his working day at the small college where he had taught Business Studies for the last ten years. He would be lighting up his twentieth cigarette since breakfast and looking forward to another cup of strong coffee before he finally went back to his lonely apartment. He had been bored, bored, bored. His whole life had felt grey.

How completely different that was from the view which now met his eyes!

Jamie Russell was glad he had moved to Singapore.

He felt so good about it he had finally decided to give up smoking, with a little help from Mr Lo's acupuncture centre. He had always wanted to give up the harmful habit but had, somehow, always found a reason to continue, such as the stress of work or the end of yet another failed relationship with a girlfriend. This time it was serious. It would be in keeping with the fresh start he had made in his life as a lecturer in a respected Singapore college. New job, new life. And what better way to give up than through the use of the ancient art of acupuncture? After all, it has been used in the East for over a thousand years.

Acupuncture involves the use of fine needles placed into particular points on the body that are said to be the focus of important channels of life energy called chi. The needles then direct this chi into its proper place. It is said that many illnesses and bad habits are the result of chi being disturbed or blocked. Acupuncture tries to correct such disturbances and clear the blocked chi. That's what they say.

Ten minutes later, Mr Lo removed the needles from Jamie's ears. Jamie stood up and stretched his arms. He was not sure what his ears had to do with his smoking, but he

was prepared to trust the expert advice of Mr Lo. Why shouldn't he?

`How do you feel now, Mr Russell?' asked Mr Lo. He was a short man who appeard to be about sixty, and he had to look up to speak to the tall figure of Jamie. `Do you still want a cigarette?'

Jamie was disappointed to discover that he did want a cigarette, but he was too polite to say so. Instead he arranged for further treatment in three days' time. In the meantime, he had to take some horrible-looking powder and drink it in hot water at home.

`It will help to direct your chi,' Mr Lo promised him. When Jamie got home and tasted it he nearly spat it out. It tasted like mud. But he was determined to finish it and finish it he did. Normally, his first reaction to unpleasant experiences was to have a smoke. To his surprise, he found he did not experience his usual automatic desire to reach out for a cigarette. He still wanted one, but he did not feel as if he would go crazy without one. He could manage. Over the next three days at work in the college he smoked only four cigarettes instead of his usual packet a day. Even then he felt guilty about it. Normally he would feel like climbing up the walls if he did not have a smoke at least once every hour. Was the acupuncture treatment working? It seemed to be.

The next visit to Mr Lo repeated the treatment. The results were, as far as Jamie was concerned, marvellous. He felt no desire at all for a cigarette after the second visit. He took the awful-tasting powder, just to be safe, but the need for a smoke did not return. If anything, the thought of smoking a cigarette now made him feel quite sick.



The acupuncture had worked. In fact, it had worked so wonderfully well that Jamie wanted to find out more about it. What else could it do? If it could stop bad habits, could it also encourage good ones?

He decided to talk to Mr Lo.

Jamie's new job was going well. He liked his hard-working students and they seemed to like him. He found he was feeling more awake and full of life. He no longer minded all the marking of books and preparation of lessons and long meetings that had previously been so tiring for him.

He also started to notice how few local people actually smoked. Before then he had not really cared so long as he could have a cigarette. Now he began to understand just how unpleasant the smelly things were. That's how he thought of cigarettes now: as smelly things that were both anti-social and disgusting.

He was even avoiding the strong coffee he had previously thought to be essential. Alcohol, once a regular part of his life, had also been put away forever.

And it was all thanks to Mr Lo and his little needles. Jamie visited the acupuncture clinic every week. He was beginning to look forward to the feel of the fine needles in his skin. He enjoyed waiting quietly in his chair while the marvellous needles did their work. He even enjoyed staring through the windows while he thought about his changing fortunes.

Jamie was getting to know Mr Lo quite well. He asked him about acupuncture and other Eastern treatments. He was surprised at the depth of Mr Lo's knowledge. Mr Lo



had studied acupuncture for most of his long life. He was actually much older than Jamie had thought him to be - much older. Could this be because of his skills? Jamie wanted to know more. Perhaps he could be taught some of these skills. Then he would be able to use them on himself! Why not? He asked Mr Lo where he could learn acupuncture. To Jamie's delight, Mr Lo offered to teach him himself. The cost was very reasonable and Jamie was glad to accept. Lessons were arranged and Jamie made sure he attended them regularly.

