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illustration by Jeff Ferguson and Marcus Del Greco Pressure Points
by Marcus Del Greco

Cast of Characters

DR. FRANKLIN POINTER (acupuncture specialist)
THERESA POINTER (his estranged wife)
SYLVIA SHULGIN (her psychologist)
TRAVIS (a medical student)
JACK BOWDOIN (Theresa's lover)

Designers are encouraged to approach the look of this play in the Gothic tradition.

(Organ music.  Lights up dimly on DR. FRANKLIN POINTER, stage left , playing a spooky and discordant melody on his organ.  His music is marked by the sudden introduction of sharp high notes, which surprise the audience.  The high volume aids the effect.)

(POINTER stops.  He looks pensive, turning his head front.  The moment lingers.  The audience waits for him.  He turns back and resumes the same tune, anticlimactically.)

(Lights down, with the audience.)

(Music lingers for actor places...)

(Lights up to the side on SYLVIA SHULGIN's office, THERESA on couch.  Should be set minimally.  SHULGIN has pad and paper.)

THERESA:  ...but it wasn't the money that kept me with him so long.

SHULGIN:  Because you never got to enjoy it.

THERESA:  Exactly.  Frank's a tightwad, really.

SHULGIN:  So what did keep you with him?

THERESA:  I don't know.  He did know all the moves.  If there's one thing Frank understands, it's the human body.  By the way, how was your first treatment with him?

SHULGIN:  I haven't been yet.  Scheduling.  I found him an extremely intelligent man, though, when we met.  He asked about you.

THERESA:  Wonder of wonders.  I'd rather talk about Jack.

SHULGIN:  Because he's easier to talk about?

THERESA:  Not easier, just more pleasant.  I don't really feel like picturing Frank right now, with that stupid organ-

SHULGIN:  You don't need a therapist to tell you men are obsessed with their organs.

(they pause a second, then laugh)

THERESA:  You know what I like about you, Sylvia?  You're all "girl."

SHULGIN:  I'm whatever you need at the time.

THERESA:  Oh, go on.  (she laughs, but stops when SHULGIN fails to respond.)  Can we talk about Jack?

SHULGIN:  Okay.  What's he working on?

THERESA:  The new MicroHard building, here in the city.  He rides the crane-loads to the top, all buckled in.  He's a couple thousand feet up.

SHULGIN:  You can certainly pick a man with an odd profession.

THERESA:  I like danger.

SHULGIN:  It turns you on, right?

THERESA (sitting up):  Is that bad?  Doesn't it you?

SHULGIN:  Sometimes.  For me, it goes in phases.  Right now I'm looking for security.

THERESA (annoyed):  There you go...

SHULGIN:  You've got excitement, though.  Maybe that's what you need now.

THERESA:  Definitely.  I'm thinking of sending Jack to Frank, too, believe it or not.  He threw out his back with all that heavy lifting.

SHULGIN:  You sure that's a good idea?

THERESA:  Well Frank wouldn't know who it was.  Jack won't tell who referred him of course.

SHULGIN:  There has to be some irony in Frank treating your new boyfriend.

THERESA:  Tons of it.  I'll never stop needing him completely.  (she thinks about that)  Maybe I won't send Jack over there.  No, definitely not.

SHULGIN:  So, what's the latest on the divorce?

THERESA:  One month, tops.  The judge is on my side.  I think he's suspicious of Frank because of what he does.

SHULGIN:  Sometimes people are suspicious of therapists, too.

THERESA:  Why should they be?  You've done wonders for me.  I really feel like you're helping me through these... changes I have to make.

SHULGIN:  I just want you to be sure before anything's final.  You've been married eight years.  You and Frank have history that you won't find with anyone else very quickly.  Plus, from what you've told me, he's a kind and gentle man.

(Organ music and tableau.  TRAVIS screaming in pain.  Lights up on TRAVIS, lying face down on POINTER'S therapy bed, needles embedded in his skin.)

TRAVIS:  Ow!!

POINTER (circling bed):  Felt that one, did you? (laughs)  Sometimes it's a little uncomfortable.

TRAVIS:  You could say that.

POINTER:  I think it's important for a student of the practice to approach from a patient's point of view, to start off.

TRAVIS:  Do I just lie here?  (lights down on SHULGIN'S office)

POINTER:  Twenty minutes.  Then I remove the needles and we're done.  I'm expecting my wife's therapist for her first treatment afterwards.

TRAVIS:  What's your wife's therapist seeing you for?

POINTER:  Headaches.  Could you blame her?

(a knock at the door)

POINTER:  Looks like she might be early.

(he opens the door and it is SHULGIN)

SHULGIN:  Hello.

POINTER:  I didn't expect you so soon.

TRAVIS:  Can we take these out now?

SHULGIN (looking nervous):  I hope I didn't interrupt.

