The bather poured the last half-teaspoon of shampoo in his palm. He'd have to close the bottle and leave it upside down until tomorrow to get the last clingy bit to ooze out. For the moment he opened a new bottle of a discount brand. It gave him a hard time because one hand still cupped the first brand, also on discount, and the new plastic top needed breaking in.
Once he started shampooing, with a mixture of both brands, his face started to itch. It tingled in four spots with the steam hunting for more. The humidity breathed down every pore. The bather shampooed fast, trying to bear what felt like electric worms burrowing deeper.
Frantically, the bather surrendered and rubbed his entire face with the shampoo lather. That usually meant he'd have to flip himself and dunk face-first to rinse more thoroughly underwater. And it had to get done soon so he could see again.
But the scratch on his forearm itched terribly. He rubbed it obligatorily and dedicated himself to eradicating all itches everywhere. Smeared from the chest up in shampoo lather, the bather finally rinsed.
An hour after leaving the tub, the bather noticed the scab on his forearm had flaked off. Only the faintest comet trail of pink remained, and even that had mostly paled. He checked again 20 minutes later and saw the scratch scarcely had an outline. In another 20 minutes, the area had completely healed.
The bather found a cure to wounds. He flipped over a junk mail envelope and began writing the formula to the best of his memory. Surely, the Jesus lather required more than simply mixing two shampoo brands. With thousands of brands for every sucker and ditz, the manufacturers would have already stumbled upon this remedy. They have hundreds of testers who would report their seborrhoeic dermatitis receding. No, the secret formula must include that unique cosmetic layer of chemicals on the bather's face.
He started each day, like many men, with a shave and an application of aftershave. When that dried, he'd added a milk of magnesia mask. The layer around his neck covered some cologne the bather sprayed there the day before. Even frugal guys tried Christmas gift toiletries sometimes. The stack of three chemicals went with him to the bathtub that morning.
And before entering the tub, the bather habitually added ten drops of tea tree oil to the water. He did that once a week. So the cure formed from the right amounts of the three layered chemicals blended with the two shampoo brands and the oil extract. It all mixed before landing on his scratched forearm.
And the bather knew those amounts well. He used the same routine for years. The cure only revealed itself after a string of irritating flukes. How many people had died needing this treatment when it got brewed and sent down the drain weekly?
Having rubbed in this random concoction, the bather wondered why smoke hadn't risen from his face instead. The reality of the great find settled in when he considered all the chemical formulas discovered by accident. Many became modern marvels.
The medical possibilities zoomed through his mind. Each idea fell on the others, building a staircase to sainthood. But then it all fell apart. Although the bather could cheaply create barrels of the healing lather, he'd never get through the red tape to patent the cure. The medical monopoly demanded credentials in the rich-boys' club plus decades of research and peer review acceptance. And giving away the formula would only thrust the long wait into someone else's hands.
But he could take some of his savings and ship the ingredients to a Third World nation. He'd set up a small operation and build a reputation treating the poor for free. Soon, they would flock to see him, lining up like in the New Testament. Some countries had little to no regulation. Burn victims could get carried in then walk out cured hours later. Villagers who would normally die from farm accidents and infections would keep on farming. Families and volunteers could apply the healing lather to the injured, leaving the bather to simply make the stuff.
With the humidity from the recent bath still lingering, the bather could almost feel the heat of Africa, the rural dust in his nose. The climate and harsher diet would shrink him a little. But he'd save potentially millions of lives. Then, after years of demonstrating a proven product, maybe the rest of the sick, legal world would accept it. Black markets certainly would.
And the bather would post the ingredient list online. The whole world could take it for free.
The bather's feet ached from pacing in his apartment. He nudged a curtain aside and looked out his bathroom window. Just the one glance, this random sampling of passersby on the street below, made him shudder. It all happened on a random Wednesday like any other day. The people, nearly all of them, did...horrible things. He'd have to look away soon and leave that curtain alone for months or until an impressive lightning storm.
The bather watched what they did out there. He stared at their expressions and winced, and not from the sunlight. After this little reminder, he'd never release that cure to anyone.