He was an enthusiastic student.

Acupuncture had rid Jamie of many of his bad habits. He was beginning to think he would no longer have any bad habits to treat! After a while, Jamie felt sure he could start treating himself. Improving himself. He did not want Mr Lo to know about this in case he upset the old man. After all, he might see it as a sign of disrespect if Jamie stopped seeing him for his personal treatment. Besides, Mr Lo might not like it. He had ideas about acupuncture and other Eastern studies which, to Jamie's way of thinking, were old-fashioned.

One evening, during a lesson, Jamie asked Mr Lo what he could do to increase his ability to think, to become more intelligent.

`What do you want to do that for?' asked Mr Lo, much to Jamie's surprise.

`Well, I ... er ... I could do my work better,' said Jamie.

`You do your work well already, as far as I can tell,' Mr


Lo told him. `And you already have a good brain; I can see that. The mind and the body should be in balance - why spoil it by overdeveloping a brain that is good already, eh? No, my friend, the chi is meant to be in balance in body and mind. Do not upset that balance. What happens when we lose our balance? We fall over!' And he laughed.

Jamie smiled. He liked Mr Lo. But Mr Lo was old with old ideas. And they were not ideas that Jamie shared.

Jamie Russell was thirty-four years old. He was still single, though he had not yet given up hope of meeting the `right girl'. But there was no romance in his life. His job seemed, somehow, to take up all his time and energy. He had been unhealthy and unhappy. At least, that was how it used to be. Not any more.

Now, just one year after beginning his study of acupuncture, it seemed to Jamie that he felt fit and happy at last. He no longer smoked or drank alcohol. He had given up coffee. The only thing he did drink, apart from water, was tea. His body looked firm and fit, and his dark brown hair shone with health.

It was a pity about Mr Lo. Why did the old man get so angry about the progress he had been making? Jamie could not see anything wrong in wanting to improve himself, in making himself better - even superior. What was the problem? Things finally reached a crisis when Jamie said he wanted to use his chi to influence his students so that they would never forget what he told them. Mr Lo had refused to help him any more.

`You cannot do this foolish thing,' Mr Lo had said to


him. `You must not disturb the natural way of the chi - it goes against all I have taught you. If you insist on this foolish action you will be my student no longer!'

It was clear to Jamie that Mr Lo, the master, was becoming jealous of his student. It was sad but perhaps it was for the best. Jamie stopped going to Mr Lo's lessons. He had learnt enough - enough, at least, to know that he had to find other ways of perfecting his skills.

The use of needles was not always practical. He couldn't use them at work or when he was travelling around. There were times when Jamie wanted to increase his chi so that he could give himself that extra rush of energy he often wanted. He could hardly produce a set of needles and start sticking them into himself while he was at work or on the bus. No, acupuncture did not have all the answers he wanted. But, perhaps, acupressure might.

Acupressure doesn't need needles. Instead it uses either special sticks or - even easier - the fingers to apply pressure to points of chi in the body. The principles are exactly the same as acupuncture so Jamie did not feel that he had to start from the beginning again. He was confident that he could learn this new skill quickly. He did not feel the need for a teacher this time. He would teach himself. Why not?

So he did. He got out all the books he could find on acupressure and studied them. He looked things up on the internet. Soon he knew how to apply acupressure quickly and successfully without attracting attention to himself. This was impossible if needles were used.

Jamie soon found he could do all the work he needed to do at the college in a quarter of the time he used to take. He also had at least ten times more energy than he had had




before. There was lots of energy left over for his own studies, for his own improvement. Lots.

People were beginning to talk about him. His amazing ability to work hard and never get tired was frequently mentioned. These comments were never unkind and he remained popular with both staff and students, though he was well-known for expecting more work from his students than other members of staff. There had even been a few students leaving the course because they could not take the stress of the work. This was a pity but, after all, standards had to be kept up.

