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Bertrand Bone: Nose Masseuse
1,944 words

Bertrand Bone, Nose Masseuse

Among relaxation connoisseurs bored with acupuncture, a good nose masseuse is a delicacy. But until recently, nobody knew about the field. If you wanted to succeed in nose masseusery your marketing had to be superb.

Bertrand happened to be both a nose masseuse and skilled at marketing.

He’d gotten his start at sleep-away camp his tenth grade summer, when one cold night his bunkmate Warwick woke up screaming, sinus golf ball behind his eyes and no way to force any air through his nostrils, in or out.

Bertrand sprang from his bunk and raced to the boy, flinging him out of bed. Then he applied the base of his palm to the ridge between and below the eyes.

Then he broke the boy’s nose.

Warwick began thanking him, through the babbling blood from his busted vessels.

“I’m at peace, for a moment at least, Bertrand. You’re an angel.”

In the morning, the boy still had to go home and there were whispers of brain damage, but the event heartened Bertrand. He’d acted spontaneously, decisively, and produced a favorable outcome. He was a healer. If he was lucky he’d find a university eager to develop his gift.

That university turned out to be Orel Roberts' School of Dentistry and Chiropractory, after the applications to Tufts and Columbia--two of the foremost in the healing arts--left his applications unreturned, neither bothering to pay postage for the small white envelopes bearing the single-sheet form rejection slip that seven other universities had sent.

Bertrand wondered if his entrance essay had been too confident, or if his grade point average (2.7) was a point of contention for the admittance person. He wondered until the bright yellow packet from Orel Roberts came, and when he tore it open, thumb separating the fused flap from the rest, the first line of the most conspicuous folded-up piece of paper did not say “We'd like to thank you for your interest in our university, however...” — he started to dance.

He was in.

At college, Bertrand grew bored of his classes and took to sleeping late, playing video games and drinking until he passed out. Sometimes he went to class, and he always went to exams, but the real learning that first year took place in his dorm room.

Nights he wasn’t drunk he still dreamed of becoming a nose masseuse. He’d practiced his skills on his roommate, on the groups of students who came over to smoke pot out of his roommate's hookah (wasteful but for the novelty of it).

“I'm not saying breaking noses is necessarily necessary--outside of extreme cases,” he'd say to them. “Not that I wouldn't break any of yours in an instant if you were suffering from the sort of discomfort my friend Warwick was.”

He'd chuckle then, putting the boys and girls at ease. But by the end of the night he'd have given them all sinus realignments, and would be telling them what to notice in their breathing from now on.

“In the cold, you'll have no trouble. Won’t feel like it's freezing in your nostrils. And I dare any of you to come back and tell me you sneezed, because you won't be able too, because you'll be lying.”

They'd all been genuinely impressed.

The next week one of the kids texted him with a problem. A boy named Kevin was unable to get his nose to stop running. Bertrand got him to come over then put him in ankle shackles, hanging him upside down from the loft bed he slept in.

“What I’m going to do now,” Bertrand said, “is use suction to clear the fluid from your sinuses, and then I’m going to do a realignment so that you aren’t creating new mucus for twenty-four hours.”

Kevin, hanging upside down, writhed an okay.

Bertrand turned on his vacuum and held the attachment wand in his right hand. On the end, half of an enema bulb stretched over the tube’s opening. He alternated between nostrils, advising Kevin not to try to breathe through his nose until he said.

He began sucking the boy’s snot.

“This is unpleasant, no?”

Kevin squirmed in reply. Bertrand continued to explore with the enema tip, sucking more and more mucus out of the boy's nostrils.

“This vacuum is pretty loud, but maybe it’d be nice to turn some music on.”

Bertrand paused what he was doing and rolled back to his computer screen, on which he loaded the Smashing Pumpkins.

“Okay! I think we’ve got enough mucus. Now we’re going to do a realignment.”

Without warning, he wound up and kicked Kevin with a specific amount of force, right between the eyes.

The boy screamed, and his flailing arms protracted in order for him to clutch his face. Bertrand let him hang there, crying and dangling until he looked up, an expression of betrayal there.

“Now I will let you down and you’ll be able to breathe.”

He undid Kevin’s left foot strap. “Now make sure you can hold yourself up before I release the next one.” He undid the other strap and Kevin tipped forward into the room, landing in a crouch on his knees.

“ worked!”

“Yes. The methods of a nose masseuse are secret and practiced by few; of the ones who know the methods, fewer choose to practice. Thank you for letting me practice on you, Kevin. I’m glad I could help you.”

“What do I owe you?”

“Nothing. Tell your friends. Parts of it may not be pleasant, like the kick in the face, but think of acupuncture—it’s a lot of it the same principle. Not nice to think about, and not nice while it’s happening, but it does the trick.”

