“Commemorated for taking my clothes off! I want more than that. Go on, stick your needles in, make it hurt!”
Henry Craig sighed, “One doesn’t stick needles in, one ‘introduces’ them. Please lie down.”
The young woman lay on a couch. Through the open window, she could hear the crashing of waves in the distance and, above her, the whirring of the ceiling fan took the edge off the almost-unbearable heat. What the hell was she doing here? Then she remembered. Amytal, Pentothal, Demerol, Nembutal, ‘Bennies.’ That’s what she was doing there.
Craig introduced needles into the woman’s body at carefully selected points. His mother was Chinese. He remembered her words, ‘You must learn to visualise the meridians, see them projected onto the patient’s body, as if they were tattooed.’ Then had followed the many years of study and practice required to become a licensed practitioner. Now here he was, with … with her. Not something he would or ever could speak about, but just knowing … just knowing that he, Henry Craig, had been chosen. He inserted the last needle – for now – and smiled a self-satisfied smile.
“You know, Henry – may I call you Henry?”
“Well, I want to learn to act.”
“No, I mean properly, like … like, Marlon Brando. He’s like a prince, a prince of acting to me, y’know.”
“Yeah, I mean, there’s this guy, Lee Strasberg at the Actors Studio. D’you ever hear of him? They’ve said I can start in February. Hey, what’s with all the wires?”
Craig began hooking up a bundle of thin wires to the needles sticking out of the arms and legs of the young woman. The other ends were attached to a large metal box with numerous knobs and dials. He smiled. “Nothing to worry about, just relax. They just give a bit of extra power, I mean time’s short, just two weeks, maybe a bit more, depending on the studio.”
She yawned. “Sure, you know best.”
“That’s right, Henry knows best. And, no, I haven’t heard of this Lee Strasberg, but I’m sure he’s good.” He flicked a switch and the box began to hum. Needles moved across dials. “Now, how does that feel?” He looked down at his charge, but she was already asleep.
“Catch me if you can!” She ran into the surf, her blonde hair bobbing, her fulsome hips wiggling.
Henry could see the curvature of her buttocks, he could just make out the swell of her breasts from behind. He felt his body reacting. Yes, he would catch her!
Then they were embracing, wrestling, falling into the sand and surf. Her blue eyes were open, her lips, full and enticing, even without the usual Guerlain’s Rouge Diabolique lipstick. They rolled on the sand under the warm, shallow water.
She felt an unbearable lust. “If you’re going to stick your pins in me for two weeks, I want you to stick your ‘needle’ in me too!”
Henry didn’t reply, he reached out through the waves and tore her bikini off.
Far off down the beach, a neon light flickered outside an empty bar.
They lay in her cot in the beach cottage. “All that acupuncture gear, it cost you much?”
“You know, I think it’s working. I mean, I don’t feel I need to take any pills. Maybe a nice glass of wine, but pills, right now, I don’t want any.” She giggled. “Funny isn’t it?”
Henry sat up and looked down at the woman with kindness. “You know, the mind is very complex, and it’s hooked up with our bodies in a way we can never understand, science-wise. The old Chinese guys, they worked out what was what. Don’t ask me how. Spirits I guess. But anyway, I hope you’ll be happier now and I wish you well.”
She smiled. “Hey, d’you like Joe DiMaggio?”
Henry laughed. “Are you kiddin’ me? He was the greatest!”
“Well, we’re gettin’ married!”
“No kiddin’! Well, I admit I did hear rumours. So, I’m glad for you. I hope it works out. I mean that sincerely.”
She smiled. “Thanks, Henry. You know, you and your machine have put me right, like they told me you would. I really don’t want no more drugs as long as I live right now, I just wanna work on actin’. Be the best actress there’s ever been!” She giggled. “Well, one of the best, anyhows!” She became serious. “Thing is, Henry, I’m mixed up with people and … and forces … that’s dangerous. And I don’t know how to get out.”
Henry was shocked, but not surprised. He embraced her, remaining silent, holding her tight and realising there was nothing he could do or say that would change anything.
Featured in the book, Flash Friction: To Cut a Short Story Short, vol. III: 72 Little Stories
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