His interest in Eastern matters was no secret, though Jamie did not deliberately draw attention to it. His colleagues admired a man who was enthusiastic about his work, and they liked the fact that a Westerner showed such an interest in Eastern culture.

Jamie was becoming quite well known as somebody who knew about such things. Students would ask him for advice instead of going to their local experts. Jamie never asked for money. Once, after he had successfully treated a student's headache with acupressure, he was called to see the head of the college. He was told, kindly but firmly, that he was to leave treatments to those who had licences to do such things.

Jamie made sure he never made that mistake again.

It was soon after this that Adrian Tong, the Physics lecturer, asked Jamie if he was interested in the art of Tai Chi. Adrian was a friendly man, about the same age as Jamie, who always dressed smartly. He was a popular

member of the college staff, known for his helpful nature. He mentioned it to Jamie as they were preparing to go home.

Jamie was interested. He had heard of Tai Chi, which was made up of slow elegant exercises that developed the chi and made it stronger. Every morning in the park he saw people of all ages performing the exercises, gently moving their arms and legs like trees in a soft wind. Amongst them was a pretty young woman who Jamie thought was very elegant indeed.

Yes, it did look like a good way to relax.

`My uncle is considered to be a master of this art,' Adrian told him. `I am sure he would welcome such a keen student as yourself.'

And so Jamie became a student of Master Tong.

Master Tong was a slim young-looking man though he was over sixty years old. He was amazed by Jamie's knowledge of Eastern culture and agreed to teach him, though he would have to take his place with the rest of his students, all seventy-three of them, in the park at dawn each day. That suited Jamie. It would be a good start to the day.

The first lesson began the very next morning.

The park was next to the local shops. Many items were delivered to the shops at the start of the day and the roads were already busy with small lorries delivering vegetables, newspapers and all kinds of things needed for the day's business. Master Tong's class had been going through their elegant motions for twenty minutes or so when the loud sound of screaming brakes was heard. A child had run in front of a delivery lorry. The lorry had turned sharply and



fallen onto its side, trapping the driver, who had tried to jump clear. He was alive, but his legs were trapped under the lorry door. He was calling out for help and was obviously in great pain.

What happened next amazed Jamie. Master Tong ran to the lorry, took a deep breath and pushed up with both hands against the side of the lorry. What was the old man thinking of? What could he do? The lorry was not large but it was not something to be pushed away like an empty box.

But he lifted it up!

Master Tong held up the lorry while other willing hands pulled the driver away. Only after the driver was safe did he let go. The lorry sank down with a heavy sound of metal.

Master Tong sat down, a little red in the face but not hurt by his efforts. But Jamie had no time to talk to him as he was needed by the injured driver. He used his acupressure skills to reduce the poor man's pain until he could be taken to hospital. Jamie noticed a young woman by his side. It was the pretty woman from the Tai Chi class. She was busy talking to the injured man and helping him to relax. Their eyes met briefly and she smiled at him before she left to get more help.

When the ambulance arrived, Jamie saw that the Tai Chi class had begun again. People were gently moving in the new morning light, all following Master Tong.

The next day Jamie got to his Tai Chi class early. He wanted to speak to Master Tong before the class began.

Jamie saw him already doing his exercises next to a large

banyan tree. Master Tong saw him and smiled.

`Always exercise next to a tree,' he said. `Trees for the chi.'

Jamie looked at the slightly built man who was smiling at him. Could he really have moved that lorry by himself? Master Tong saw his face and answered for him.

`You need not be so surprised by what happened yesterday, my friend. You ought to know from your studies that the chi can be a practical tool, a way of finding outer as well as inner strength.'

`Yes, but I never thought. . .'Jamie began.

Master Tong again seemed to read his mind. `You never thought that a gentle form of exercise such as Tai Chi could produce such results, yes?'

`Well ... er ... yes,' answered Jamie. `Observe,' said Master Tong.

Jamie saw him go through one of the more complicated exercises at the normal speed. The exercise involved movements that looked like elegant kicks and punches. `Observe again,' Master Tong told him.

This time the exercise was performed much faster. Master Tong moved with a speed and power that took Jamie's breath away. There was nothing gentle about this!

