Calming-Holding-Touching-Stroking by Paul Beckman

Marcus waited outside the church basement until the AA meeting was over. He put his hand in his right pants pocket and fingered the harmonica which made him less anxious. He rubbed his finger along the metal sides as he walked around the parking lot waiting for the others to show up for the 8PM meeting.

People began arriving—some sat in their cars playing their harmonicas and others, like Marcus, walked around with their hand in their pocket holding or stroking their harmonicas. There was one constant for all of the men and women—calming—holding, touching, stroking. 

Dr. Katz drove up and parked in the minister’s spot in front of the church and the people began to saunter over and line up to enter the church basement as soon as the door was unlocked. Dr. Katz handed the box of coffee to one person and the fixings and Styrofoam cups to another. No one touched the doughnuts leftover from the AA meeting. Eating and playing harmonicas don’t go together.

Once inside, the nine people sat in a circle, harmonicas out.

“Please go around the room and give your first name and tell us something about the harmonica,” Dr. Katz said. He opened his briefcase and took out a rolled paper and tacked it to the bulletin board behind him. The Harmoni—Katz it read.

“Maryanne—President Lincoln carried a harmonica in his pocket”.

“A.J. –Both confederate and Union soldiers carried and played harmonicas.

“Hillary Clinton’s Vice Presidential pick played the harmonica.

“My harmonica was passed down in my family from my great, great grandfather.”

“ Maryanne, please start us off.”  Maryanne lifted her pitch pipe to her mouth, blew a note and the cacophony of noise began.

Dr. Katz held up his hand and the playing stopped and he once again asked the assembled to go around the circle and talk about their relationship to their harmonica. They had previously established that everyone found that holding or stroking one did more than Xanax could do. Marcus was surprised to hear that most people couldn’t play a tune on theirs but used it as a baby would use a binky or a stuffed animal.

At 8:20 Dr. Katz adjourned the meeting and told everyone that they now realized there was nothing wrong with their harmonica fetish and he was disbanding the group for the remainder of the year. “If anyone has further issues that require help, please call my office for an appointment.”

“You have ten minutes,” he said, and people took out their harmonicas and held them as others walked  around looked and asked questions but no one touched another’s harmonica.

The door opened and Dr. Katz said goodnight to all and a new group walked in—the whistlers. The doctor replaced his Harmoni-Katz sign with one showing random musical notes and puckered lips.

Paul Beckman is an award-winning author with a new flash collection, Kiss Kiss (Truth Serum Press). He had a story selected for the 2018 Norton Micro-fiction Anthology and another nominated for The Best Small Fictions 2019– BSF. He lives in CT and runs the FBomb NY flash fiction reading series in KGB’s Red Room.

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