They’re the smallest. Theywon’t hurt a bit. All individually wrapped to keep them sterile. Just trust me,darling. I know what I’m doing. Lie down on this towel I spread over the bed andrelax while I gather things together.
I’ll take care of your leg. Don’t forget I studiedfor four months with the best teachers in Shanghai. I can do everything. I was oneof the best students in the school–not like the stupid one who was expelled forhitting a nerve. He didn’t study.
I studied very hard. You don’t need a doctoranymore. You have me! Just relax and take some deep breaths. I’ll turn on this space heater. Areyou warm and comfortable?There, that one’s in.
Did that hurt? Didn’t I tell you itwouldn’t hurt? This is the meridian for the left leg. Isn’t it amazing how the body isconnected by all these. . .
Oops, there’s the phone. You take some deep breaths and relax. I’ll beright back. *****It was Mrs. Yang.
She asked me to make her a chi pao for her daughter’swedding in June, but I told her I’m not making Chinese dresses anymore. They’retoo much trouble and people are so fussy, never satisfied until every detail isexactly right, and then changing their minds about the trim or something else. Iliked making clothes for people who appreciated my work, but most people don’tknow enough. There, that one didn’t hurt, either, right? You didn’t even know I put anotherneedle in, did you? Remember, how the newspapers would do a story on my dresses eachChinese New Year? I would paint the zodiac animal for that year right on the dress– white satin was the best– and hire a model to show off my work. I still have thosearticles in my scrapbook, complete with photographs of me, the models, and thedresses.
Did you have a favorite ? dress, I mean?Even if they didn’t sell, theywere great publicity, and it was fun. . . for awhile. Oh, sorry.
Did that one hurt? It shouldn’t have, maybe I’m just a little bit offthere. It’ll be all right in a few minutes. You’ll get used to it. Now, one over here twofingers below the navel.
One here on your foot, and–oh, did that one hurt too? I’lltake it out and try again. Oops, it shouldn’t have drawn any blood. How about this? OK? That’s good. Now, another .
. . oh, the phone again! I should just disconnectit when I’m working. Hold on. I’ll be back in a jiffy. *****Sorry, darling, that took longer than I expected.
It was Jenny. I told her Iwas giving you a treatment and you couldn’t come to the phone. She soundedworried and mistrustful. She has no confidence in me! I reminded her that I have acertificate from the best acupuncture school in China. It even had students fromEurope and Australia. I may have been the oldest woman in the school, but Ialready had a medical degree–a surgical assistant–so I was far ahead of thoseyoung people with no medical knowledge at all.
I gave her an earful! You know, I didn’t want you to spend all four months at Jenny’s while I wasaway. Before I left, I told her you could only stay for two weeks, but she didn’t listento me. She had the nerve to phone me in Shanghai and practically accuse me ofabandoning you! She claimed that you fell in the bath tub and couldn’t get up andthat you had trouble changing planes. Did you really fall?I think she made it all upto get me upset. She just resented my going to learn something she doesn’t knowand wanted to make me feel guilty.
Anyway, where was I supposed to keep you? Ionly had a small dormitory room with a single bed. No one else brought spouseswith them. Step-children are always full of anger and resentment, anyway. Whatcan you expect?Does Jenny have a big house?Oh, you don’t remember. Just one more over here, and we’re done! I just hook you up to this littlemachine.
It sends a mild electric current through the needles to make them vibrate. They’ll work faster. Now lie still and relax. I’ll be back in forty-five minutes. *****Well, darling, how are you doing? Have you fallen asleep? I bet you don’teven feel the needles anymore, right? I can take them out now. Try moving your leg.
Is it better? Well, it may take several treatments tomake the swelling go down, but if you feel less pain, that’s an improvement, isn’t it? Didn’t I tell you I can do everything? Remember how quickly I learned to deal BlackJack in Atlantic City five years ago? When you finally decided to join me, I got youa job in the casino, too. You looked cute in your money-changing apron, goingaround to all the tables with change in those big pockets. The money in AtlanticCity was really good, but the bosses had a prejudice against older employees. Ohwell, it’s their loss.
