A Dalliance With Veronica
Veronica happily complied with all of Dr. Jeff Corley’s desires because she was perfectly suited for him, because her only task was to please him, because their relationship was secret, because she presented an exquisite anatomy, because she was a custom-made, life-size doll.
Jeff grinned at Ben Ortega, his friend and therapist, halfway through their session. “Veronica listens to my every word, and she never judges anything I say or do.” He put his hands behind his head and leaned back. “She says I’m incredibly handsome and a great lover.”
Ben leaned forward in his chair, frowning slightly. “This is a weird development, Jeff. When did you get her?”
“I made the final payment a month ago and she arrived last week.”
“How much did you spend?”
“She was seven thousand dollars. I had to put four thousand on a credit card, but she’s worth it. I hit a good blackjack hand and paid the other three thousand.”
“Was she delivered to your office?”
“No, she came to the house late in the day. The UPS driver said the box weighed eighty pounds, and he wondered what it was.” Jeff shifted in his chair. “I told him I won a doll—a beautiful doll, a reward from the universe for my many talents. I don’t think he believed me, so I told him it was an exercise machine.”
“This is not progress, Jeff. You’re four thousand dollars more in debt, you’re gambling, and you’re isolating again. Remember? You were going to get the credit cards paid and get out and meet people—other professionals, conferences, continuing education. What’s going on with you?”
Jeff rubbed his hands together and then squeezed them between his knees. “I’m bored, nervous. I need something to do with myself. Sometimes I’m not sure who I am. Work is not enough, Ben.”
“So now you’re obsessing with Veronica?”
“I wouldn’t say obsessing, but we have been spending a lot of time together.”
“Okay, tell me about her.”
“Well, I chose all her features, so she’s exactly what I want.”
“I was assigned to one counselor. He helped me design her. Veronica has red hair, white-pinkish skin, No. 3 nipples, grapefruit-size breasts, a flat stomach with a slight pooch, and red pubic hair. It’s astounding, Ben. Each single hair was carefully implanted and then curled. Her thighs, knees, calves, ankles, and feet come from an athletic design, as though she’s a regular cyclist.”
“So the factory has artists?”
“Yes, good ones. She has a rounded face, soft cheeks, stretchy thick lips with a slight smile, a Romanesque nose, and a smooth forehead beneath fluffy red bangs. Her green eyes sparkle—large-size No. 1—and light green eyeshadow covers her eyelids. She’s perfect and anatomically correct beyond my wildest imagination.”
“You mean her private parts?”
“They designed a removable orifice system—can be taken out and cleaned.”
“I don’t know how they did it, but it is a flexible silicon foam and conforms no matter what position she’s in.”
“So you’ve tried her out.”
“Veronica and I have made love three times since she arrived, once with her sitting on top, once from behind, and once with her legs pushed up and knees on her shoulders. Tight and springy in all positions. No difference in sensation. An engineering marvel, that’s for sure.”
“Jeff, this is bizarre—seems to be about you having ultimate control, right?”
“Could be, but I haven’t been to the casino for a week, and the salesman said I deserved to have someone like her. He said it is a rare man who does well with dolls. I’m unusual, Ben, don’t you see? She tunes up my vitality.”
“We’re about out of time. I suggest you keep a detailed journal about you and Veronica. We can go over it at our next session.”
Jeff stood up. “Thanks, Ben. I always feel peaceful after coming here. Seems like you care.”
“Okay, see you in two weeks. Saturday at 4 p.m.”
Jeff had known Ben since they first met in a sophomore psychology class at the University of New Mexico. Jeff became more interested in faces, appearances, and teeth, so pre-dental science classes became his focus. Jeff was highly competitive, and he graduated from dental school with near-perfect grades. Ben moved more into the social sciences and later into clinical psychology as his graduate work. Ben had been a therapist for a couple of years, and Jeff sought him out to help with his gambling, inner turmoil, and constant failures at relationships with women. Ben was remarkably perceptive, and Jeff trusted him.
Jeff hurried home to get another UPS package. He had bought an array of extra clothes and perfumes for Veronica. He dressed her and posed her differently each day so his preference would be fulfilled when he saw her. On Monday and Tuesday, he placed her at the counter in the kitchen, perfumed with Victoria’s Secret Rapture—a warm Bulgarian rose, amber, and musk scent—and naked except for a little apron. On Wednesday and Thursday, he posed her on the love seat in the living room with a short skirt and sheer nylon blouse, her breasts smelling of Bath by Bobbi Brown, a fresh-out-of-the-shower scent. Then for the weekend, he kept her posed on the bed in sheer lingerie with her legs slightly open—her thighs and tummy smelling of Carnal Flower by Frederic Malle, a sweet, musty, and alluring scent that came alive when he closed his eyes. Why play blackjack at the casino when you have Veronica? He could come home anytime in any condition, in any mood, and Veronica was there, quietly waiting, without judgment and ready to listen to his every word without interruption, ready to bring him all the pleasure he could muster.
