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Midas Touch

Midas’ Daughter Turned to Gold, from A Wonder Book for Boys and Girls by Nathaniel Hawthorne

He is on the floor, on my striped beach towel, bound with words because I don’t have the patience for rope. I walk around him, admiring, toying with the switch in my hand. He doesn’t try to look up, just follows my feet with his eyes. I’m wearing cork stilettos flecked with gold. They shine, bright gold in the harsh light around his face, quicksilver in the black light by his legs. He shifts when I move out of his line of sight, and I pause, waiting to see if I will have to remind him to be still. I’m nervous, uncertain. I’m aware of the others around us, though no one seems to be watching. Being aware of them annoys me, makes me feel that I’m putting on a show, that I’m not in control.

I keep walking, idly touching him with the end of the switch. I wish there were more light, or a bench to put him in easier reach. I prod at him, trying to see him tense, which touches make him nervous, which ones make him hopeful. I flick his left thigh and his whole body jumps. I smile and hit him again, holding the switch loosely, tapping a quick rhythm up and down his thigh. He starts to flinch and wriggle after a few minutes, so I put one foot on his calf, just enough pressure to remind him to keep his leg still. His whole body relaxes in an instant. I lean forward to strike with a bit more force, watch his skin turn slowly red. I crouch by his legs, put my hand on his thigh to feel the warmth of it.

“You’re very quiet,” I tell him. “May I try a bit harder?” I drag my fingernail across the redness on his skin, and he flinches.

“Yes, okay.”

I grip the switch tighter, still crouching. I’m too tall to use the switch standing while he’s on the ground. I bring it down on his right thigh, hard. His mouth is a hard line, closed and silent. Again, thwack, the line not quite parallel to the first. This irks me, so I make another mark crossing them both. He makes a strangled sound.

“Sorry?” I sit back on my heels. “Does this (thwack) hurt?”

“Yes.”

“More or less than this did?” I pinch the redness of his left leg, rougher than I mean to.

He makes a sound like a dog sneezing. “More.”

I “tsk” and immediately regret it (everyone sounds ridiculous making that noise). “Are you saying that this hurts more?” I hit him again, a few inches below the marks I’ve already made “or are you asking for more?”

“Yes,” his tone is shy, a little too quiet under the club music.  I have a moment of delight, a moment of wanting him just for that shiver in his voice, but he clears his throat and it’s gone.

I stand and pace–crouching is just as uncomfortable as it looks, and moreso in heels–trying to decide how best to position myself. I walk in front of him, nudge his chin with the toe of my shoe to make him look up. “Full sentences, please. What are you asking for?”

He closes his eyes. For a moment I think this isn’t working, we’re going to have to stop now, but he opens them again, looks steadily at the floor, and says “Please, cane me harder, miss.”

“Good boy.” The phrase doesn’t seem to affect him, but I smile anyway, thinking of someone it would. I move to kneel between his feet and lay into him, keeping beat with the rest of the song, and the next one. “You’re very quiet,” I can’t decide whether to be impressed or annoyed: I know from experience that this switch stings like a wasp, and he has a few welts coming up purple on his calves and thighs.

“I was trying to please you.” He’s speaking quietly, so that I have to lean in and ask him to repeat himself. His leg, when I rest my hand on it, is hot to the touch.

“Did I say I liked to hit quiet boys?” He whimpers (adorable!) and I wait, count silently to three. “Did I?”

“No.”

The scene gets better after that, becomes a heady blur of images I can’t string together. I lean in asking questions, trying to keep him talking to hear his voice break. I’m scratching his shoulders, whispering in his ear, when he starts to beg, “please, miss, step on me.”

I hesitate. “We didn’t discuss that,” but I slide my foot onto his thigh, scrape the point of my heel over the red canvas of his skin.

He’s saying “please” over and over between mewling, ragged breaths. I don’t move at all, don’t say a word, and he’s pleading. I couldn’t move if I tried.

My mouth is dry. “Full sentences,” I mean to whisper but it comes out loud.

He gives me paragraphs. He begs, voice shaking, and I am transfixed by it, the desperation, the rambling nonsense, the sudden eloquence for which he is later embarrassed “Walk over me and turn me gold like Midas,” he says, amid groveling and moaning that he deserves to be impaled.

It’s the reference to Midas that convinces me. Half a dozen interpretations of that myth in this context swirl half-realized through my mind in an instant. I’m uncomfortably aware that several of them are not pleasant, but all of them are in some way aesthetic.

I stand carefully. I rest the point of my switch on the ground for balance, make sure to keep most of my weight on my toes, and walk, carefully, gingerly, up from his calves to the top of his thighs. Even moving slowly, this takes less than a minute. I’m out of breath as though it were an hour’s climb up a mountain. He starts to shake, and I step down. He’s sobbing. I gather him up in a spare towel, hushing and holding and stroking his hair. I’m unnerved, a little frightened: I had not meant to make him cry. When I ask if he’s okay he smiles, says “good,” and “thank you, miss,” and snuggles into my arms as though he doesn’t have a care in the world. Within minutes he’s joking and laughing with someone else in the room while he puts his clothes back on. I ask what he was thinking, when he mentioned Midas. He blushes, says that it didn’t mean anything at all, that he was only thinking of my gold shoes.

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