Chapter 21 – Altar’ed States, Part 2

Okay, so they aren’t raw.  But the oysters are damned good.  He makes some sort of wine sauce for them.  We also have a salad and some risotto—an Italian rice dish that is heavenly.

We opt to have a quiet night, watching a couple of movies before going to bed.

I wake up to find his side of the bed empty.  I roll out and listen for the shower.  Nope.  I pull on my robe and go looking for my man.  The tell-tale beat of the computer leads me to him.  He has scanned his drawings in and is working on making them transparent to lay on top of the photos Paul sent.  I can tell that he has also typed his notes in.

He becomes aware of me standing there watching him.  He saves his work and then stands up to come over and hug me.

“Good morning, darling.”

“Hey Zeke.  How long have you been up?”

“For a while.  I have to get this in order.”

I look up in his face.  “Is it working?”

“More or less.”

“Want some breakfast?”

“Not yet.  I think we have time for a quick round of “hide the sausage.”

“Oh that’s so romantic…tell me some more, you smooth talker.”

He laughs and kisses me instead.  He then picks me up and carries me back to bed.  For what it’s worth, I can’t find the sausage, he hides it so well.  We of course end up eating breakfast on the run so that the shop can open on time.  He has no concept of a “quick round”.

The holiday rush reaches its peak on the 24th, as usual.  I don’t have much spare time to figure out anything.  We sell all day, eat our dinner in silence—a welcome reprieve from the constant noise of customers—and fall into bed to do it all again the next day.  At least I can close the shop for the long weekend.  We take advantage of the extra days off to restore some of the energy the rest of the month has required.

Zeke spends a big part of the morning puttering in the kitchen.  I do some of the housecleaning we have been letting go.  Vader helps me by chasing the vacuum and barking at it.

I am in the bathroom scrubbing the tub when Zeke steps in.

“Hey you, want some lunch?”  He runs his hands over my backside, taking the opportunity presented by my position to do so.  He’s such a horn dog.

“Yeah, I’m ready for something to eat.  Are we having whatever it is you’ve been cooking, that smells divine?”  I stand up to hug him.  We fit together like we were created as one and then Fate split us.  I am so glad to have found him.

“Nope.  That’s dinner.  Lunch is just sandwiches and chips.”  He pats my butt and steps back.  “And the phone rang while you were tormenting the dog with the Hoover.  I hope you don’t mind, we’re having company for our evening meal.”

“Who?”

“You remember the technician at the lab, Rob?”  I nod.   “He is bringing his sweetie Josh and they are going to eat with us.”

“Good.  I liked him.”

“Me too.  I’ll just be glad when we can invite Paul as well.”  Me, too.

I finish up the last little bits of cleaning early in the afternoon.  I put away the supplies and just about the time I decide that I will go get in that clean tub, I can hear the water running into it.  Sometimes he’s more psychic than I am.

I snag a big glass of iced tea to share and head into the bedroom.  I drop my raggedy housecleaning clothes in the hamper and join him in the hot water.  We soak for a while, and then take turns washing each other’s hair.  It’s an exercise in hedonism and pleasure, this bathing together thing.

The two men show up right on time.  Zeke lets them in and I can hear them admiring the shop as he brings them up the stairs.  Rob is telling Josh about me when they walk into the living room.

“She’s amazing…and speak of the devil!”  He comes over and we hug.  “This is Josh, my partner.  You were right about the wallet, you know.”

“Nice to meet you.”  I hug him as well and then turn back to Rob.  “I have a reputation to uphold…hahaha.”

My hand tingles and I rub it.  I catch myself doing this and I try to think why it would.  It occurs to me that this is where I have just hugged Josh.  Zeke and Rob are talking about the shop and Josh is listening to them, so this gives me a chance to really look at him.  His energy is… dreadful.  I get the same feeling off of him that I sense when I am in a … hospital.  He must be very sick for it to be this obvious to me.

Rob turns his head slightly towards me and our eyes meet.  I can tell by his expression that he knows what I am thinking.  He gives a very slight nod, but Josh catches the motion.

“What?”  He looks at both of us.  “What are you two up to?”

Zeke stands there looking very confused.  I wait for Rob.  He puts an arm around Josh and pulls him against his body.

“She knows, Joshie…I told you that she would.  Do you want to ask, or shall I?”  His love for his partner is blatant—and charming.

