God works in mysterious ways. A few short weeks after His plan had brought me to a Baptist church on account of my 10-year-old son wanted to see a traveling troupe of evangelical bodybuilders perform feats of strength, and at which exhibition my theretofore Catholic son elected to accept Jesus Christ as his personal Lord and Savior, God went and afflicted me with a backgammon injury that led to my joining a cult.

Let’s start with the backgammon injury. It was my lower back. Like someone had drained all my spinal fluid and replaced it with a mixture of glass shards and road salt. I had played against my son on the living room floor, lying on my stomach, propped up on my elbows, doing what practitioners of yoga would recognize as the cobra pose—for about an hour and a half. When we called it quits, I felt some soreness. The next morning, I couldn’t move.

My wife urged me to stay home from work. Instead, I found in the medicine cabinet a bottle of prescription muscle relaxants called Skelaxin that belonged to her. The “use by” date had long ago come and gone. A Google search of the terms “Skelaxin” and “expired” and “death” didn’t turn up any helpful information, but I did learn that King Pharmaceuticals, maker of Skelaxin, admits it doesn’t know how the drug works. Anyway, it didn’t matter. By then I was already at work and hopped up on expired Skelaxin.

That’s when my boss saw me walking hunchedly down the hall and asked what was wrong. “My back ish killing me,” I told him. “I wash paying blackgammung with my son and herd it. I like your pretty shirt. What wash the question again?”

“You need to see my guy,” he said, scribbling a phone number on a slip of paper. “Here’s the deal: his grandfather invented a procedure. It was passed on to his father. It takes 15 minutes, and it’ll fix your back. But he’s not a licensed chiropractor, so he established a religion, and you’ll have to join it to get treated.”

A few days later, after my wife threw out my beloved Skelaxin, I made an appointment with Michael Chrane at his Alphabiotic New Life Center. The place is tucked away next to a Blockbuster in Preston Royal Village, though you won’t find it listed on the shopping center’s website. In the waiting room, I signed a homemade-looking form that said I was joining an association and that I was foregoing certain rights in order to exercise certain other, more important Constitutional rights. Also, I acknowledged that Chrane did not practice medicine nor carry malpractice insurance.

Then a receptionist led me back to a softly lit exam room with an inclined, padded table at its center. I took a seat. A large teddy bear sat in a chair across the room from me. Before long, Chrane walked in. He looked like a cross between Jerry Springer and Harry Anderson from Night Court.
Chrane explained that what he does is like pressing the reset button on a computer. When he said the words “reset button,” he made quote marks in the air with his fingers. He had me lie on the table and, after a brief exam, confirmed that my body was out of whack. On a white board, he illustrated the problem. I was an unbalanced blue stick figure with green squiggles running along my spine. Finally, with a model of a spine, he showed me how, with one quick motion, he was going to pull and twist my head to press my reset button.

“Any questions?” he said as he took my noggin in his arms like a running back cradles a football.

“Have you ever lost anyone?” I asked.

“Not in 34 years,” he said.

And then—WHAMMO!—he yanked on my head. My neck popped. I saw stars and squealed. Before I could regain my bearings—WHAMMO!—he did it again. You know how in every Steven Seagal movie he sneaks up behind a bad guy and kills him by twisting his head? It was like that. Except if Chrane were a Navy SEAL-turned-cook and he put his move on a terrorist, instead of dropping lifelessly to the ground, the terrorist would go, “My back feels so much better! Thanks!”

Including a one-time membership fee, my visit cost $60 (future visits would cost $25). I was happy to pay it.

Now, if you’ve got a Scrabble or Candy Land injury, and if you are considering a visit to Chrane to get the “Seagal With Happy Ending” (I’m making the air quotes here), I must tell you that my take-home Alphabiotics pamphlet sounded goofy (e.g., describing it as “an applied philosophy, consistent with the science of quantum physics, that concerns itself with the relationship between our primary Source, i.e. Life, and the micro and macro aspects of ourselves”). And a number of years ago, when a Seattle Alphabioticist trained by Michael Chrane’s father was accused of causing a non-lethal stroke in a woman when he pressed her reset button, in court the Alphabioticist described what he did as a religious “laying of hands” sacrament and said it was protected by the First Amendment. The judge didn’t buy it. So, you know, bear all that in mind.

All I know is that head yank worked for me. Just like God’s plan and Skelaxin, some things will forever remain a mystery. 

Write to timr@dmagazine.com.