Painful Procedure

    The esthetician’s lips are so thin I look twice. She puts the too hot wax on my right shin, apologizing when I yelp. It’s the wax she should feel bad for, having to touch my furry legs and thigh-to-thigh bikini line. I can smell nail polish, baby talcum powder, and my calf-hair singeing. It’s cold in the small space, and despite my fur and the hot wax, I shiver.
    As the esthetician rips the hairs from my bones, she tells me it’s Chinese New Year.
    I grunt through locked teeth. “Oh yeah?”
    “The year of the ox.”
    She weasels out of me my date of birth.
    Her eyes widen. “You year of the sheep.”
    I try to smile. “Makes sense, all my wool.”
    Maybe she smiles back; it’s hard to tell with those lips—like pink, deli ham. But no, she cants her dark head and I can see her just-about-there lips are pulled down.
    “It’s not going to be a good year for you,” she says, “sheep and oxen don’t get along.”
    I can hear her alarm, and my own fear rises to meet it. Her voice is my mother’s grate refusing to walk under ladders, ducking under tables during thunder storms, shouting whenever anyone would open an umbrella in our house, and screaming the time a robin flew into our kitchen and dropped to the tiles, dead. I hated Mother’s superstitions, her weakness.
     I hiss with pain, and try to drown out the esthetician’s dire predictions for the terrible year I’m going to have: baa, baa, baa. Long after all the hairs she’s pulling out of me grow back, I know her words will stay with me.   
    At last, she finishes. I dress, and consider not tipping her, but do. She gives me a mandarin orange from her altar, and looks at me like I might never see another birthday. I hesitate in her doorway, cupping the orange, and listening for the sound of oxen hooves. What I hear is Mother laughing.

Born and raised in Dublin, Ireland, Ethel Rohan received her MFA in fiction from Mills College, CA. Her work has appeared in or is forthcoming
from over fifty online and print journals including elimae, PANK, DOGZPLOT, Storyglossia, Word Riot, Mud luscious,Ghoti Magazine,
Bound Off and Dispatch Litareview. Her blog is

Copyright 2009