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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Hmph! (03/04/10)

TITLE: Painless Therapy
By Sara Harricharan


A sign announced “Henny Benson’s Painless Therapy for Emotional Trauma.” I shuffled into the back corner of the conference room, dyed-black hair offering a silken cover of protection.

How painless can it be?

It hurt to cross the threshold and find a seat in the rows of metal chairs. Therapist Henny was the skinniest woman I’d ever seen, with a face so thin, I had no trouble finding her cheekbones. She didn’t wear glasses or carry a clipboard.

I slouched into my seat, staring at the shabby required notebook in hand. Escape wasn’t an option Handsome Hunk swallowed the seat to my left and Grumpy Granny demanded we both move over a seat, so she could have the edge. She muttered some excuse, but I didn’t hear it because Elizabeth Arden perfume smothered me.

The session began with scribbling to yourself, then reading it to the person beside you. Handsome hunk partnered with Red-Faced Pixie, leaving me with Grumpy Granny, who graciously introduced herself as Louise Halpenbottom.

She scowled over horn-rimmed glasses, whipping out a sheaf of filled notebook pages. I stared at them. The owl-eyes narrowed to quarter-slots. “We’re supposed to read at the same time, where’s yours?”

I shrugged.

“Humph!” Her wrinkled nose added a few more lines to itself. “A waste of good money! That’s what young people do—take your parents’ money and-”

“If you don’t want to read to me…I don’t care.” I tried not to glare at her, knowing she’d judge my face next. I knew exactly how much metal I was wearing and was pretty proud of it. Each piercing was a detail during a serious change in my life.

She was another face…judging me…again.

This was my second therapy round.

She started mumbling her pages aloud as I pretended to listen while doodling designs on the back of the notebook cover. Henny made her rounds about the room, stopping to look over every shoulder. “Interesting drawing.”

I didn’t answer.

Henny patted my shoulder, awkwardly—and moved on. Granny grumbled about wasted effort and slammed her notebook shut.

I pretended not to notice.

The writing continued, followed by another reading session.

“Still doodling?”

Granny Halpenbottom wrinkled her forehead this time, a beautiful picture of delicate cobwebs. I added that to the doodle, deepening the scribbles by repeatedly outlining the image.

“Still writing? We’re not supposed to read yet.” I continued tracing. I could press as hard as I wanted, but the cardboard didn’t give like paper and the pen wouldn’t break like pencil.

Wonder how bad it’d smear if I traced this on my arm. Nah. This ink smears…the real kind doesn’t.

“Magical net?” Henny stood over my shoulder again. I shrugged. She leaned closer. “Could be a straight line.” She pointed somewhere, turning to examine Granny’s handiwork. “Interesting.”

“Humph!” Granny clutched the binder tighter, mumbling as Henny trotted back to the front of the class.

I listened with half an ear after the mention of Metcalf. That made all the names familiar. My father was Ethan and my mother was supposedly a Rachel…or Angira. No one ever told me. I guessed it didn’t matter.

Granny Halpenbottom blamed Ethan for getting his head screwed around in the first place.

I wondered if he was her son.

Maybe she’s my grandmother. Creepy.

More writing and reading was ordered. I doodled a straight-lined version of my curvy picture for Henny’s next rounds. Granny Halpenbottom whined about Ethan leaving in pursuit of love and how every girl was anything but an angel.

I asked a question. She hunched her shoulders forward. “None of your beeswax!”

“You’re in the same therapy I am.” So I waited for Henny. “Here…it’s straight.”

She took it, turned it in a full circle and handed it back. “Gorgeous.” She held out a hand to my grumpy seatmate. “Charming.”

“It’s real!” Granny harrumphed. “Every word!”

Henny continued on.

I poked Granny. “What next?” Her story was too close to my own life that I couldn’t stifle the fascination. Enchanted, I listened to tales of broken hearts and homes. It was almost as depressing as my own. This Ethan could be dad. “Cool.” I commented, when she finally put the pencil down. She geared up for another ‘humph’ as I quickly added. “That’s a lot of writing.”

“Ergph…Ethan was awful, married some Rachel and had a kid named Lola. Probably dead now…all of them.”

“Uh-huh.” A final detail.

Lola. Huh. I guess I shouldn’t mention I’m probably her granddaughter.


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This article has been read 696 times
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Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 03/11/10
I felt a little confused at first, but when I reread it the light bulb came on. You did a great job of showing the despair of the MC and of Granny. It would make a great opening chapter to a novel. I want to hear so much more about these wonderful characters you've introduced me to. Good job in bringing the reader in and making me hunger for more.
AnneRene' Capp03/15/10
Really like the twist in this. You just never know who you may be talking with!
Marita Thelander 03/15/10
Nice pace and I loved the twist at the end...but I sort of saw it coming. Sequal? How about the grumpy granny share details that dive into why the family is such a mess...and can I order a glimmer of hope for the metal-faced girlto move on without repeating previous generations mess? Are Granny's toenails painted? Just curious. :P
Sarah Elisabeth 03/16/10
Hmmm, interesting twist. No such thing as a coincidence though
Beth LaBuff 03/17/10
I love the way your story unfolded. Your character "names" were just plain fun! :) Now I want to know what happens when Granny learns Lola IS her granddaughter! :)