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The Bottom Line
by Vesna Main



He rang this morning to say that he would be half an hour late. Now, that’s the first. He is always early or on the dot He will make it up to me, he said. For the lost wages.

I have lost count how many times he has been in the past two years. On average, we meet once every two months. So, it must be around a dozen visits he has made.

I like a regular. He is one of a few I have. You could say that there is not much excitement in that, but I am not in this business for excitement. The arrangement works for both of us: we know what to expect and the sort of routine we like.

Usually, he rings a week before the appointment. It is always Thursdays he wants, Thursday afternoon; it has to be after two o’clock. His wife has an aerobics class in the evening and comes back late. That is what he has told me once before. I never ask about their lives or circumstances. If a punter wants Thursday afternoon, as long as I am not booked, Thursday afternoon he shall have. I imagine if the wife is late on Thursdays, and must be tired after aerobics, she makes no demands on him.

With him it is in calls only. Most married ones ask for that, unless they have checked into a hotel. And he always wants two hours. I don’t even ask. When he rings, all I say is ‘the usual?’ and he replies, ‘yes, thank you, Marcella’. Him saying my name, that sounds friendly. I know he likes that. Nice, you could say. It shows we have known each other for some time. Although, to tell you the truth, in the end, I don’t care. I don’t do this work for friendship. When he talks to me on the ‘phone, I can almost see him nodding with his serious face. That is how well I know him.

Most of them are serious, to start with, at least. It is only after a drink or two that I can make them laugh. They are anxious, I suppose. They worry about their performance. I see through a punter like that straightaway. And it always works: just tell them how much you are going to enjoy being with them, show them that you like what they are doing to you. I moan, I scream, I fake orgasms. And what do they do? Lap it all up. I know they are not stupid. Perhaps days or weeks later they think back and wonder whether it was really that good for me. But, never mind. The fact is that I can relax them and make them feel good. Isn’t that what it is all about? Making them feel good.  

He doesn’t need relaxing. I don’t think so. Nor do I need to fake it with him. He is unlike the others: he doesn’t expect me to have an orgasm. Just as well. He cares for me in a different sort of way; sometimes when we talk, I feel almost like one of those clever people who have views of their own.     

I see him like a sort of Peter Pan, a boy who has not grown up. I remember the words from the poster for the film I went to see a few years ago, with Myra. We were taking her son. Little Damian became annoyed when we read the words to him. He wanted to grow up as quickly as possible he said.

But not this man. Despite his cleverness, his visits to me are a refusal to grow up. He is somebody who comes to me to make sure that he stays a little boy.

We do spend the entire two hours together. Some of them leave, or want me to leave, as soon as they have done it.

When I open the door, he is standing there in his shabby brown jacket and holding a crumpled carrier bag. I move aside to let him pass. We briefly smile at each other. He goes straight to my reception room and lowers himself on the sofa. He places an envelope with the money on the coffee table on the side. I don’t look at it or take it until he has gone. I offer him a drink. I don’t do it with others, but then, he is special. It is always a beer he wants. I fetch it from the refrigerator in the kitchen – I have it ready for him - and place myself on a chair opposite him. I wait for him to start.

He takes a sip of the beer, asks how I am, and then has another sip. Next, he questions me about something that’s in the news. Usually, I have no time to read the papers, but before he comes, if I can at all manage, I do check the headlines in the Mail. You got to make an effort. Preparation for the job. I want every punter to feel satisfied, let alone my regulars. You have to take a special care with them.

What was it the last time? Oh yes, something about the nurses’ pay. The first time we met, I didn’t know what to say. People easily take offence at other people’s views. I have learned that in this job. Best is to let them say whatever they want to say and nod, agree with them. How was I to know what his views were? I have to deal with all sorts. I bet some of my clients would fall out with each other. People are so different. Except when it comes to sex. Most men are the same there.

So, I was both being careful and not quite sure what I should think. But he took his time with me. He is a patient man. On that day he looked to me like a teacher. Perhaps he is; I have never asked him. Anyway, he explained to me what the dispute was about. I did think then that if only my teachers at school had been so patient with me. If only they were like him, speaking slowly, without thinking me stupid. If only they had made sure that I understood.

I don’t know why he wants to talk to me about such serious issues. None of the other guys do. I bet he has lots of friends he can discuss serious things with. I remember that I used to find him tedious. I didn’t care to know what he was saying. Except that his manner, that patient and slow way of explaining, did win me over. These days I even look forward to his questions. Well, a sort of. It makes a difference from the usual conversations with others.

The topic for the day is often introduced by something he reads out to me, either from a magazine, or newspaper or sometimes even from a book. That is what he has in that carrier bag. At some point very early on, he reads out something to me and once he has finished, he looks at me and waits for me to say something. I have learned that nothing happens unless I make a comment, no matter how brief. The word that he often uses is exploitation. He says, ‘Marcella, the world is full of those who exploit and those who are exploited. In our system, all relationships are about exploitation.’ 

So, if my mind wonders a bit or what he reads is difficult to follow, and I am at a loss what to say, it seems I cannot go wrong if I mention that word. As soon as I say it, his face lights up. That’s the teacher in him: his pupil’s doing well and he is proud. As for me, I always remember the words the old Miss Joanna said to me when I started working for her: ‘this business is part of service industry and therefore you are here to please.’

Another time he read our something about men not helping women with housework. Again, I used the word exploitation, and he was pleased. But I didn’t agree with him. In my opinion, any woman who shacks up with a man should expect that. That is how men are. You cannot change them. I remember my mother putting up with the lazy drunken man until she threw him out eventually. That’s why I am my own woman.