Sometimes he propped her up and stood naked beside her in front of a full-length mirror. “Hey, look here, Veronica. This should make you smile.” He loved watching her admire his slightly rippled muscles, his hint of tight abs, and his strong shoulders. Also, he liked to watch TV with Veronica sitting beside him, his hand resting between her thighs, under the electric blanket. He was sometimes annoyed that it took a couple of hours for her to warm up to body temperature, and she didn’t hold her heat well. He loved stroking her perfectly smooth skin with his face resting in the nape of her neck. “You’re my kind of woman, Veronica. No demands—always there for what I need.” He mused about a recent new design that generated her own internal heat, but she was two thousand dollars more and had to stay plugged in—kind of unnatural. For now, an electric blanket had to do.
Ben cared about helping people, especially men. He specialized in anxiety disorders, addictions, obsessions, and personality disorders—especially Narcissistic Personality Disorder. He was driven by the basic belief that men need to discover who they are, free themselves from the dark forces of dysfunction and resentment, and live authentically with purpose and courage, always challenging themselves with goals and dreams, always mindful of the shadow deep within. Jeff was his friend, which made therapy awkward, but Ben was convinced he could help him and sustain at least a quasi-therapeutic relationship. Jeff trusted him, and that was a good start. Like Jeff, Ben was born and raised in Albuquerque.
Ben’s mother and father, Rosalina and Charles Ortega, conceived Ben peacefully, eagerly, and quietly on their second honeymoon in a hotel in Albuquerque when Charles came home from Vietnam for a leave over Christmas, 1971. They had been apart for over a year, so the weekend was spent mostly in bed, like their honeymoon. Early on Sunday morning Charles awoke blissfully to Rosalina stroking him and then to her lying on top of him, moving slowly, whispering quiet little breath groans. She put her mouth to his ear. “Do you think we should have a baby?”
He hugged her close. “Yes, of course.”
She kept moving, steadily, gently. “Okay, then—no condom. We’ll see what happens.”
Ben was a handsome baby. He had a full head of brown hair, blue eyes, and a little smile that charmed every passerby in the nursery. Charles only got to see him a few times. He returned to Vietnam to help protect the embassy in Da Nang, but was killed by a supply truck just as the war ended in 1973.
Orlando, Ben’s grandfather on his father’s side, was also a charmer. It was said that he had scores of lady friends, but only one whom he truly loved – Ben’s grandmother, Philomena, a gentle, stalwart, and devoted wife who believed deeply in the sanctity of marriage and taking care of her man. Orlando reveled in Philomena’s care and never strayed.
Loren, Ben’s grandmother on his mother’s side, met his grandfather, Anthony, at choir practice for a Christmas cantata at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Roswell, New Mexico. After Loren and Anthony had dinner with Loren’s mother and father, their courtship progressed properly, and they were married one year later. Grandfather Anthony was a gentleman from the old school and was taken aback, although delighted, when he discovered on their honeymoon that Loren was a wild woman in bed. At first he was shaken by her uninhibited behavior, but soon it became his private secret that he wore on his pink cheeks. Overall, the family tree produced a good measure of love and passion that eased Ben into the world, arming him for the rocky journey ahead.
When Ben was seven, Rosalina married a widower named Henry, who lived two blocks away. He later revealed that he didn’t like children, although he would tolerate Ben if he were well behaved. Henry sold his house soon after they were married and moved into Rosalina’s house. Ben’s father’s military life insurance was substantial, and Rosalina had paid off the mortgage. During the next year, Ben was steadily displaced from the nurturing care of his mother, who was now required to pay substantial attention to Henry. Ben remained confused and angry throughout his childhood, wondering why his mom spent so much time with Henry, why she and Henry went out so often, why he was usually left out, why they always drove new cars, why his stomach always felt queasy, and why his eyes looked sad in the mirror.
Henry and Ben never did connect. Ben lived a quiet life, a stranger in his own home. He often stayed away, hung out with friends, and focused on becoming an excellent student. Often Henry and Rosalina didn’t even realize that Ben was not home in his room. He covered up his resentment with good grades, awards, and dreams of escaping Henry’s harsh words and scrutiny. His time alone became more and more important, and his fantasy life grew into reveries of ways he could disappoint his mother—perhaps even teach her a lesson about her mindless abandonment and overdone allegiance to that asshole Henry. When he was particularly despondent, he would fantasize about smacking Henry with a baseball bat and bringing home a prostitute to meet his mother and introducing her as his fiancée.
Just after his eighteenth birthday, Ben was accepted to the University of New Mexico on a full academic scholarship. One Saturday in August as he was packing his things to move out, he paged through an old Bible his father had bought for him when he was an infant. In the middle, in Psalms, he found a letter written on thin airmail tissue. The envelope had been opened.