`One side gentle, one side strong. Both are the same, both are part of the chi. You understand now?'

`I think so,' said Jamie.

`You used the gentle side of the chi yourself when you treated the injured man for his pain. That is good. We both use the chi when it is needed. That is balance. That is good. OK?'

are good



Jamie nodded. He had seen something that would stay in his mind forever. He had seen strength as well as elegance.

He had also seen power and it was beautiful in his eyes.

It was a few months after Jamie's talk with Master Tong when Adrian approached Jamie. He and Jamie often talked together after work before they went home.

`My uncle tells me you are one of his best students,' Adrian told him.

`But I've only been with him for a few months!' said Jamie.

`Exactly! He says you've learned more in a few months than most do in a few years! How do you do it, Jamie?' `Just lucky, I suppose,' said Jamie. They both laughed, but Jamie didn't add any more to explain his answer, though he wasn't sure why.

Adrian was too polite to ask again before he went home.

Jamie spent most of his time on studying and practising his skills. He would apply acupressure or sometimes needles to his skin in order to increase his chi. He needed more energy if he was to do all the things he wanted. And he wanted a lot.

Most of all he wanted power. He wanted the power of his chi to fill his being. He did not ask himself why he wanted it. He never questioned his desire for it, a desire that seemed to grow as naturally as his power grew.

But as his power grew his wisdom didn't.

Jamie was still doing well at the college. He was now head of the Business Studies department. The three other lecturers who were in the department liked Jamie, but he expected a lot from them. They wondered how he could work so hard. No matter how much they did, he always seemed to be doing more.

Jamie's department was becoming well-known for its excellent examination results. But his students, though they liked and respected Jamie, found that keeping up with all the work he wanted them to do was almost impossible. That is, if they expected to eat and sleep.

Jamie himself knew well enough that his expectations were beginning to be too much for his students and staff. He decided that something needed to be done about it. Of course! They could all join Master Tong's Tai Chi classes! Why not?

Jamie was feeling quite excited at the idea of his staff and students joining in the classes every morning. He never stopped to think that they might have other things to do with their lives; that they might have families to be with, or homes to look after or even other jobs to do.

He had not felt excited by anything in this way for some time. He was usually calm and in control of his feelings. He would speak to Master Tong about it tomorrow. But tonight he decided to walk home by way of the shopping centre, past all the bright shops and the colourful lights he had always found so cheerful. It was his way of celebrating.

But there were others who were also celebrating that night. And they were far from being calm. Five men were



sitting at an outdoor table in a street cafe next to the pavement. They had been drinking too much beer. One of them saw Jamie walking past and called out to him.

`Hey, mate, do you speak English?'

Jamie looked at the man. He was big and was speaking too loudly.

`Yes,' said Jamie, politely. `I am English. Can I help you?' The men all shouted and laughed, repeating `I am English' in a rude way that was meant to sound like him. Jamie ignored this.

`Yeah, mate, you can have a beer with us. It's my mate's birthday and I'm buying the drinks. You're my guest. You can drink to his health, too.'

`No thanks,' said Jamie. `I don't drink beer, only water and tea.'

The other men all laughed loudly but the first man got angry.

`I'm not asking you, mate, I'm telling you. Now drink!' The man pushed a beer can in front of Jamie's face. Jamie calmly turned away and began to walk off. He did not want to become involved with these men. The man reached out and roughly grabbed Jamie's shoulder.

Jamie did not even think about his next action. He turned quickly and pushed upwards with both hands against the man's chest. The man went up into the air and landed on another table, knocking over beer cans and breaking glasses. He did not get up.

Jamie could hardly believe what he had done. He had not meant to do anything violent. Now a man was hurt. The four other men looked at the fallen man in horror. This quickly turned to anger as they got up and attacked


Jamie. They were all shouting angrily at him as they did so. Some had bottles in their hands and one had picked up a heavy wooden chair.

Jamie had not asked for this. He had not wanted to hurt anyone. Now four large drunken men were attacking him. Something seemed to break inside Jamie's mind at that moment. It seemed to him as if the men were moving in slow motion. It was easy to avoid their punches, easy to hit them in places he knew would make them unconscious for a long time. It was just after the fourth man had gone down that he felt a sudden pain in his back. The floor rushed towards him. All the world went black and he knew no more.

