The Middle Box


Published November, 2015 in
Literary Hatchet, Issue 13
Small publishers help many writers to appear in print, often without turning a profit. Please support this publisher and purchase this volume. Since the first rights have now expired, the story is also printed below.

There was no true inspiration for this piece other than the length some people will go to maintain their appearance. This is a story about a man who truly enjoys his work.


The Middle Box

by DL Shirey

A trick of light. The wafer-thin disk spins, a mirror dangling from a silver chain, reflecting the chocolate-brown iris back into her pretty, pretty eyes. The left one, now the right.

“Concentrate on the color,” I say to the woman, none of that your-eyes-are-heavy or you’re-getting-sleepy nonsense.

The spinning pendant does not make her mind relax, nor the pendulum from one eye to the other. It’s the mirror and the vanity of seeing oneself, even for a brief moment. Appearing for an instant, then spinning away; reflected again, and gone; there, not there.

Her lids flicker and fall, breath evens out. She is asleep at the hands of a perfect stranger.

Names don’t matter. Call her Mrs. Dunmadder. The one stenciled on my office door is Dr. Spratt, weight loss specialist.

Mrs. Dunmadder snores softly, her long, greying hair fanned over the pillow supporting her neck. The Victorian chaise on which she reclines was specially built, a bit wider than the store-bought variety, the leather upholstery plumper to accommodate the women who see me. Full-figured, curvy; Rubenesque, they were called, way back when.

I love women of this sort. Even in their teens, when they were most active, they were hardy. Always longing to be like the popular girls, fighting in vain to achieve the stick-figure status of models in magazines. For who? Slack-jawed, TV-raised yokels who think large breasts atop tiny waists and hips are somehow anatomically possible?

What do these men know?

Mrs. Dunmadder has big curves up top, along with a generous undercarriage to support them. When she first walked in for consultation I nearly swooned. As much as I wanted to take in her bounties, I locked my gaze on her pretty, pretty eyes. Soon, they were all I wanted to look at, welling and sad, as she confessed her greatest concern: fear of joining ranks with the morbidly-O. Quite possible, if Mrs. D would let herself go. But she’s not a quitter, and everything looked exquisitely firm from my point of view.

She’s perfection in my eyes: buttery skin, a touch of makeup, and fashionably attired to accentuate that décolletage. She’s concerned that her clothes fit too tightly. Balderdash, as we said back in the day. Tailored to show every buxom curve, I say– to hell with drapery that hangs to hide a womanly body. Despite my protests, Mrs. Dunmadder wants a bit of tending. At very least, those fleshy areas on the arms. And the thighs, she wants her thighs a bit firmer.

“I think you’re beautiful already, but if you insist,” I told her. I didn’t tell her about the sedative.

Beside the chaise is a nightstand. In it are three small, lacquered boxes. The one with the fleur de lis has the ampule I need. I crack the plastic capsule under her button nose and watch her chest rise with each inhalation. The box with the paisley has an ampule of smelling salts to undo the narcotization when we’re done. The middle box, a tiny jade sarcophagus, holds the leech.

Brittle-looking now, it will reanimate when warmed by her skin. See there? It twitches to life, crawls to just the proper spot and bites through flesh; not for blood, it wants the delicious cream filling of subcutaneous fat. It starts shriveled like an unused party balloon, but look how it grows. Bulbous and pink, just like the stuff it craves.

The bite will leave a mark, but not a scar. The blame explained by the laser, that useless prop lying on top of the nightstand. No need explaining my excitement, watching a dead sack fill itself with new life, almost to bursting after a second helping from her other arm.

Time for all of us to rest. Mrs. Dunmadder will soon wake to the vague smell of ammonia in her lovely, little nose. It will be something she quickly forgets as I escort her to the full-length mirror. Her arms will be firm against toned muscle, skin radiant from the effects of our session. Beguiling, as we used to say.

“Next week and we’ll do the legs?” I’ll ask.

“No. Thank YOU,” I’ll say.


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