POINTER:  Not at all.  Travis is a student, writing his pre-med thesis on acupuncture.  (begins moving him)  I'm just going to wheel him into the other room here to give time for his therapy to take effect.  Eighteen minutes from now and it'll all be over.

TRAVIS (while exiting):  No!  Oh, please, take them out....

POINTER (re-entering):  He's just a little squeamish.

SHULGIN (starting to unbutton blouse):  So am I.  Let's make this quick.

(a beat)

SHULGIN:  Do you mind turning around?

POINTER (turning):  Sorry.  I guess I assumed a ground level of professionalism.  (she lies on table in bra)

POINTER (circling the therapy-bed, with needles):  Now you have to expect this to take several treatments before you feel any results.  Evening out the energies of the body is no "quick fix."  You'll have to come back a few times, just like your patients do.  The difference is, this kind of therapy has an endpoint.  You will be cured your headaches.

SHULGIN:  Migraines.

POINTER:  Ah... the word for headaches you can't talk yourself out of.

SHULGIN:  If you have the time, you can talk yourself out of anything... or someone else can.

POINTER:  The basis of your counseling practice, Sylvia?

SHULGIN:  You know I'm not at liberty to tell you anything about my conversations with your wife.

POINTER:  It's a free country.  Liberty is the highest value.  You make a living easing minds, and so do I.  Won't you ease mine?

SHULGIN:  This is my time, Frank.

POINTER: You told her to leave me, didn't you?

SHULGIN:  No.  She told me she was leaving you.  I told her to take you for everything you have.  (POINTER adjusts a needle in her)  Ow!

POINTER:  Luckily that isn't much.  People still have a lot of trouble getting their insurance to cover treatments from an acupuncturist.

SHULGIN: Because you're a quack.

POINTER:  Nice try.  But you're here, aren't you?  And you have five needles fixed securely to the most sensitive areas of skin on your neck, back and underarms... needles that are very painful to remove without my expertise.  (her eyes are large)  I'd refrain from insults, Sylvia.

SHULGIN (recovering from fear):  I should try that... threatening my patients as part of my therapy.  Neurotic after psychotic after obsessive-compulsive, bolting from my couch in fear.  Now that's spiritual growth.

POINTER:  Tough love, Ms. Shulgin.

SHULGIN (looking up): There you go.  That's what I tell your wife.

(Recorded organ music up and tableau.  Music continues and tableau is maintained through the ensuing scene.  Moans of ecstasy are heard, and a climax is reached.  Also a musical climax.)

(Lights up on another acting area.  THERESA Pointer's apartment: bedroom.  JACK BOWDOIN lies next to her in bed, wearing an orange or yellow hardhat.  THERESA lights a cigarette.)

THERESA:  So.  What do you tell your wife?

JACK (offended):  What do you mean, my wife?

THERESA:  Don't take it personal.  I was just curious.

JACK:  Well I don't wanna talk about her.  You don't have any right to talk about her.

THERESA (licking his chest):  You don't think I've earned the right?

JACK:  I said no talking about her!

THERESA (taken aback.  A beat.):  Okay.

JACK:  And do I have to keep wearing this hat, or can I take it off now?

THERESA:  You can take it off.  It was just for "during."

JACK:  What about your husband?

THERESA:  I don't want to talk about him, either.  He wasted eight years of my life.

(Lights fade on tableau of POINTER and SHULGIN.)

JACK:  How did he do that?

THERESA:  By putting his work above me.  Among other things.  I fell out of love with him... slowly, over time.

JACK:  What was his work?

THERESA:  You don't want to know.

JACK:  Was he a criminal or something?

THERESA:  Frank?  (laughs)  No.  Frank is a coward.  Let's just say he works with metal, like you, but much smaller pieces of it.

JACK:  So what did he do?

THERESA (mocking):  "Acupuncture Therapy."

JACK (disbelieving):  Poking people?

THERESA:  ...in the "right" places.  And leaving the needles in for long periods of time, causing people pain.  He's a disgusting man.

(JACK just lies there in a kind of disgust himself.  This has changed his opinion of her.  He stares at her.)

THERESA:  What?

JACK:  I guess I just thought you were different.  That your husband was some kind of hotshot doctor I was stealing you from.  Not a freak.

THERESA:  What he is what he is.  Don't let it disappoint you or anything.  I'm still a prize, aren't I?  (she is kissing his neck)

JACK (looking distant):  Yeah.  Sure.

(Organ music as the two make their own tableau.  Lights shift back to the other scene, but THERESA and JACK remain visible.)

(SHULGIN is standing now, dressing indignantly as though she has been violated.)

SHULGIN (buttoning her blouse):  Well, you get the prize.

(POINTER sterilizes his needles at the SINK.)

POINTER:  What prize is that?

SHULGIN:  First Place in the "No Pain, No Gain" Division.

POINTER:  Thank you for your confidence.

