How not to be a Massage Therapist by Mary Thompson

After drifting around the world for months, take a massage course in Bali, then slope back to London and move in with Takeshi, a man you barely know, a socially awkward Japanese man with a lost dog expression, who lives on the sixteenth floor of a fusty old tower block. Say, ‘really, are you sure?’ when he offers the room rent-free for six months. Advertise for clients in the Kensington and Chelsea News. Get used to explaining that the only happy ending is the one when you get paid. Loiter at the living room window, waiting for your first client. Watch as he lumbers up the path with a bag slung over one shoulder and rings the doorbell. Do not bat an eyelid when he says no to your essential oils, and brandishes a pink feather instead. Allow the feather to drift up and over his bony spine and stroke his little bottom as requested. Answer his unimaginable questions with a simple yes or no. Focus on the Chanel sunglasses you will purchase with the money you make. Hear Takeshi clattering around next door. Feel gently reassured by the sound of voices from the TV show he’s watching. After three hours have passed, say to your client, ‘thank you very much. I’ll leave you now to get ready.’ Smile sweetly when he turns his pallid face to yours and says, ‘may I have another hour please?’ But refuse politely, saying, ‘I am afraid I have plans, sir.’ Exclaim, ‘thank God that’s over!,’ as you watch him bumbling back along the path with his feather, then sit down for dinner with Takeshi. Ignore his scruffy old track-pants, string vest and belly protruding through the holes. Eat the porcini risotto he proffers and drink the Pinot Grigio. Do not be surprised when he nervously asks, ‘if you don’t mind, will you be my girlfriend?’ Move out the following week.


Mary Thompson lives in London, where she works as an English tutor. Her work has recently featured in Retreat West, Ghost Parachute, LISP, Literary Orphans, New Flash Fiction Review and Pidgeonholes, and is forthcoming at Riggwelter, Flash Flood and Bending Genres. She is a first reader for Craft Literary Journal. Twitter: @MaryRuth69 | Facebook: | Instagram: @marythompson1612