“No way!”  He comes over to me, staring at my face.  “There is no…oh God, you do.”

“Josh, what can I do to help you?”  I touch his arm and to my horror, he bursts into tears.

“Josh, honey it’s okay.”  Rob gathers him into his arms and they collapse together onto the sofa.  I sit on the table facing them and poor Zeke is still trying to catch up.

“He’s sick.”  I tell him, pointing at Josh.  Instant comprehension for Zeke.

Rob calms him down and they are both trying to apologize.  I end up waving my hands at them to make them stop talking.

“What did you tell him about me, Rob?  About us?”  I look very pointedly at him.

He has the grace to blush.  “I just told him that you all have…well, powers.  I saw Zeke do his thing, and then he was like, about to pass out.  You touched him and he got better.”

“Did you ever think that it just might be our long association or our relationship?”

I can tell that he didn’t.  But before he can lose all hope, I acknowledge that he was not wrong.  “But I can …help.  Sometimes.  I don’t make any promises, Rob.  I cannot guarantee a cure.  It might not even make a bit of difference.”

He takes a big breath of relief.  “I don’t care, I just want to try.”  Josh nods.

“Before or after dinner?”  Ever practical, my lover.  Zeke waits for the answer.

“Before.  Would you do the reading?”  I stand up to get his cards.

“Don’t you want me to tell you—“ Josh starts to speak.  Zeke cuts him off.

“No.  Don’t tell her.  We may want details and the nitty gritty, ‘what did the doctor say’ later, but for now…I’m going to do a Tarot reading.  Okay?”

Josh turns to Rob, who shakes his head up and down.  “Okay.”

I come back with Zeke’s wolf deck.  He sits in the chair across from the other two.  He shuffles the cards, closing his eyes and murmuring.  It’s our Kwan Yin mantra again; it helps focus his energy for the reading.  He keeps shuffling until he is content that they are mixed up enough, then begins to lay them out.

He explains them as he turns each one up.  Josh watches this, listening intently and his eyes get wider and wider as the reading goes on.  I can tell by his reaction that Zeke is right on the money.  He does tend to get those “slap your face” readings anyway.

“I’ve never had a reading before.  I can’t believe this, this is awesome.”  Josh is practically burbling in his astonishment.  “You just know!  I’m amazed!”

I figure it’s not worth the effort to explain about the whole interconnectedness thing that most Pagans believe in…but I’m not amazed.  It’s no less than any other reading, if one just understands the messages that the Universe will send.  So why can’t I figure out John Robert’s murder?

I have purposefully sat in the kitchen, away from the men and tried not to listen too closely to the reading itself.  Zeke will tell me what I need to know, when it’s time.  Vader has been enjoying the body rubbing as I distract myself from them.  He wiggles and stands up now, which I know is my cue to return to them.

I start to walk past Zeke, but he pulls me down onto his lap.  “Right here, darling.”

“Mattie, would you…I know it’s a lot to ask, but…”  Rob falters.  “I have tried all that I know how.  I don’t know what else to do.”  He takes Josh’s hand and holds it tight.

“I told you and I repeat it.  I will do what I can, but there is absolutely NO promise of a cure.  If the end of life must come because of this, I can only ease the passage, not change the destination.”

“We both understand that.  I don’t care what it costs—“  Rob stops at the look on Zeke’s face.

“Rob, we do not charge a fee for sharing the gifts of the God and Goddess.  We give the use of them freely.  Should you feel generous afterwards, you need to find another way to pay Them back.”  There is no doubt that he has capitalized the word “them”—and that we would not take money for what we are doing.  This is something that we both feel very strongly about.

“Sorry.  I didn’t mean…I just…”  He drops his eyes.

“You don’t even know us, and you are going to do this for me?  I don’t know how to thank you all enough—“  Josh has once again been astonished.  “I thought…well, that we’d have to pay and I didn’t care.  But this, this…This is incredible.”

“The phrase we use is ‘pass it forward’.  We are happy to do this for you, and someday, you will be in a position to help someone else without the thought of reward or recompense.  So what goes around…”

They both nod and Rob speaks.  “Comes around.  Right.  We will.”

“Now that we’ve got that out of the way.”  Zeke looks at me.  “Mattie, it’s your turn to do that voodoo that you do, do.”