SHULGIN:  Thank me for my money.  How much do I owe you?

POINTER:  Pay me when your treatment's complete.

SHULGIN:  I'd prefer to pay you per appointment, if that's alright.

POINTER (confiding out of nowhere):  Sylvia, she was my world, and always will be.  You have to understand that.  Theresa can't be replaced.

SHULGIN (a bit taken aback by his stoic resolve):  I appreciate your commitment to marriage.  But I'm afraid you won't like all the things I'd have to report to you about... Mrs. Pointer.

(Lights fade to black on opposite scene.)

POINTER:  We've only been separated for a month.

SHULGIN (shaking her head):  Frank, Frank, Frank.  In the single world, a week is like a year.

POINTER (approaching her, furious, he grabs her by the shoulders):  You have to tell me everything!

(SHULGIN's dignity has again been invaded, and she won't put up with it.  She wins.)

SHULGIN:  I'll see you in a week, Dr. Pointer.

(she pulls from his hold and exits.  POINTER freezes as he stares at the door she left through, mad with jealous obsession.  Organ music.  Lights back up on Theresa's bedroom.  JACK is out of bed, putting on his jeans.  THERESA is smoking another cigarette, still basking.)

JACK:  So I'll see you in a week?

THERESA:  Why do we have to wait that long?  Is once a week really enough for you?

JACK:  It's all I can do.  It's all I can get away with.  I get one day off a week.  What do you want?

THERESA (pleading):  Jack.

JACK:  Hey, aren't you afraid of your husband finding out?

THERESA:  He won't.  There's no way he can.  (she doesn't quite believe herself as she thinks of Sylvia.  Lights down on POINTER.)  Besides.  I wouldn't care if he did.

JACK:  Well I'm not so sure.  My wife knows things.

THERESA:  Of course.  We all do.

JACK:  Who?  Women?

THERESA:  Wives.

JACK:  That's why it's once week.  She scares the hell out of me.  I have kids.

THERESA:  Don't you mean to say "we have kids"?  Don't you have any respect for her?

JACK:  I said we weren't going to talk about her.  She's naturally jealous, that's all.  And I gotta get back, now.

(he kisses her quickly and exits with his hardhat)

THERESA (bitter, to herself):  I guess you can never be too careful with jealousy.

(She freezes as she is putting out her cigarette.  It may continue to smoke.  Lights up on POINTER, sitting on his therapy-bed, taking off his shirt.  TRAVIS stands by looking apprehensive.)

POINTER:  You can't be too careful.  Naturally it's only appropriate for the mentor to offer the student himself as a guinea pig in this kind of practice.  Anything less could drastically reduce our clientele.

TRAVIS:  This isn't going to be the same as performing on that dummy you have.  I don't want to hurt you.

POINTER:  Did I hurt you?

TRAVIS:  Yes.

POINTER:  You were just being a baby.

TRAVIS:  I wasn't!

POINTER (lying down):  Oh, your a Med student, for chrissake.  You're going to hurt people.  But you're going to help them, too... provided you can still get your general practitioner’s license after turning in a thesis on this.

TRAVIS:  I'm not worried.  The thesis is a formality: they don't really expect anyone to come up with any original research.  But that's what attracts me to your profession.

POINTER:  I don't know how much of it is "original."  Most of it is based on Eastern mind/body philosophies that go back thousands of years.

TRAVIS:  Like?

POINTER:  Like all philosophies that borrow from "yin/yang."  Duality underlies everything... an abstraction seeks identity in an object.  The things we think we can only feel, like a painful headache, manifest themselves concretely in certain areas of the body.  The abstraction becomes an object.

SHULGIN (entering abruptly):  Slow down there, Confucius.

POINTER:  What are you doing here, Sylvia?  Your appointment's not for two days.

SHULGIN:  Checking up on you.  A good therapist knows when somebody's prone to compulsions, even when she's on your couch.

POINTER:  Well I'm fine, as you can see.  Just giving Travis his first hands-on training.

SHULGIN:  That's trust.  (Lights down on THERESA)  Nice to meet you, Travis.

TRAVIS (starting to apply needles to POINTER):  Ma’am.

SHULGIN (to TRAVIS):  Let me give you another example of what Dr. Pointer was trying to explain to you.  Sometimes he gets his signals crossed.  He was right to start off on abstractions and objects, though.

POINTER:  Well thank you.

SHULGIN:  Take a man driven insanely jealous by the thought of his estranged wife sleeping with another man.  The couple is separated, so he has no idea who her lover could possibly be.

POINTER:  This isn't funny-

SHULGIN:  Thank God we don't know anybody like this, but the extremes can explain the mean.

TRAVIS (digging the example):  So he's obsessed?

POINTER (winces under Travis's needle):  Ow!  Easy does it.

SHULGIN:  Totally.  And he has some small reason to believe that his wife really is fooling around.  But his jealousy is still an abstraction.

