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subjective experience you have of your body. But it is also true that I must draw a clear line between what I'll do and what I won't, and I won't tamper with something I can't possibly improve. So, given that neither you nor I have any time to waste in flattery, I suggest that you nicely forget your project as you leave my office. Pardon my abruptness, but I had a very exhausting morning, and have no energy left to convince you that you're perfect. Le mieux est l'ennemi du bien as they say. Pleased to have met you," he said, rising and holding out his hand. Jacqueline was dumbfounded. She tried to splutter something starting with "but" as the doctor courteously but firmly led her to a door half hidden behind a folding screen in a corner of the room.

"Goodbye Mrs Lewis, the doctor said. You'll receive no bill from me."

Thank you," said Jacqueline vacuously.

The door closed behind her. She found herself at the top of another iron stair, leading down to an inner yard littered with papers and old car parts. She quickly found her way back to the street, paused and turned her head towards the tinted office window. Her mind was blank. She put on her shades and got back to her car. She had forgotten all about the lipstick in the shop-window. She let herself fall on the driver's seat and turned the key. After a few unbearable seconds during which the sound of the ventilation made her feel she was in a pulsed air oven, the coolness arrived through the air vents. She held the wheel with both her hands, as if intently driving. Then, first subdued, gradually louder, came the laughter. She laughed her head off for a good minute. She calmed down and leaned on the headrest, eyes gleaming with an abstracted tender emotion. She heard those words again "you're perfect" - How worried she had been he might not have uttered them!

She sat dreamily a little while. But soon she grew darker, her face taking a worried expression. She almost looked her age now. What if the motherfucker had lied? Now come on. Come on. She looked at herself in the rear-view mirror. She forced a smile. As she sought signs of ageing on her face, her hand mechanically reached for her bag. She pulled out from it a huge, chromed, rosewood-handled .44. She stroked the cold steel with her thumb, brushing lightly the side of the trigger, rubbed her fingers on the handle, where she had had the letters "SoL" engraved. Sooner or Later she called her beloved gun, a little joke of hers. It was good to feel it in her palm; good and sobering. Well, sooner or later, anyway, it would be no joke. She put the gun back in the bag and drove off, heading for the commercial centre.

Guillaume Destot (24) is a member of the infamous neo-Hydropathe group. This is his first full-length short story in English. It is a 3 A.M. world exclusive.

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