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POST # 4 The Horsehair Brush
“I was placed in the orphanage as in infant. I really don’t know anything about my real parents. But, I wasn’t adopted until I was five.” Swishing the water to bring up the suds, Peggy remembers.
“Herbert, isn’t she just she cutest little thing.” Her mother looks hopefully to her husband.
“Yeah, I guess so. You sure you want a girl?” He reaches down, places his hands on her shoulders and turns her like he was inspecting a prize horse.
“I’m positive, aren’t you?”
“I’m use to boys.” His face clouds, over as if he were remembering something bad.
“I know, Sweetheart. That’s why I think a boy wouldn’t work out.” She touches his arm.
Wiping the table in front of him a second time, Granger says, “Five. That’s a long t-time to live in an orphanage.”
“Yes, that’s why I was so excited at the prospect of being adopted. I would have my very own Mom and Dad.” Peggy adds the dishes to the water and begins to wash.
“Well, it all w-worked out in the end, didn’t it?” He stands and moves in beside her to help dry the dishes.
Peggy senses his presence next to her. She is a little unnerved by it. Probably just my emotions tonight, because you make me feel wanted and needed. If only I had felt that growing up. “Yes, Granger, in the end, it did work out.” I’m too ashamed to tell you the whole truth.
“Well, I t-think I’m going to do some more work before bed.”
“Wait a minute, Granger. It’s your turn.”
“We’ll t-talk more later, okay?” He heads for his office.
“Okay.” Peggy wonders what makes Granger click. She finds him complicated and a bit of a mystery. Somehow she senses, though, that they have some common ground somewhere.
That night in bed, Peggy remembers what she found so hard to tell Granger. The truth is, Granger, my Dad never wanted me or loved me. He hated me, in fact. I’ll never forget the night he was in a drunken stupor. He told me he had accidentally killed his five year old son, when he ran over him backing out of the driveway. He said I would never replace the son the had lost, he would always love his son, and would never love me. That I was an intruder. That he wished it were me who was dead instead of his son. He told me all of this the night of my thirteenth birthday. Not a single birthday has passed, that I haven’t thought of those words. Peggy rolls over trying to escape her pain with sleep. Tears wet her pillow, but she finally falls into a restless sleep.
The months pass quickly. Peggy is happy at her job. She does everything she can to help Granger. She is never bored, because her duties are so varied. She sets her own hours and comes and goes, as she pleases. Sometimes Granger’s habits drive her crazy, but when this happens, she finds sanctuary in her own room. Granger never enters her room. It looks and feels like her. It is far from “eat off the floor” clean.
“P-peggy, don’t leave the dirty dishes in the sink!” .
“I’ll get them in a little while,” she calls from the living room, where she sits on her feet reading a magazine.
“D-do it now.”
Peggy walks into the kitchen, still dressed in her robe and slippers. “Okay, Granger. You know, if this is going to work, we’re going to have to compromise. We could start by talking about your phobia.”
“Not n-now.” He starts to leave.
“Yes, now. You’ve been putting me off for months now.” She blocks his way. She extends her arms out sideways. Her robe falls open revealing a baby blue, gauzy, silk gown.
Granger sees her full breasts, and the rounded curve of her shoulder, where the strap from her gown has fallen down. They move toward each other like a magnet to filings, stopping just short of touching. Granger reaches out and lifts her gown strap back into place. He closes her robe and reties the belt.
“P-peggy, you are the most beautiful woman I have ever seen. I can’t tell you how much I want to t-touch you. God, help me, I can’t.” He secludes himself in the bathroom.
“Peggy knocks on the door. “Granger, how can I help you? Please, talk to me.” Oh,
Granger, what kind of hold do you have over me. I wanted you to touch me. Am I falling in love?
Peggy returns to her safe haven and lies down on her bed. She realizes that Granger gives her acceptance, approval, and yes, even love. He makes her feel good about herself and her abilities. A few short months ago, she found it hard to find something appealing about Granger, but now when she looks at him, she sees a different man. She sees compassion, wit, intelligence, and understanding. She knows in her heart, if not in her mind, that she loves Granger.