POINTER (now enthralled):  He doesn't know who it is.

SHULGIN:  Boy are you smart.  And the power of the abstraction, emotionally, is enough to cause a neurosis.  Or a psychosis.  The lack of a concrete object in his jealous nightmares drives the abstraction to find object in the body.  He becomes possessed.

POINTER:  I didn't think "possession" was something you addressed in your sanctioned practice.

SHULGIN:  I don't usually use that word.

TRAVIS:  So what will cure him?

SHULGIN:  Finding the object of his emotional abstraction, of course.

POINTER:  And destroying it?

SHULGIN:  No.  Accepting it.

TRAVIS (concerning a needle):  Is this right?

POINTER:  About... 1 centimeter to the left.

SHULGIN:  So what do you think of my explanation, Frank?

POINTER (from the needle):  Ow!  Damnit!  Take them out!

TRAVIS:  I'm sorry!

POINTER (sitting up, exasperated):  Don't sweat it.  I'm just not in the mood for a taste of my own medicine today.  Sylvia, either you dropped by to tell me something or you shouldn't have dropped by at all.

SHULGIN:  Maybe we should speak- (to TRAVIS)  No offense- alone.

TRAVIS:  No problem.  Sorry I'm not getting the hang of it, Doc.

POINTER:  Stop now, you'll be wonderful.  You'll have ‘em yelping from Fort Lauterdale to the tip of Maine.

(TRAVIS smiles at the encouragement and exits)

SHULGIN (when TRAVIS is gone):  Breeding hacks?

POINTER:  Travis?  He's only here to write a paper.  Cut the bullshit and tell me who she's sleeping with.

SHULGIN:  What do I get in return?

POINTER:  Free treatment.

SHULGIN:  I told you I'm paying for your treatments per appointment.  Plus, do you really think I'd risk losing my license for a few hundred dollars worth of needle-pokings?

POINTER:  You're just lucky I'm not into Voodoo.  Now tell me.

SHULGIN:  All in good time.  There's a few things I need to tell you.  We're both experts in our fields, right?

POINTER:  I know about me.

SHULGIN:  Don't be confrontational.  You have a problem with that.  I'm talking about joining forces for a little experiment.

POINTER:  How so?

SHULGIN:  Have you heard of aroma therapy?

POINTER:  I always thought something... stunk about that approach.

SHULGIN:  Very funny.  You know what I'm talking about.  It's an area worthy of inquiry.

POINTER:  Well, I burn moxa in some cases.  But on the patient, used in conjunction with the needles.

SHULGIN:  Is it known to stimulate memory if you burn a patient in the right spot?

POINTER:  I don't know about that, but I can induce a pretty good dream state.

SHULGIN:  Perfect.  If I give you something, can you mix it in with the moxa preparation?

POINTER:  What is it?  An herb?

SHULGIN:  An herbal extraction.  It's one of Botany's weekly rainforest discoveries.  It's fabulous for memory recollection.

POINTER:  How do you know?

SHULGIN:  I tried it myself.  Burned it and inhaled the smoke as recommended.  I experienced moments from my childhood that I haven't thought of since they happened.  But the experience was fleeting, and I had to inhale a lot of the stuff.

POINTER:  Let me get this straight.  You've been smoking some exotic herb, getting stoned out of existence, and now you want me to perform moxibustion on you with it?  What does this have to do with aroma therapy?

SHULGIN (approaching him):  The stuff stinks up a room for weeks, I can tell you.  That's another reason I want to do it here.

POINTER:  Much appreciated.

SHULGIN:  Frank, do you know what this could mean to psychological research, as well as modern therapy?  I'm telling you this is amazing stuff.  And if you do it, you must agree not to publish our results with anyone but me.

(POINTER stares at her, judging her trustworthiness)

POINTER (mocking confusion):  Tell me again: what's in it for you?  Why me?

SHULGIN:  It's hard to get ethical subjects for experiments like this.  I'd get carpet-called if I used any of my regular patients.  And I'd trust your reports about the experience because you have an interest in the para-psychological.

POINTER:  You think what I do is paranormal?

SHULGIN:  It's para-something.

(he studies her again)

POINTER (finally):  Okay.  You have a deal.  Your experiment sounds interesting.

SHULGIN (pleased):  I'll see you tomorrow then, to make the preparation.  Here, take this and smoke it.  It'll relax you and get you ready for your experience with the new drug.

POINTER:  What's this?

SHULGIN (winking):  A ladder drug.  So, tomorrow?  I have to be back in town by Monday for appointments.

(she shakes his hand and exits.  POINTER crosses to put on some music and sits at his desk, pondering her.  He then remembers the joint and lights it up.  Tableau.)

(Lights up on Theresa's bedroom.  THERESA is in her usual position lying down, smoking.  JACK sits on the edge of the bed, picking up the phone.)