So, we have a little talk. But as soon as I have answered the question, he launches into an explanation of what the problem is about. So, with the nurses, he said that their union was not as powerful as the doctors’ and that because they were mostly women, while doctors were mostly men, the nurses were bound to be paid less. Again, I wasn’t sure I agreed: doctors are cleverer as well, they know and can do things nurses cannot do. I keep quiet while he talks and nod from time to time. He doesn’t mind that I don’t ask questions at that point; he said the last time that he was pleased how well I listened. Well, sometimes I am almost interested in what he says, or, if I am not, then I remember that I am part of the service industry. As long as I nod and look at him, I can think my own thoughts.

Last week he read an article about women working in textile factories in India and how little they were paid. ‘Marcella’, he said, ‘coming here on the bus, I looked at people’s feet. Half of them were wearing trainers. I wondered how many of them were made in places like the Philippines, where the wages are very low and the factory owners and their western masters are making huge profits.’

I was thinking of Lia, the Philippino girl who lives in the flat below mine. She does a bit of work for Miss Joanna’s massage parlour and she says that the oldest men and the dirtiest men who come in are always given to her. I knew that’s the pecking order at the establishment. She has no work permit, she has to keep quiet. No good arguing with Miss Joanna. So I got interested when he talked of the Philippino women and the trainers. But he had to go and we never finished the conversation. I remembered this last week when he rang for the appointment. I thought I could tell him that it is not just the trainers. I am going to mention Lia.

The conversation takes approximately half of the time. Once he has finished his talk, he asks me a questions or two, usually to check how much I have understood and then, very gently, he stands up, puts his hands together, looks at me and says.
          ‘I am ready now.’

‘Good.’ I say. At this point, my voice sounds rough and determined.

I walk to the bedroom and he follows. Now, I am fully in charge. I sit in the armchair and I ask him to kneel down in front of me. He obeys immediately.

‘Kiss my shoes’, I shout. He covers them with urgent kisses.

‘The soles as well’, I shout and he carries until I order him to stop.

Then I ask him whether he has been a naughty boy.

‘Yes, miss. Very naughty.’ He whispers, his eyes on the floor.

‘Then you deserve to be punished.’ He starts shaking. I order him to kneel against the bed and pull his trousers down. He does.

‘That’s no good’, I shout. ‘You naughty boy, you must present your naked bottom for me to deal with.’ With no hesitation, his hands pull down the underpants and he assumes the kneeling position.

‘Lift the bottom’, I order. ‘Higher, higher, now, that’s better.’

I take a cane and swing it in the air. I can see his buttocks stiffening with anticipation. Then I swing it again and make it land on his bottom. He utters a sigh. I go on, increasing the force of the hit with each hit. Red streaks appear on the skin. His breathing is deep and loud, mouth wide open. In between my hits, he screams ‘more, more, I have been very naughty’ and I oblige. The skin is breaking and drops of blood dot his buttocks. My cane smears them around; a red treacle makes its way down a buttock and the back of the thigh.

 Now he is panting loudly, his body stiffens, his back convulses back and forth and there he is: ejaculating. I stand by and watch him. He collapses on the bed, his breathing still loud.

‘Marcella, you are an angel. This was wonderful.’

‘I do what I can’, I say.

‘Oh, Marcella, you surpassed yourself this time. It gets better and better.’ I thank him.

‘Could you pass me a mirror?’ I have it ready.

He turns so that his back is reflected in the wardrobe mirror and then holds the one I have just given him in front of him so that he can catch the reflection. His cock begins to stiffen again and he sighs. I always make sure that one of the lines is particularly deep and prominent. I hit on the same place again and again. He runs the tip of his finger along the deepest cut and the breathing intensifies. The second coming.

Then it is a few minutes of absolute stillness, with him lying on his side, eyes closed. At this point, he likes me to lie next to him, my arm around his back. I remain fully dressed. When he opens his eyes, he smiles at me, and he always says something about our initial discussion. Something like,

‘Remember Marcella, those factory workers in the far east, we got to help them. It is a small world; we all depend on one another.’ I agree with that. I depend on him making these visits.


He arrives exactly half an hour late, as he said, he would. Immediately, I notice that he has no carrier bag. Perhaps a book, or a journal, is stuffed inside his jacket pockets. I watch as he makes his way to the front room, places an envelope on the coffee table and sits down. I remind myself to tell him about Lia.

He doesn’t want a drink. Something is wrong. I wait.

‘Marcella, we need to talk’, he says. His face is gloomy.

‘What have you got today? What are you going to read?’ I try to show interest.

‘I am not going to read.’ It must be because he is late and has to leave that part out.

‘Shall we go to the bedroom straightaway?’ He takes a deep breath, looks down and then back at me.

‘I have thought a great deal about my visits. As you know, I have always enjoyed them. And I have developed certain feelings, well, how shall I put it, I have developed a caring attitude towards you. I have also realized that what I am doing is not right. I have been exploiting you. The business you are in is about men using their economic power and exploiting women like you. I have been hypocritical. I have been showing you how people exploit others, while at the same time, I have been exploiting you. I have been exploiting you and that has to stop. That is the bottom line. I feel terrible about it. I have come to apologize. I am really ashamed of myself. Please forgive me, Marcella.’ He stands up to go. I don’t know what to say.

‘So you don’t want to, you don’t want me to spank you?’ He looks at me:

‘I’ve left some money, a bit more than usual. To make it up for future lost wages.’ He walks out.

‘Good luck, Marcella. Remember our conversations. You must not allow anyone to exploit you.

I am left alone. I don’t know what to think, except that he has always been a bit strange. Well, as old Joanna says, ‘you lose some, you gain some.’ Perhaps it was the routine that he was getting bored with. In this business, they always want something new. If only he had asked.

My next appointment is not until this afternoon. I have some time for myself until then. Perhaps I will pop down and see Lia, have a cup of coffee with her.




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