“What was your name again? Bertram?”

“Bertrand Bone. Nose masseuse.” He dug out of his desk a business card, one he’d gotten made up by an art student. He'd designed the card as a nose with pull tabs under each nostril. One pull tab had his name and what he was, and the other had his phone number and email address. Pull tabs looked like snot. The art kid promised him it would be good marketing, which was all Bertrand needed to hear.

“Take this, and call me in the morning.” Kevin said, enjoying himself now with his malady tended to.

“Yes, if you need to, although you won’t need to. If you call I’ll be a monkey’s uncle.”

“Uh..okay. Thanks. Weird card too, do you have more?”

“Sure, take two.” Bertrand gave him a stack.

“Funny, Bert. Later,” Kevin said, and left.

Bertrand did fist pumps alone in his room, the verse of a Smashing Pumpkins song guiding him along:

_Try, ease the pain
Somehow we'll feel the same
Well, no one knows
Where our secrets go_

Bertrand did not graduate from Orel Roberts. He dropped out with one of the worst grade point averages the school had ever had.

He didn’t care. He had a network of students who came to him frequently, and a network of their parents, and a network of their parents’ bosses. All he needed now was to take this from a dorm room operation and turn it into an office operation. He needed a license.

Getting a massage license was not hard--it helped that Orel Roberts sent him a letter telling him he met the requirements for an associate degree, but he left out that his form of masseusery wasn't as tame as the other.

His offered no happy endings, but a kick in the face wasn't out of the question.

He called his parlor the Olfactory Tune-Up, and that way he got people primed about smells and music to hide it's status as an alternative medicine office funded with venture capital from all the rich bosses who paid him privately for massages. They thought he was magic, a wunderkind. In return, Bertrand started to believe them.

Years later, one of the men he routinely saw, and who he was testing a new procedure on, one that centered around the barest tickling of the frontal lobe with temporarily dislodged cartilage, got famous becoming a conspiracy news anchor, and began doing unpaid commercials for the services Bertrand provided.

He got calls from doctors, lawyers. He got calls from people so powerful that later on, in a state of brain-stimulated nirvana, they confessed to him that they saw themselves as in control of the world and the events that took place in it. Bertrand’s list of VIP clientele grew, and he had to shut down his regular practice. The locals in his town cheered; they now often picketed and made threats to the Olfactory Tune-Up for peddling false medicine, what was to them unproven science.

The real reason he closed was that secretly he was performing a service that had so captivated the elite class that he had almost effortlessly become the most important person in the world.

The first time he’d had the thought he’d scolded himself: Think about how the dorsal cartilage might be co-opted to create a sense of euphoria rivaling that of an epiphany, not about enhancing your own ego.

“It’s not about my ego,” he said out loud to himself. Saying it made him feel good and enhanced his idea of himself and how good he was.

Some hoodlums came in one time, convinced his shop was a front for a criminal outfit, but he was able to convince them he was a nose masseuse, whatever that was, and he ended up with clients who worked for a would-be rival criminal outfit.

One of these men ended up doing private security for the president elect and Bertrand had the fortune of being the nose masseuse for this man as well.

They got on well, him and the President.

One morning the Press Secretary found the President dead in the Oval Office, slumped over his desk, bleeding from the eyes.

An official cause of death was still forthcoming, but there were initial reports of plenty of maxillofacial injuries consistent with kicks to the face.

The House of Representatives called Bertrand before a grand jury.

“These kicks to his face were not from me,” he explained.

“You see, we got on well, me and The President. Once he had a taste of my nose masseusery, he started scheduling appointments so often I considered moving to Washington DC. When I wasn’t around it seems the president…moved on, to a more unqualified practitioner.”

The evidence would bear him out—he hadn’t moved to Washington, and the perpetrator of the final kicks to POTUS’s face was the Chief of Staff, then on trial for murder, then convicted, then pardoned by the incoming President as an act of good faith.

With the attention he got from tangential involvement in the death of a president, stations invited Bertrand on television, to sit in a chair in this studio or that, and Bertrand liked the chairs he sat in, and they kept asking him back. If he had a television he thought he'd enjoy watching his appearances, but it never felt important to him to buy one.

He made good money with private clients, but the most fun and what he thought worked the best for spreading the word about his practice and the benefits of a properly-trained masseuse, were the colleges and concert halls, where he’d perform live on willing participants with ailments.

Sometimes these were simulcast around the world, but Bertrand didn’t know much about that. He knew he was doing what was working for him, and if it worked for other people elsewhere, that was gravy.

Who was he to deny the world his talents?

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