JACK (dialing):  I hate Mondays.  (to the phone)  Yeah.  Tell the foreman I'm running late but I'll be right in...  Yeah, I know...  Yup.

(he hangs up)

JACK:  I can't believe I lost track of the time.

THERESA (devilish grin):  I can.  (he is throwing on his clothes in a hurry)

JACK:  Everyone punched in at the tower an hour ago!

THERESA (dreamy):  Oh, I can just picture your body strapped to that thing, that long beautiful skyscraper jutting up into the sky, like-

JACK:  Don't do that to me.  I gotta go.

THERESA:  No!  C’mon, wait.  Once more, real quick.

JACK:  My back couldn't take it.

THERESA:  Your back this, your back that.  What's wrong with you?

(lights down on POINTER)

JACK:  I hurt it twice last month on the job!

THERESA:  Could of fooled me.  Why don't you get it treated?

JACK:  I'll think about it.

THERESA:  You do that!

JACK:  I gotta run.  My wife drops by the site from time to time...

THERESA (outstretching her arms for a hug):  One for the Home Team, at least?

JACK:  More like the Away Team, you mean.

(they laugh, but as he turns away it is apparent she is hurt)

(JACK exits)

(THERESA flops down on the bed)

THERESA:  Oh, just give me one for the Home Team, jerk.  (she pulls a pillow over her face and freezes.  Organ music.)

(Lights up on POINTER and TRAVIS watching a ballgame on TV.  Sound:  the crowd, and the whack of a ball.  TV ANNOUNCER: "Oh, he really hit that hard... it's up... it's way up... GONE!!  One for the Home Team, scoring two on the billboard!")

POINTER (has been drinking):  Twenty bucks, Buckaroo.  Now you know why they used to say ‘a point up on Pointer is a point down to your average man.’

TRAVIS:  That guy hasn't hit one all season!

POINTER:  Until now, my friend, until now.

TRAVIS (paying him):  I can't believe it.

POINTER:  Not getting much done towards that thesis writing, are we?

TRAVIS:  Stupid thesis.

POINTER:  Don't take that attitude.  I'm excited you've chosen this subject.  One more small step towards educating people and gaining credibility.

TRAVIS:  I don't think you lack credibility.

POINTER:  Kind of you to say.  But my wife has left me.  Probably for some sleazebag.  Christ.

TRAVIS:  Are you alright?

POINTER (losing control a bit):  I'm fine.

TRAVIS:  Okay.  You're fine.

POINTER (realizing his outburst):  I'm sorry, Travis.  It just gets to me so bad, you know?  Between you and me, if I ever got my hands on the guy, I'd kill him.  I would.  But torture him first.

TRAVIS:  Are you sure she's having an affair?

POINTER:  Her therapist all but told me.

TRAVIS:  Jesus.

POINTER:  I need his name.  I don't even know if I could ever do anything.  If I could just meet him, though, and talk to him... maybe my feelings would subside.  (he snaps out of it and feigns optimism)  Good things are happening, though!  People are getting interested in my work.  You're here.

TRAVIS:  And I think your work is fascinating.

POINTER:  Seems like you're the only one, sometimes. (forlorn)  I don't know.

TRAVIS:  You really miss her, don't you?

POINTER (just stares at him a moment, sizing him up):  Travis, I feel like I can trust you.  Can I?

TRAVIS:  I haven't given anyone your secret herbal tea recipe.

POINTER:  No jokes.  I'm not joking here.

TRAVIS:  Sorry.

POINTER:  If I asked you to do me a favor sometime, would you do it?

TRAVIS:  Depending... but sure.

POINTER:  It'll seem like a strange thing to ask, most likely.

TRAVIS:  You've gotten me used to some pretty strange things.

POINTER (putting his hand on Travis's shoulder):  Let's not bring it up again until the time comes.

(Organ music and tableau of POINTER grooming TRAVIS.  Lights up on THERESA'S apartment.  THERESA is on the bed, JACK enters.)

THERESA:  The Iceman Cometh.

JACK (bursting in):  What are you doing?

THERESA (matter-of-fact):  Waiting for you.

JACK (searching frantically):  I forgot my wallet.  What did you say?

THERESA:  Waiting for you.  It's right here. (teasing him with it)  Come get it.

JACK:  Do I have to beg you?

THERESA:  Beg me what?

JACK:  Gimmee my wallet.

THERESA:  Gimmee what I want.

JACK:  More time?  (mocking her)  ‘Time to walk the city and enjoy the lights,’ right?  Well I can't walk the city with you, because my relationship with you is shameful.

THERESA:  Love isn't shameful...

(lures him to an embrace with the wallet.  She kisses him as lights go down on POINTER and TRAVIS.)

THERESA (indicating a small amount):  Just give me that much more of your time, Jack.

JACK:  That much?