I’m writing this letter because I have to go back to the war. In case anything happens to me, I put away money for you—gold coins. They are in a safe-deposit box at First National Bank, worth about $100,000. When you are eighteen, go there and find the vice president, George, or his wife Maria. I trusted them with the safe-deposit-box key. I hate to say it, but I don’t think you can trust your mother with money, especially if she finds another man. She’ll want to please him, and he’ll probably walk all over her. I hope I can get home soon and you won’t even see this letter.
Ben threw the Bible into a suitcase, slammed it shut, marched into the living room, and put his hands on his hips. His lips quivered.
“Mother, did you open that letter from my father?”
Henry scowled and Rosalina stood up. “Letter?”
Ben clenched his teeth. “Yes, the letter in my Bible about the gold coins.”
She dropped her head and put her hands together. Henry stood up, walked in front of her, and faced Ben with a cold stare. “Raising a child is expensive. We needed that money for your expenses: you know, school, braces, medical expenses, clothing, food—things like that.”
Ben looked at his mother, but she wouldn’t meet his eyes.
“The banker knew the gold coins were for me.”
Henry smiled. “He knew they were for the family. You are a minor, so we set up a trust. Your mother is the trustee.”
His face reddened. “Is there any left for college?”
His mother shook her head. “I’m so sorry.”
Ben took a breath, made fists with his hands, but left them at his side. “I guess this is good-bye.”
Henry extended his hand. “Be sure and check in and let your mother know how you’re doing.”
Ben ignored his hand, turned, and walked to his room to gather his things. He would never return.
Just after 4 p.m. on Saturday, Jeff appeared for his therapy and sat down in the quiet of Ben’s office. “I have a confession to make.”
Ben opened his notebook. “Okay, let’s have it.”
“I went back to the casino. Lost about $3,700 and then I left. I haven’t been back.”
“I thought your friend Veronica was keeping your home fires burning?”
“Well, she was, but her skin is just too clammy and cold.”
“You said she’s perfect, a woman who admires you and listens to your every word. What happened?”
“I dress her up in different ways, but sometimes she’s boring.”
“You said she thinks you’re a good lover.”
“Well, yes, there’s that, but not much variety. I have to be honest. My desire wanes against cold thighs.”
“Yes, you have to take time to warm her up with the electric blanket. Hard to be spontaneous.”
“But she meets your every need, right?”
“Not so much anymore. Her nipples are chewy and taste like plastic.”
“How did you feel when you decided to go play blackjack?”
“Because you might win?”
“Yes, or maybe because I might lose—playing, that’s the point. I like to stay right on the edge of what’s going to happen.”
“Is it always an adrenaline rush?”
“Yes—I love it.”
“What made you stop?”
“I ran out of money. My credit cards are maxed out.”
“Seems like a bad strategy—running out of money. We need to talk about impulse control and your obsession with self-satisfaction. Where do you think that comes from?”
“Well, I didn’t get enough of what I needed as a child, and I haven’t gotten enough in any of my relationships. It is not really an obsession. I deserve it. I deserve more self-satisfaction. I’m unique, Ben. I need more than other people, and they don’t understand.”
“You’re unique, all right. You’re driven, Jeff. You’re not in charge of your impulses, judgments, or your emotions. I’ve said this before, but let me say it again. You don’t know who you are or what motivates your life. We’ve got to work on how you see yourself. You are a man among people, not an island. Self-satisfaction only goes so far.”
“I do pretty well. I don’t think I need to change that much.”
“Pretty well? You’re broke, you have to work long days to make your office function, you’ve maxed out your credit cards, and you can’t sustain a relationship with a woman—even a doll. You call that doing well?”
Jeff stood up and looked at Ben. “Men like us need things. You know that, Ben.”
Ben shrugged and looked at the clock. “Guess we’re out of time.”
“Okay, I’ve got to get going anyway.”
“No, I’ve got a date. A nurse from the ER at Presbyterian came in for a crown on her right molar. Said she liked my gentle touch.”
“Well, at least she’s real.”
“That’s for sure. Sweet smile, soft lips, and her breath smells like cinnamon. She watched me the whole time with her sparkly blue eyes.”
“See you again in two weeks?”
“Okay, Saturday at 4 p.m.”
Ben made some notes, thumbed through a couple of books, straightened up his desk, and went to IHOP for an omelet and pancakes. It was dark when he pulled into his driveway and saw a large box on his front stoop, balanced under the porch light on a furniture dolly. He wheeled it inside, closed the door, and opened the front of the box. Veronica was dressed in sheer pink lingerie and was holding a note in her hand.
“Hello, Ben. I’ve had a bath.”
Ben took Veronica’s hand, wheeled her into the bedroom, and turned off the light.
Mark Conkling, Ph.D., is a New Mexico author. In addition to numerous short stories, he has
written three novels: Prairie Dog Blues (2011), Dog Shelter Blues (2012), Killer Whale Blues
(2014), published by Sunstone Press. They show ways that the spiritual forces in nature
can transform broken lives.
To learn more, visit www.markconklingauthor.com.