One day Peggy decides to clean the bath area, because since she’s been there, he devotes a lot of time trying to keep it sanitized. She starts arranging the linen closet and cabinets under the sink. In the process of straightening bottles under the cabinet, she spots a horsehair brush under a towel. She takes it out and looks at it. What in the world is this for? It has the look and feel of an antique. Today most brushes have plastic bristles. This brush was wood with real horsehair bristles. The brush itself is clean, and except for the worn wood looks almost new. She finishes cleaning the bath.
She goes to Granger in his office, carrying the brush. “Granger, what’s this?” She pokes it out in front of her, for him to see.
Granger’s color drains from his face. He looks like he might faint. “Where did you g-get this?”
“In the bathroom, in a cabinet, under a towel.” Why are you looking at me like I’ve invaded your privacy?
“W-what were you doing?” He takes the brush from her hand.
“I was giving the bath a thorough cleaning to surprise you. I know I haven’t kept it as clean as you like. Granger, why are you so upset?”
“It’s not your fault, P-peggy. Let’s go into the living room.”
Peggy and Granger both sit on the couch facing each other. Peggy can’t imagine what is going to be said, but she wants to catch every word.
“P-peggy, you’ve wanted me to talk to you about my phobia, and I’ve never been able to. Over the last nine months, I’ve come to respect and t-trust you like no one else in my life. I know I’ve maintained my d-distance.
The last thing I would ever want to do is hurt you, or even worse, scare you off.”
“You can’t scare me off, Granger. Nine months ago, you came very close to scaring me off.” She laughs a soft laugh, trying to ease the tension.
“I know. I d-don’t ever want that to happen again.”
“Granger, why did you react so strangely to this brush?” She points to it, as if it is some deadly snake.
“When I was y-young I was physically and mentally abused by my mother. She is a very sick woman.”
“Is?” Peggy’s face is that of a surprised child, eyes wide, mouth open, eyebrows arched.
“Yes, she’s in an institution. She will never get b-better. She lives in a world inside her head; never m-moves. They call it being comatose. I haven’t seen her since I was eighteen. She is d-dead and buried to me.”
“What does this horsehair brush have to do with all of this?”
“It’s the b-brush she scrubbed me with to make me clean. My bath water would turn red with my blood. Finally, my skin t-toughened. She use to chant while she scrubbed, ‘If you want to be p-pure little boy, you have to scrub and be clean. But you’re not pure, little boy, you’re filthy. Mother will m-make sure you’re clean. God hates filth. You can’t be too clean.’ It makes me sick just thinking about it.” Granger visibly collapses against the couch letting out a big sigh.
“Oh, Granger. That’s how you acquired this phobia. I’m so sorry. It means so much to me that you opened up to me. I have a lot to tell you. I’ve been holding back, too.”
Peggy tells Granger about her father and her childhood. She explains that her parents were killed in a car crash. Their deaths made her decide to move to a new place, to start a new life, as far away from all those memories as she could get.
“I’m alone in this world, Granger, except for you.”
Peggy enters the bath that night to bathe. She fills the tub with steaming hot water and plenty of bubble bath. She steps into the hot water and sinks down enjoying the sensation of her muscles loosening. She replays her conversation with Granger. Things will never be quite the same again. She closes her eyes losing herself in her thoughts.
Peggy hears a light knock at the door. “Yes?”
“Peggy, may I come in?”
“In here?” She stands to grab a towel. “Yes, come in.”
Granger enters holding a beach towel wide, eyes averted. Peggy slips and plops back down in the water, towel and all. They both start laughing.
“Stand up, Peggy.” Still holding the towel wide, he waits. “Drop your towel.”
“Drop my what?”
“Peggy, I’ve waited a long time to touch you. I love you, with all my heart.”
“Oh, Granger, I love you, too.” The towel drops. “Your stutter is gone.”
A second towel falls. “I know.”
Peggy feels Granger’s hands and lips exploring her body, like she was the only ocean holding a rare sunken treasure.