THERESA:  Teensy-weensy.  Three more days a month.

JACK:  Three?  (she holds up three fingers in response)

(They make a kissing tableau as light come up on POINTER'S office where SHULGIN is mixing up the concoction.  POINTER begins playing the organ at that moment.)

SHULGIN:  Go get me three cups of water, will you?  You agreed to help.

(lights up a joint)

POINTER (stops playing):  Okay, okay.  (raises voice to a call)  Travis!

TRAVIS (pokes head in):  Yeah, Doc?

POINTER: Get Sylvia three candles, will you?

TRAVIS:  On the double.  (exits)

SHULGIN (inhaling):  What a sport.

POINTER:  Travis is a very intelligent young man, and very interested in my work.  You know, you had a lot of nerve calling me a "quack."  Look at yourself.

SHULGIN:  What?

POINTER:  Let me have some.

SHULGIN:  No.  I don't want it to cloud your experience with the new preparation.

TRAVIS (re-entering):  Here are the candles.

SHULGIN:  Thanks, Travis.  (offering joint)  Would you like some?

TRAVIS:  Sure!

POINTER (looking miffed):  This little experiment had better blow my mind, that's all I know.

SHULGIN (lighting candles around room):  Why don't you get on the table, then.  We're just about ready.

POINTER:  I just hope Travis remembers some of the technique we've been practicing.

SHULGIN:  He seems sharp enough for the job.

(TRAVIS chuckles, with needles)

POINTER:  Do you know how tiring it is hearing jokes like that?

SHULGIN (dimming lights, now only candles, soothing voice):  You are in fact feeling tired, Frank.  You know the routine.  Help me hypnotize you... not fully, of course.  Relax.  We each have within us a certain amount of fatigue at all times, even the waking hours.  A state of experiencing this ever-present fatigue is what we are aiming for, Frank.

FRANK:  You want my eyes closed like this?

SHULGIN:  That's good, for awhile.  Then I'll have you open them.

POINTER:  So let's review.  Our hypothesis is that a combination of the needles to induce a dream-state, and the burning of this newfangled herb of yours to stimulate memory-

SHULGIN:  -will entice your brain into reliving certain experiences from the far distant past.  Now be quiet and relax all the muscles in your body.

TRAVIS (has been applying needles):  Can I write about this in my thesis?

SHULGIN:  Don't even think of it.  Unless of course, you depict me properly.

TRAVIS:  You'd get full credit.

SHULGIN:  Along with Dr. Pointer, of course.  Right, Frank?

POINTER:  Hmmmm...?

TRAVIS (in a whisper):  It's working!

SHULGIN:  Frank?

POINTER (dreamy):  I'm here.

SHULGIN:  I've never seen somebody "slip down" so quickly.  Frank, I should give you more credit for this needle stuff.  Unless you're acting...

POINTER (very dreamy):  I've always wanted to be a famous actor...

TRAVIS:  Oh, this is something.

SHULGIN:  This is nothing.  Wait until we burn some of this.  We should see a complete change in him when he opens his eyes.

POINTER:  I could use a change.  Yeah...

SHULGIN (lighting the stuff over POINTER and inhaling deeply):  And with any kind of luck, we'll catch some second-hand action.

TRAVIS:  I don't want to lose my mind.

SHULGIN:  Don't worry, you'll probably find it.  Now quiet, for the incantation.

TRAVIS:  The incantation?

SHULGIN:  "Away with this body to childhood's end
                     when the boy became man, and to woman a friend.
                     Away for a time, but return in good speed
                     and the soul from the body be freed."

TRAVIS:  What's that from?

SHULGIN:  I made it up.

TRAVIS:  Catchy.

SHULGIN:  He should be ready.  Now, Frank.  Slowly, very slowly, move to a sitting position.

(he does)

SHULGIN:  Just as slowly, Frank, open your eyes.

(he throws his eyes open and in a flash there is a white special on him from above, and SHULGIN and TRAVIS walk quickly backstage, removed from his consciousness.  SHULGIN'S incantation reverberates with a background of organ music.)

(enter THERESA, twenty years younger.  She has patched jeans on, and a colorful shirt… much more casual than her dress in SHULGIN'S office.  She immediately runs to him and he stands, confused)

THERESA (embracing him):  Frank!

POINTER:  Theresa?

THERESA:  A day apart seems like a month, doesn't it?

POINTER:  It has been a month.

THERESA:  Oh, it sure feels like it.  No more time apart for us, deal?  In six months we'll be married and we'll never have to be apart again!

POINTER:  Theresa, I… you look so…

THERESA:  What?  How do I look?  I'm not...

POINTER:  You look so… young.  And beautiful.

THERESA:  Well I'm not some old maid yet, am I?  (approaching him again)  You don't look so bad yourself, studly.

POINTER:  Theresa, I'm confused.