“Right.”  He hugs me and I stand up.  “Josh, this is probably easiest on the massage table.  It is also easier with ….ummm, fewer clothes.  You don’t have to get naked, but if you would at least take off the outer clothes.”  A thought occurs to me.  “Unless of course that does mean that you’d be naked…in which case, do you want a pair of shorts?”

He blushes.  Oh my, I didn’t think someone could still do that in this age of sexual freedom and MTV.  Rob smiles and answers for him.  “Shorts would be a good idea.”

Zeke rises and heads into the bedroom.  He comes back with a pair of his and hands them to Josh.  While he goes into the bathroom to change, Zeke takes the massage table upstairs and sets it up.

I gather some candles and herbs.  He passes me on the stairs and brings up several small bottles of oil and one of them is the… mistletoe oil.

I stand, gaping at him.  “Have you lost your mind?  What the hell am I supposed to do with this?”

“It’s a cure-all, good for any health problem.  It is the most sympathetic of the scents, considering what day it is.  And you only need a tiny bit mixed in with these.”

He hands me the others and I realize that he has pulled the most powerful of the healing oils.  “Oh dear, Zeke.  Is it that bad?”

“Just mix.”

I mix.  He lights candles.  Rob comes up the stairs, leading Josh who is looking like he’s the lamb and we’re the ones who are going to slaughter him.  He starts for the table but Zeke stops him.  He points at Rob, who comes over to stand next to Zeke, both of them facing Josh.

“You love him, so you have the greatest power to bless him.”

Rob understands what Zeke is saying and begins to chant.  I can only tell that it is of Native American origin.  It’s obviously not English, but I can’t tell the tribes’ languages apart.  Zeke has fired up the sage, so Rob takes the smoking bundle and begins to smudge around Josh with it.  Vader walks in and sits at my feet, watching all of this intently.  I hope that he will let us know if we miss anything, he’s so involved with the action.

Rob moves over and smudges the table.  I am glad to see that he does indeed know The Craft, even if his way of expressing his beliefs is not the same as mine.  He is just beginning to look around for a place to drop the smoldering twigs when Zeke holds out the stone bowl.  He drops it in there and then sets it under the table.

Zeke comes over to me and taking both wrists, lifts my arms out to my side.  I stand there to receive his blessing.  He speaks low, stopping only to touch his lips to me in the Five-fold Kiss…forehead, left hip, right shoulder, left shoulder, right hip, and back to the forehead.  He finishes speaking, and I can feel the energy begin to build in me as I focus on the task at hand.

His actions have alerted me to the fact that whatever Josh has going on, it’s going to take the psychic equivalent of an atom bomb to blast it out.  It must be awful.

I breathe in, breathe out, in a steady, slow pattern while Rob and Zeke walk Josh to the table and he climbs up on it.  Once he’s settled, Zeke gently leads Rob away and they sit on the sofa to watch.

I walk around Josh, trying to find the focal point.  It’s almost impossible to describe this process and what I do without sounding like I’m a certifiably insane religious fanatic.  Let me try anyway…I can see/read/perceive a person’s life force/energy/aura.  Okay, so it’s not a good explanation.  Maybe just thinking of it as I am SuperMom, who knows when you are cold and need a sweater, or tired and need a nap…just on a heightened level of awareness.

But I can’t find the main point of Josh’s problem.  And Zeke can tell.  He catches my eye and I look at him.

“Mattie, use your necklace.”  I don’t understand.  “Like a pendulum.”  Ohhhhh.

I pull it over my neck and hold the chain, letting the heavy green stone dangle.  I get a feel for how it will move and then begin holding it over Josh.  It goes crazy over the middle of his back, swinging in every direction.  It goes in small circles and large ones, to the left and to the right.  I figure I’ve found it.

I put the necklace back on and then I place my left hand on him, right between his shoulder blades.  I put my right hand at the base of his spine.  I can “feel” the wrongness, whatever the disease is, like a soggy basketball between them.  I try to pull some of it, like I did with Zeke’s headache but it won’t move.  I circle my hands in opposite directions on his back.

I open myself up to the Universal power and bracing myself, making a grabbing motion and pull the whole damned thing out the middle of his spine—in a metaphysical sense, of course.  There is nothing visible between my hands, but I can feel it pulsing there…a malignant harmful throbbing mass.

I turn and face the other men and suddenly Zeke is there with his athame and he stabs it.  I can feel the rush of it into the ground…then all is black.

“Mattie?”  Something hits my face…why is Zeke slapping me?  He does it again.  “Mattie?  Look at me, honey.”

