The Red Dragon, Or: The Happy Ending by Isaac Cravit

There was a decent man who sat by himself sweating in the sauna at the sports club until three other men came in to sweat alongside him. One of them was in the middle of telling the other two a story—the type only told in saunas at sports clubs or possibly in jail. Though the decent man was characteristically polite, he soon found that he couldn’t resist the other man’s squalid narrative.

“After work today,” the man was saying, “I shit you not, I got the best handjob in the world. I travel a lot for business you know, so I have handjobs on good authority—handjobs in this country, handjobs in Europe, Eastern world handjobs… But there’s this massage parlour right here in our city, off a little back alley street downtown, and there’s no question about it, hands down—or hands on—best handjob in the world. The Red Dragon, that’s what the place is called.”

He went on to describe in luxuriously dirty sauna-only detail, the essence of the best handjob in the world, and by the time the story was finished, the decent man who had been eavesdropping was sweating much more than what was usual.

“I’m going to The Red Dragon on my lunch-break tomorrow,” the first man declared when the story was finished.

“I’m supposed to meet my wife for lunch tomorrow,” the second man said disparagingly. “It’ll have to be first thing after work.”

The decent man stood up to go to the showers and the storyteller prodded him on his way past.

“Did you hear what I was saying about the best handjob in the world?”

“Yes,” the decent man replied as he exited the sauna. “But I’ve never cheated on my wife.”

“Never had a good handjob eh,” the storyteller muttered.

* * * * *

When the decent man got home he found that his wife was still in bed, none better from the illness that was afflicting her, that had been keeping her tired all of the time. He kissed her forehead and she stirred and sat up to speak to him.

“I got a call today from one of my friends,” the wife said. “She told me about a special remedy—a rare blend of herbs that might be the thing to make me better.”

“Of course I will get it first thing tomorrow,” the man said.

“It is only sold in a special shop right here in our city, off a little back alley street downtown.”

“I will go there and get it for you tomorrow,” the man said, and he kissed his wife and let her fall back to sleep.

The next day the decent man took the morning off work to go downtown to find the special shop and purchase the rare herbal blend for his wife. He spent a long time getting lost in the wrong little back alley streets before he happened upon the right one. Soon he could see the special shop, and as he approached could see that beside the shop was a restaurant and he thought he might like to eat in it afterwards. So the decent man walked further.

What he saw next however, caused him to stop. To his disbelief, standing beside the restaurant that stood beside the special shop, was The Red Dragon.

“Of all the little back alley streets downtown,” the decent man said, “God help me.”

He was suddenly uneasy, overcome with feeling and thoughts unfamiliar to him: handjob thoughts. He found that he could not walk towards the special shop, nor walk away from The Red Dragon, and so he stood like a pole in between the two.

He stood still there, in contemplation, for many hours, watching satisfied customers enter and exit both establishments. When finally, he was hungry, he decided to eat in the restaurant and found he could move easily towards it.

Over the course of his meal, the decent man was at battle against The Red Dragon. Never before had he grappled so long and hard with the virtues of good and evil, right and wrong. His wife had been ill and tired for many years. He couldn’t remember the last time she gave him a handjob.

When the meal was finished, the decent man was presented with a fortune cookie. He cracked it in half and unfolded his fortune. It read:

Noble is the man who can use his own hands

The decent man absorbed the fortune; digested it thoroughly. Over and over he repeated it to himself. Again and again, like a spell.

After some time, upon the payment of his bill, the decent man stepped out of the restaurant and in an uncompromising demonstration of will, walked into the special shop, bought the rare herbal blend, and brought it straight home to his wife. She was in bed and he kissed her forehead and she stirred and sat up to speak to him.

“I’ve brought you the thing to make you better,” he said.

“I love you,” she said.

He mixed the herbal blend into tea, left it at his wife’s bedside, kissed her one more time on the forehead and left the room to take a shower. The decent man repeated this routine—kiss, tea, kiss, shower—for a week, until, quite magically, his wife was all better; healthier than she had been in her entire life.

And so life for the decent man was better after that too. He was happy. His wife was well. She even gave him a handjob from time to time—perhaps not the best handjob in the world, but a damn good one.

* * * * *

Some time later, the decent man found himself sweating in the sauna at the sports club again when the same three men from before came in to sweat alongside him. But on this occasion the men were not so garrulous as before. They were quiet and, actually, looked in discomfort. Though the decent man was characteristically polite, he soon found that he couldn’t help but notice each of the men had a squalid narrative of red blisters on their dicks.

Isaac Cravit is the author of the Patron’s Pick Award-winning play, “Our Wedding Table,” and “Pull-out,” both of which were performed at the Toronto Fringe Festival.