(a burst of sound and light, then we see SHULGIN in her office in the middle of session.  THERESA goes immediately to SHULGIN and sits.  POINTER looks on.)

SHULGIN:  Now, Theresa, I'm confused.

THERESA (emotional, crying.  During this little bit she changes what costume pieces she can to age herself):  I know, I know.  I'm not making sense.

SHULGIN:  Just take it slow and tell me how you feel.

THERESA:  It's just… I don't know.  He doesn't excite me anymore.  And I need that more than ever.

POINTER:  Wait a second… Theresa!  You were just with me.  Things were fine!

(they ignore him, not hearing)

SHULGIN:  Do you think he still loves you?

THERESA:  Oh, he adores me.  I just don't… see him the same these days.  He used to seem so glorious, and smart, and-

SHULGIN:  Young?

THERESA:  Well, sure we were younger.  But men age more gracefully anyways.  It's not that he's old, he's just… soft, or something…

POINTER:  Soft?

THERESA:  None of the old pizzazz.  You know?

POINTER (to SHULGIN, who can't hear him):  Sylvia, are you running this?  Put us back to when we were young.  You hear me!?

SHULGIN:  I hear you.  Men may age gracefully, but it's usually not their grace we love in the first place.

THERESA:  Perfect.  So you know how I feel?

SHULGIN:  Theresa, I am what you feel.

("am what you feel" echoes on as lights go down on POINTER.  Organ music and lights back up on him, head on desk but waking)

(enter TRAVIS)

POINTER:  Travis…

TRAVIS:  Hey, Doc.  Your secretary said your next appointment is ready.  A Mister Bowdoin.

POINTER:  Where's Sylvia?  How long have I been out?

TRAVIS:  She just stopped by for a minute, and left this note for you.

POINTER:  Let me see it.  (unfolds it)  "This next guy is the one."

TRAVIS:  What does that mean?

POINTER (slowly realizes):  She's tipped me off.  Travis… remember I asked you in advance to do me a favor?

TRAVIS:  Yes.

POINTER (seeks refuge in another room, but remains peeking):  Well now's the time to do it.  He could be hostile.  You have to get him tied down on the treatment bed, make sure it's tight, while I hide.  Tell him you're my assistant.

TRAVIS:  I am your assistant.

POINTER:  Just get him in here, and don't fetch me until he's completely secure.

(TRAVIS opens door)

TRAVIS:  Mr. Bowdoin?

JACK:  That's me.  (he ambles in nervously)  Nice office.  Where's this honorable Dr. Pointer?

TRAVIS:  He's finishing with another patient.  I'm Travis, his assistant, and I'll be preparing you for your treatment.  You're here for back trouble?

JACK:  Right, right.  It's killing me.

TRAVIS:  Well Dr. Pointer does wonders.  Now if you'll just take your shirt off and lay down here, on your stomach…

JACK:  This isn't going to hurt, is it?

TRAVIS:  Oh, no, no.  (he starts to tie him down)  Dr. Pointer has such a soft touch, you won't feel anything.

JACK:  That's what I've heard.

(POINTER, sneaking a peek, winces and is angry)

TRAVIS:  So what do you do, Mr. Bowdoin?

JACK:  Construction.  Skyscrapers.

TRAVIS:  Really?  So you hurt your back on the job?

JACK:  That, and this new girlfriend I've got.  She sure gives me a bouncing.  (noticing he's being tied to the bed)  Hey!  What is this for?

TRAVIS:  Oh, just so you don't move around during the application of the needles.  And... you might want to keep your voice down a bit.  Dr. Pointer is very… conservative.  He doesn't like that kind of talk. (and this is evident; he is going crazy)  We'll, that'll just about do it.  Let me get Dr. Pointer.

(he heads to the door and POINTER starts in before he even calls him)

POINTER (cocky):  Well, well, well, who do we have here?  (looking at file)  Jack Bowdoin, back pain.  Are you a pain in the neck, too, Jack?

JACK:  What?

POINTER:  Just teasing.  How long has it been hurting you, Jack?

JACK:  A few weeks, about.

POINTER:  Uh-huh.  (looking at file again) Anything else?

JACK:  Well, I do feel it in my neck a little, too.

POINTER (has wandered over to his organ, still reading the file):  Says here you had a knee operation four years ago?

JACK:  Yeah.  I was on workman's comp for three months.

POINTER:  You sure can get yourself into trouble, can't you, Jack?

JACK:  I try.

POINTER:  Jack, let me be Frank with you.  (chuckles to himself)

JACK:  Okay.

POINTER (still chuckling): You'll have to excuse me, it's just that  my name is Frank...!

JACK:  Dr. Franklin Pointer.

POINTER:  Yes.  (uncomfortable moment)  Jack, there's a bunch of questions I ask my patients which allows me to treat them according to their individual needs.  Do you experience a lot of stress at work?  Mental stress?

