Arkansas Road Trip 2009 - Part Two


In the woods at Blanchard Springs Caverns

Lying naked in a tub of excruciatingly hot water with two teensy washcloths to cover me as I’m about to be ‘exfoliated’ by a pierced and tattood stranger named Erma pretty well defines the word ‘vulnerable’ for me.

Erma coarsely commanded, “Give me your leg”. I did as I was told as she began my exfoliation with a loofah from hell. All the while I couldn’t help but think how surreal this whole experience was to me.

Working my feet, legs, arms and back with vigor, I determined early on that it was time for a little ‘small talk’.

  • Me: “So Erma, how long have you been doing this sort of thing?”
  • Erma: "Well, during my incarceration, just outside of Little Rock at ‘Hawkins’, I found Jesus as my personal saviour.”
  • Me: Enthusiastically saying, (but thinking, ‘oh shit’) …“That is wonderful! Good for you!"

  • Erma: “So I decided to turn my life around and move here to Hot Springs”

  • Me: “Well that is just fabulous! So how long have you worked here?”

  • Erma: With a wide semi-toothless grin, “’bout three weeks.”

  • Me: (Gulping) “Well then, best of luck to you.”


  1. that can be wounded or physically injured
  2. a. open to criticism or attack a vulnerable reputation
    b. easily hurt, as by adverse criticism; sensitive affected by a specified influence, temptation, etc.

Etymology: LL vulnerabilis, wounding, likely to injure (also, in pass. sense, vulnerable) <> L vellere -

Unfortunately, I was now an informed client.

My mind was racing with thoughts of "Women in Chains" and the thoughts of beatings, gruel, cold concrete, iron bars and the like.

I ended my conversation with Erma. She had a job to do and I was speechless. It worked for us both.

Following my bath, Erma passed me on to a coworker who appeared to have a full set of teeth and no visible tattoos. I was wrapped, pampered and massaged. It was a good day.

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