Thursday, May 13, 2010

Needle's First Flash Fiction Challenge: "Rimbaud's Request"

Five days before deadline, here is my entry. The challenge called for a story up to 1,000 words that must have a needle in it. At stake are a random drawing for a Needle t-shirt and possible publication in Needle. Wish me luck.

Rimbaud's Request

by Gerald So

Reneé Roberts was tired, but she was used to feeling worse than she looked. Her figure filled out at fourteen. She hadn't changed her hair (a long light brown) or anything since, and men and women found her stunning.

She knew this from a softening in their eyes. Everyone had to be massaged, more time spent on some than others, but that first sign of willingness showed right away. Maybe something in her eyes brought it on.

On a tax return, she would've listed her profession as "Masseuse," but in eight years she hadn't made enough for the IRS to care.

She was counting years because Prof. Rimbaud still lived five blocks from campus. In Intro to Psychology, he sparked her fascination with everything from IQ to body language. She constantly read people, got to know what they needed before they asked.

What did Rimbaud need, she wondered. They did everything imaginable back then, but both knew when it was over. She never expected to see him again.

Walking the path to his door, she noticed the vines climbing to his windows. She pressed the doorbell, waited half a minute longer than expected. Her thoughts wandered, yanked back by his voice.

"Miss Roberts."


They took each other in. She put his age at sixty. His hair was close-cropped and all white. His words had more gravel. His eyes were still clear blue and mischievous.

"Follow me."

He seemed a step slow. An injury, maybe, but how recent?

He stopped at the bedroom. Looking sideways at her, he showed the sliver of a smile. She had to smile, too. Rimbaud wasn't her first—that was at fifteen—but he was the man to whom she compared the rest.


"Yes, Miss Roberts." Always Professor and Miss Roberts.

"I'm not sure what you'd like me to do."

"Let's start with a massage."

She blushed. "Okay."

From an overnight bag, Reneé set out two body towels and a box of surgical gloves. Going through her oils, she wondered if Rimbaud had followed her career since college. Did he know...? No, he couldn't.

She chose the bottle of Desert Essence Love Massage and Body Oil. He undressed and lay on his stomach on the bed. Still had a great body.

She straddled him and spread the oil, palms flat, fingers feeling for tense spots. She found many. His breathing slowed.

As she moved to a deeper stroke, he said, "Miss Roberts, have you learned acupuncture?"

It wasn't her favorite treatment. More invasive than a massage. More blatant.

But she said, "Yes."

"I'd like that."

Reneé got out her needles. "Where is your pain?"

And the dam burst. "I'm dying. Slowly. Too slowly. I hear deep needling at the base of the skull can cause a stroke."

"It can. There's no guarantee it will."

"What would you suggest?" The way he said it, Reneé realized he had followed her career.

She glanced at her box of surgical gloves. "I can mix a strong relaxant. Make it look like you died in your sleep."

"I'd like that," he said again, his last words to her.


Reneé Roberts debuted in my first-ever blog flash fiction entry, "Soft Sell".


Anonymous said...

Very nice. Slow, sensual, subtle buildup. When the twist came it just seemed right. No wild eyed "holy-crap she's-a-hit-man" emoting. Just a calm, almost gentle, realization. I really enjoyed the ride, Gerald. Thanks

Gerald So said...

Thank you, AJ. Exactly the pace and tone I intended.

David Barber said...

I really enjoyed that, Gerald. A clever story that was well written.

Kathleen A. Ryan said...

Outstanding job, Gerald! I love this story ~ a fantastic piece of flash!

Paul D. Brazill said...

Smart stuff. very enjoyable.

Joyce said...

Really a great story. Perfect pace and tone and it just eases you into realizing where this is going. Nice and subtle. Enjoyed it.

Pamila Payne said...

This story had a dreamy, mysterious quality to it. A lot of skillfully implied backstory. Nice twist.

Sue H said...

A cleverly accomplished tale with just enough hints of backstory to tease the reader into guessing the outcome - then the twist!

Liked it very much!

chad rohrbacher said...

wonderful stuff here. It came together so well and wasn't overwritten or overdone. Really liked this one.