JACK:  Not really.

POINTER:  Has there been any unusual amount of grief in your family lately?

JACK:  No.

POINTER (in his face now): Do you know anyone by the name of Theresa?  (extended pause)

JACK:  I don't think I know what you're talking about.  I'm just here for my back.

POINTER:  Alrighty, we'll concentrate on this (slaps him hard)  mighty back then!

JACK:  Hey!  Easy there....

POINTER:  Oh, I'm just warming you up, Jack, don't worry your little noggin about it.  I don't even have the needles out yet.

JACK (trying to struggle free, failing):  This had better be legit or heads are gonna roll.

POINTER:  Oh, it's legit.  You'll get all the relief from the pain in life that you deserve.  Travis.... light the candles, I'll get the music.

(he hits play on the stereo and "In-A-Godda-Da-Vida" starts blaring as the lights go out and a strobe replaces them.  TRAVIS is dancing around, lighting one or two candles, playing air guitar. POINTER dances around JACK, prodding him roughly with needles and making him scream, until finally blood is seen and TRAVIS pulls him off and the two collapse in blood at the feet of the audience. POINTER realizes in that final moment what a horrible thing he's done.)

(the strobe and the music end abruptly, and their is silence)

(slow organ music begins)

(lights up on POINTER, waking up on the treatment bed with SHULGIN and TRAVIS attending him.  He is extremely dazed.)

SHULGIN:  Frank?  Frank, can you hear us?

TRAVIS:  Dr. Pointer?

POINTER:  Wha- where?

SHULGIN:  You're back here with us, now, in your own office.  How do you feel?

POINTER:  What?  You mean I just woke up now?

TRAVIS:  Yeah, you've been out for a good while.

POINTER (sitting up):  But I thought… I thought that Travis and I had-

SHULGIN:  Tortured a man to the point of death?  We have, in a fashion.

POINTER:  The blood's still on my hands!

TRAVIS:  Chocolate syrup with red food coloring.  Sylvia said that would help.  Your eyes were open much of the time.

POINTER (standing):  What's going on here?  Travis... that important thing I said I was going to ask you, did I ask it?

TRAVIS:  That was all a fabrication.

SHULGIN:  Frank, we've been giving you what is called cathartic jealousy treatment.  Your wife has been complaining that you've lost all of your passion in recent years, and that that's is responsible for the breakup of your marriage.

POINTER:  So?

SHULGIN:  So we helped you with your passion.  Did you have extreme emotions during your experience?

POINTER:  Yes, but I've been having them for a month since the separation.  This was just like the culmination of all of them.

SHULGIN:  Frank, you've only been separated from your wife for two days.  That's when we began treatment.

POINTER:  So she didn't have an affair?

SHULGIN:  Nope.  That was just a fantasy, easy to induce since it was all based on your own fears.  You essentially received the wake-up call to your marriage that an affair would have given you, without your wife having the affair.  It's sort of like… well, pushing your pressure points.

POINTER:  She's in on this?

TRAVIS:  Maybe I should show her in.

SHULGIN:  Not yet.

POINTER:  So all of this was in my imagination?  There was no experiment?

SHULGIN:  That was just something we did to make you aware of the dream so you'd wake.  We've been spiking your drinks all along.

POINTER:  How could you?

SHULGIN:  We haven't had a dissatisfied customer yet.  Frank, meet Travis, my assistant.

POINTER:  I thought Travis was my assistant!

TRAVIS:  Oh, I was, I was.  For a time.  And I do find your practice fascinating.

POINTER:  I think I need to lay down.

SHULGIN:  And I promise, no more blood.

(POINTER finally collapses and is propped up by TRAVIS)

SHULGIN:  We'll just bring him in for a checkup.  And reunite him with his wife.  Let's go.

POINTER (delirious):  Oh, my…

SHULGIN:  I'm sure Theresa will be pleased with the new passionate, trusting "you."  Her therapy has been excellent for everybody involved.

TRAVIS:  He looks better already.

SHULGIN:  Doesn't he?

THERESA (entering):  Frank!

POINTER (weakly, in shock):  Theresa!?

SHULGIN:  You were supposed to wait until after the hospital, Theresa.

THERESA:  Oh, but I couldn't wait.  Couldn't wait to see the new Frank.

POINTER:  Here, help me get him out to the car (Travis on one leg, the women on the other, they drag him out the door)

POINTER:  Catch me up, I think I'm behind...

(the four are almost gone, POINTER being dragged)

SHULGIN:  As you always say yourself, what's good for the body is good for the mind!

(music rises and lights fade to black)

END


Marcus Del Greco has been writing for the page, stage, and record since 1992. He founded mindmined.com in 1998 and continues as editor and developer of this domain and a small network of other creative websites. He lives in Alton, New Hampshire.

Email: marcus@mindmined.com
Website: http://www.mindmined.com/marcus


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