My Bob's Big Boys were all wrong, Pearl told me. Her netsuke-like brow knit in disapproval, she pointed to their aggressive posture, the conspiratorial way they peeked over their shoulders. The way their snug, checkered overalls bulged - "latex lewd! latex lewd!", she snapped in disgust. Their attitude was threatening, Pearl said, if not outright hostile. No wonder people who had slept in our guest room had felt uncomfortable and magnetically misaligned. Now I understood the underlying agitation they must have felt. How could I have missed it all these years? Thank God for Feng Shui! Thank Buddha for the gifted few with the ability to interpret it - and make things better!
After passing it off as so much National Enquirer hogwash ("Nicole's Sock Drawer Found to Be at Unfavorable Angle"), I discovered an article in Smithsonian which depicted grinning Oriental businessmen enjoying the success they achieved by paying attention to the forces of Feng Shui. Standing behind a teak and cherrywood desk set at an angle of exactly 66 degrees, 3 minutes east of magnetic north, these moguls pointed to their past lives as poor squid fisherman before discovering the secrets of Feng Shui.
Well if it worked for them, maybe it would work for me! I found Pearl's name in the Brooklyn Yellow Pages under "Feng Shui Consultants" and of course, reached her answering machine. But then a miraculous thing happened! And talk about synchronicity - As I was leaving a message for her to get in touch with me, at that precise moment, there was a knock on my door and there stood, believe it or not - the pizza delivery boy with the medium pepperoni-mushroom I'd ordered two hours earlier! I almost fell off my misaligned sofa!
The Bob's Big Boys seemed to scowl as I repositioned them according to Pearl's dictum. I plucked the removable head from the Bob who faced east and dropped a sprig of rosemary into his rubbery body. The Pillsbury Doughboy, molded without feet, was permitted to lean against the corner in what Pearl called, "the handicapped zone". I was beginning to feel better already. The futon was next. The west-east alignment caused blood to fill in the lower extremities before it made its way up to the brain, Pearl said, so I positioned the foot of the futon so it faced north, leaving the head facing west. As if finally able to relax, the walls took on a rosy glow, and the massive bookcase imperceptibly at first, began to respirate, moving the tightly wedged books forward and backward as they were alternately squeezed together and released.
At that point, another amazing phenomenon exploded into our lives. A series of tiny, sharp explosions erupted from an old cigar box that stood on my desk and the odor of deisel fumes and carbon monoxide assaulted our nostrils.
Pearl yelped in fear like a Siamese kitten whose tail had been squeezed, and she threw up her well-groomed paws as if to fend off an impending evil. The thought of bending her into a right angle and hurling her onto the newly aligned futon immediately leaped into my mind. But there were the tiny, noxious explosions to consider....All I kept in that old cigar box were some matchbox cars and trucks I'd picked up at the flea market. Somewhat furtively, I opened the box and to my horror, there were all the tiny roadsters, tow-trucks, hot rods and police cars dashing about, madly backfiring and smashing into one another like bumper cars! Pearl pointed to her watch and ran out of the room.
As Pearl dashed into the bathroom (it was obviously next) I gave her a few minutes to get the feel of it, then followed her in there. By her agitation, I knew she either found it shocking or loved it, but then she brutally shoved me back out the door, and the sound of flushing water told me she hadn't finished her preliminary analysis. Ten minutes later the bathroom door opened and the tantalizing aroma of honeysuckle and jasmine I was hoping for remained a caucasian boy's fantasy.
The tub "implied a tarnished sarcophagus and stank of mortality", Pearl explained, and she immediately started smashing it with a sledge hammer I kept in the linen closet. Taking a screwdriver from the inside pocket of her black vinyl slicker, Pearl deftly removed the toilet seat and reversed it so that future squatters would be facing the wall. Mumbling something almost intelligible about cedars and Siberians, Pearl dismantled both the towel rack and the toilet paper holder, and reattached them at 90 degree angles some three inches from the floor. Breathing a deep sigh of relief, she withdrew a can of stove black spray paint from her shoulder bag and painted thick snakes on the mirror covering the medicine chest. Overwhelmed with one cosmic revelation after another, my heart beating like a triphammer, I watched her savagely strip her wet-look vinyl slicker from her trim Hunan being. Only then did I notice the slicker's grommets, through which Pearl carefully inserted blue plastic shower curtain holders. I was beginning to understand why she charged $500 an hour (with senior discount).
I watched her twin mangoes rhumba-ing rhythmically down the hallway as she prepared to correct what was amiss in my kitchen. Small, compact and efficient (the kitchen, not the mangoes), I had a feeling Pearl was about to give me an education.
