healer plotline, everything just comes together in the end. I appreciate the ambiguity in this piece, the fact that all our questions aren't magically answered by the end. Makes for a more engaging read when you can...

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Kathryn Kahn
20:17 Mar 03, 2023

Thanks so much, Zack, for your kind comments! I like to explore stories that have to do with point of view and how it intersects with reality, in terms of what people believe to be true. I'm so glad you enjoyed it.

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Wendy Kaminski
15:46 Feb 28, 2023

It definitely kept me guessing (in a good way!), but it finally started dawning on me towards the middle. I liked that (I think?) the aunt picked up on the psychosomatic aspect of what was going on, to where the patient really could cure herself in her own mind, if she believed enough in what was being done externally, and so it seemed the aunt figured that out pretty quickly. :) I enjoyed your story!

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Kathryn Kahn
20:32 Feb 28, 2023

Thanks so much, Wendy. A positive comment from you means a lot. You're such a wonderful writer!

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Wendy Kaminski
21:13 Feb 28, 2023

Well thank you, you're very kind. :)

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05:55 Feb 28, 2023

I really enjoyed the pacing of this. You did a great job maintaining the feel of dialogue and creating story. I really enjoy how the aunt used the protagonist's blind spot for positive change, lovely.

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Kathryn Kahn
20:35 Feb 28, 2023

Thanks so much, Madeline! It was a challenge because I kept wanting to have them do something other than talk... like gaze pensively out the window or something -- ha! I'm so glad to see your comments about pacing as a way to make the story.

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Marissa Yates
00:43 Feb 28, 2023

I really enjoyed this story! You did a great job starting so mysterious and intriguing and ending so realistic, all while maintaining momentum throughout.

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Kathryn Kahn
20:35 Feb 28, 2023

Thank you, Marissa!

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Jack Kimball
21:16 Feb 27, 2023

I think I had that same conversation with my PT. Great job Kathryn. I stayed in the conversation the whole read. The best dialogue prompt I've read. You really got in their head to make it sound like a human conversation. Jack

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Kathryn Kahn
20:41 Feb 28, 2023

Thanks so much, Jack! I had to laugh at your comment about having the same conversation with your PT. Thanks for the positive feedback.

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