I am very vaguely aware that Rob is doing the same thing to Josh.  I try to open my eyes and it takes a couple of attempts to make it.  I finally get them to stay open and the view is nice…it’s Zeke but why do I see such worry in his face?

“How do you feel?”

“Fine?  Fine…what happened?”

“You fainted.  For what it’s worth, so did Josh.  I think this one is a success, even without the guarantee.  Oh, by the way, I oiled him where you…pulled that thing out.”

I move enough that Zeke figures out that I want to see him, so he helps me sit up to where I can.  If my color is as good as his, no wonder Zeke looks so concerned.  But even as I watch, his skin blushes with a more healthy shade.  Rob is openly crying and hugging him.

I struggle to get to my feet and Zeke pulls me up, but doesn’t let go.  Good thing, since the floor wants to pitch and heave.  He essentially carries me to the sofa and I sit down.  Hard.

“Stay here.”  He heads out the door.  I have no intention of moving when the house is doing the tarantella.

I’m still enjoying the ride when Rob comes over to me.  He shocks me by kneeling before me and taking my hands in his.  He kisses them, over and over and he will not let me pull them back.  It takes me a moment to hear what he is telling me.

“Mattie, thank you.  Thank you.  Dear Goddess, thank you.”  He just keeps repeating this and I do the only thing I can think of at the moment.  I burst into tears.

Zeke comes up and gently but firmly removes Rob.  Then he pushes a chunk of bread into my mouth.  He also hands me the glass of…ahhh my merlot!  I wash down the bread only to have him put another piece in the minute I lower the glass.  As I get some food into me, the crying stops.  It’s hard to weep while drinking such superb wine and eating this amazing bread.  It’s like I’ve never eaten before…

He is stroking my hair and I can feel the storm that has been raging inside of me break up and go calm.  While he’s been acting like my momma bird, Rob has helped Josh off the table and they have gone back downstairs.  I swallow the last bite of bread and …oh dear, the last sip of wine.  I look over at Zeke.

“Better?”

“Almost human again, thank you, dearest love.  What would I do without you?”

“Fry the Eastern seaboard with uncontrolled energy?  I’ll bet if I put my cock into you right now, I’d pull out a fried sausage!”  He is not often intentionally vulgar and I giggle at the thought.

“No, you’d just never pull it out, we’d fuse together!”

“And we will have to explore that possibility, but after our guests have left, okay?” He stands up and holds out his hand. “Ready for some dinner?”

“Starving!”  We descend the steps, with him leading the way so that I don’t fall on my face.

The two young men are huddled together on the sofa and Josh is dressed again.  They look up when we walk in and Rob jumps up.  He comes up to us and I’m afraid that he’s going to kneel and do the whole hand kissing thing again.  I can tell that Zeke thinks so too because he ever so slightly steps one step to the left so that he’s between us.  Rob stops in front of us.

“I don’t know what you did, I don’t know how you did it.  I don’t care.  This is the first time in months, in months, that Josh hasn’t hurt.  Thank you.  I can never repay you, but I want you to know that I will never forget this.”

“Rob…you and Josh should know, this still does not mean a cure.  It doesn’t mean that things are totally gone.  It certainly doesn’t mean that he should stop any treatment that his doctor has had him on.”  I would stress it more but Zeke speaks first.

“You two need to realize that whatever happened today, it may only be a way of buying time for more…ahh conventional methods to work.  I don’t even know what happened myself.  I have never seen Mattie faint from doing a healing before, so I would guess that something major happened.  But I wouldn’t go betting the rest of my life on that.”

His words sink in and I can tell that both of them have to reset their brains to a more realistic level.  I hate to lower their hopes so much, but I can’t let them paint a rosy picture… illusions may look pretty, but they don’t do much for having a real life.  And sometimes real life ain’t pretty.

Zeke leaves me long enough to put dinner on the table.  I eat like a longshoreman, taking seconds and trying not to notice the looks the men were giving each other.  I am starving!  And Zeke is such a good cook…

He finally takes pity on me and tells them.  “Psychic work may all be in the head, but it uses up bodily resources.  She generally eats a good meal after any healing, but this was a lulu, so…she is the bottomless pit.”

They all laugh at me and I stick out my tongue at each of them.  I also slip that fourth (or is it the fifth) roll under the table to my only friend, Vader.  Who will love me best until someone else offers him a bite.

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