The pots and pans were all wrong, she said, ceremoniously chucking them out the kitchen window. They were a beautiful set of Silvertones and Revere cookware we'd gotten as a wedding gift but Pearl insisted that the handles were all in the wrong places. Some were between 10am and 11am, others were a little after 5pm, one or two were closer to 2am than 3am. They all needed to be positioned at noon, she insisted, and she was sorry, but If I seriously wanted a balanced life, I have to go out and get cookware with handles positioned correctly. The placement of the range wasn't as awful as it could have been, but Pearl insisted I pull the handles off the drawers and range controls, paint them Chinese Red, and reverse them. Not only would my range's burners heat up more quickly, but food cooked on them would leave me hungry an hour after I ate it. The ice trays in the refrigerator were badly contaminated from years of harboring "unclean" water, and needed to be soaked in a mixture of Sprite and fox urine, both of which she'd brought with her. I suggested going out and buying new trays, but she cautioned me against it because almost all new ice trays come from Zaire, which makes using them extremely dangerous.
The boxes of cereal in the pantry were positioned at the wrong angle (I had a feeling they might be) and the cans of tuna, corn and olives needed to be in reverse alphabetical order with their labels facing west. No big deal, I thought, bending to what seemed an easy task. Pearl stopped me immediately, pointing out that the box and can alignment must be done between 6 and 9pm on the night of a new moon. Looking up the next available date on my calendar, she wrote it on a post-it which had very tiny writing printed on the bottom, which I couldn't see without my glasses, and stuck it on my cabinet.
Next Pearl demagnetized all my forks, knives and spoons by individually tying them with dental floss and swinging them, pendulum-like, in front of my Bose speakers. I looked at my Elvis clock and realized Pearl had been Feng Shuiing (without a break!) for almost three hours.
I suggested we move on to the living room, first putting on a pot of Oolong tea. Pearl's eyes filled with tears and I wondered what I'd said that upset her so...I learned later the people from her ancestral village had an extra set of tear ducts which overflowed spontaneously for no apparent reason...
The 27" Sony sucked her into its prescence like a magnet. She winced and pulled a small bottle of oyster sauce from her bottomless bag of tricks. Covering all the vents and apertures with a thin layer of the fishy paste, she pushed it firmly down into the crack and openings with her tongue while chanting, "Nam Myoho Renge Kyo". With her tongue thus occupied, Pearl sounded a bit like she had a hair-lip and I found myself aroused by the combination of tongue-action and quasi-speech impediment as she hovered over my TV. Having improved my reception, she turned to the sofa and turned all the cushions, a surprisingly benign act indeed. I thought placing the parakeet cage in the center of the hearth a poor idea, but who am I to question thousands of years of Oriental wisdom? "Chilly budgie, chilly budgie", Pearl purred in a strangely cat-like manner. Pulling from her bag the largest bottle of vanilla extract I've ever seen, Pearl completely soaked her naked body and commenced to roll back and forth on the living room berber carpeting, until it was entirely covered with a fragrant, oily sheen. Without missing a beat, she leaped to her feet and began yanking dozens of pictures from where they hung on the walls, and stacked them carefully in a pile some four feet high. She then made three circuits around them, bowing at each point of the compass. I smelled Pearl's fatigue and expected her Feng Shuing would soon reach its completion.
She took her time getting dressed, putting on a brilliant crimson brocade kimono with black satin trim. Sitting in my now well-balanced kitchen, we shared a cup of Oolong, and after a few moments of awed silence, I asked her for her bill. Two thousand dollars didn't seem like much for all she'd done, and for the time and energy she'd invested in reorienting the ever-present forces that influenced my life. But she was done now, and I hadn't planned to pay her from the beginning. After all, what could this fragile woman do? I laughed and stood up, prior to ushering her out the door and out of my life. I was surprised at her mild reaction. No fits of screaming, no rage at having been taken advantage of - I could hardly believe it! Without a word, she strode to the door and before exiting, she turned and looked at me very meaningfully.
Greatly relieved, and reveling in my newly balanced, magnetically correct environment, I strode into the bathroom to take a shower - and was amazed when I took of my clothes and glanced in the full-length mirror! In my weirdest dreams I never could have imagined it - Pearl had surreptitiously replaced my earlobes with my testicles which now dangled, shriveled, loosely, one from each ear!
About a month later, a friend with excellent eyesight came to visit and noticed the post-it Pearl had left with the tiny writing on the bottom. Turning to me with a puzzled look he asked, "What does this mean, 'If you stiff me you'll need earmuffs to keep your balls warm' "?