. . Also, your older brother didn’t like your working at the casino. It was okay for him to lose money but not okay for you to earn money there. Hesaid that money-changing was beneath you and caused the family to lose face. But I’m a descendent of the last Emperor of China and if working in a casino wasgood enough for me, why wasn’t it good enough for you? Besides you haven’tused that civil engineering degree in years, so what’s the big deal?Wang Shu-yin’s 80th birthday banquet is this Saturday.
We have to get youback on your feet by then. The Wangs are always proud of their dinner parties,though I don’t really understand why. At their last banquet, the abalone wasrubbery and shark’s fin soup was mushy. I can tell real quality right away.
I have asuperfine, discriminating taste. Of course, for your birthday, we gave everyonePeking duck and sea cucumbers cooked to perfection–and those pea tops were thefreshest and most tender I’ve ever eaten. That Peking Garden has the finest chefin town. I certainly know how to pick restaurants.
It doesn’t matter that the dinnercost $3000. We had eight tables of ten; we didn’t squeeze twelve people to a table,like the stingy Yu’s. You’re only eighty once in your life, right? Only the best for myhusband. Don’t worry about my birthdays. The man in the family is the only onewho counts. No, I won’t tell you how old I am.
It’s still a secret, even if we havebeen married for thirty-eight years, seventeen years longer than your first marriage. Too bad your children are all the way on the other side of the country. Wealmost never see them. Yes, I know I wanted us to move to Southern California butthat’s because the sunshine is good for your bones and the dry air is good for yourhay fever. How was I to know you’d develop allergies to oleander flowers, orangeblossoms and whatever’s around?But my grandchildren are only two blocks awayso we have young people around us–that’s all that matters–keeping a closeconnection to the next generation. They are good children, aren’t they, and gettingmore and more helpful as they get older.
Anyway, with acupuncture, I can takecare of your allergies, this leg problem, and everything else, you’ll see. Except your hair. With needles I can’t stop the white from growing in. ButI’ll dye it again before the party. You look young with black hair and so handsomein your navy blue suit and your beautiful new red silk tie. I took a long timechoosing it; I knew you’d like that one.
They’re really a bargain over there. Silk tiescost $40 here, but only $5 there. Everything’s cheap in China. I had ten newdresses made, with the finest French fabrics. I couldn’t afford to pass up theopportunity since labor cost practically nothing. After all, we have so many dinnerparties to go to and to give, and I can’t be seen in the same dress, party after party.
I gave Jenny several of my old dresses, but she never even thanked me. Obviously, her mother didn’t teach her proper manners, though you’d think by now,she’d have picked up some on her own. When someone gives you a gift, youshow appreciation, if you have any breeding whatsoever. Those dresses may havebeen a bit too large for her. I ordered them loose; that’s the latest style. Anyhow,Jenny knows how to sew and can make adjustments, and I would have done them,if she had stayed around long enough.
I still can’t get over the nerve of her–disturbing my studies by phoning me in Shanghai! Well, it’s not good to get all riledup again, so I’m not going to think about that anymore. You still look pretty good for your age, darling, except for those dentures. They distort your jaw. The dentist didn’t fit them very well, but he was affordable. Since you don’t have any insurance, we can’t be extravagant about doctors anddentists these days. You’ve certainly gotten quieter as the years have passed.
You hardly sayanything anymore. And your memory isn’t what it used to be. Come to think of it,what does it matter what I feed you if two minutes later you don’t remember whatyou ate? But of course I remember. Dinner parties are very important, and wemust keep up appearances, no matter what. I’ve always been good at doing that.
When you married me, you didn’t know what you were getting, did you? *****It’s safe and peaceful down here at the bottom of this well. She can’t reachme. But she’s blocking that little circle of light.