Jamie's head hurt. He opened his eyes. The light hurt his eyes at first. He began to make out a face. It was the face of a woman. She was smiling at him. His eyes became more used to the light and he could see that the woman was a nurse. She had a nice face, a beautiful face. It seemed familiar.

`How are you feeling, Mr Russell?' the nurse asked. `I feel awful,' said Jamie. `My back hurts.'

`I'll get you something for the pain, Mr Russell. Just wait a moment.'

`No!' Jamie said with more force than he had intended. `I don't need any drugs; just give me a minute.'

Only then did Jamie realise that he could not move his arms or legs. No matter how hard he tried to move, they remained still. He felt confused, sick and afraid.

`Please, Mr Russell, relax. I'll take care of things,' said




the nurse as she dried the sweat on his forehead. As she leaned over, Jamie saw from the badge she was wearing that her name was Angie Lee. Her hand was cool and her touch was light. She smiled at him. Then he remembered her - she was the pretty woman from the Tai Chi class who had helped the injured lorry driver! He managed to smile back. `What happened, nurse? How did I get here?'

`Here is Doctor Sim. He'll tell you all you need to know, Mr Russell.'

Doctor Sim was a young man, younger than Jamie, but he spoke with the calm authority of a professional.

`A man hit a heavy chair against your backbone, Mr Russell. He injured your back and would have done more damage if the police hadn't arrived to stop him. It seems you got into a fight and put four of his friends into hospital before he did the same to you. Witnesses say the men started the trouble and you were trying to protect yourself. Rather well, too, until that chair hit you.'

`But I can't move my arms or legs!' cried Jamie.

`We don't want you to, Mr Russell; we have to keep your back still while it mends,' said Doctor Sim.

Jamie now realised that his whole body was being held still. Even his head was being held by something.

Doctor Sim continued: `If you were to move now you could be damaged forever.'

`Forever!' Jamie heard the word but it did not seem real to him. Be calm, he told himself, be in control.

`Will I ... will I get better?' he asked.

`Indeed you will,' said Doctor Sim. `Providing you remain absolutely still for at least two months. We have to make sure your back mends fully before we can consider

allowing you to move. But you should have made a full recovery by then, so don't worry. Enjoy the rest!'

Doctor Sim went on to his next patient.

Jamie felt that life had played a cruel trick on him. All that time spent on perfecting his body and his mind, and now he couldn't even get out of bed! He felt foolish and rather sorry for himself.

At that moment Nurse Angie Lee returned with some medicine for Jamie. He needed it.

After a few days he was allowed to see visitors. Adrian and Master Tong came to see him. Adrian talked about college and said how much Jamie was missed while Master Tong sat and said nothing. Adrian, after a nod from his uncle, then said goodbye and left.

Master Tong remained sitting by Jamie's bed, looking at him. Jamie wondered what he was thinking about but did not want to ask him. Finally, Master Tong spoke.

`I have been speaking to a friend of mine about you. He knows you well.'

`Yes? Who is that?'

`Mr Lo. He is concerned about you. You were his student once, I understand.'

`Why is he concerned?' asked Jamie. But he had a feeling he already knew.

`He could see something was happening to you. I could see it myself. I had hoped that the gentle side of your chi would correct the imbalance.'

`The imbalance?'

`Yes,' said Master Tong. `The power of your chi was



rising up like a snake. You were losing control of it, upsetting the balance. Why else do you think you got into that ridiculous fight with those men? You have skill, but no wisdom. Why do you think it takes a lifetime to learn these things, eh? You want to know everything all at once! You think you can do everything by yourself! We could see that. But you are young. You can still learn. If you don't kill yourself first!'

And Master Tong laughed.

`I know you won't be able to move for a while, but they tell me you will make a good recovery. And if you use your chi you should recover even faster. Enjoy your rest. Now you have a chance to examine your mistakes, look at your life and consider how to balance your chi properly.'

Just then Nurse Angie Lee arrived and waited respectfully while Master Tong was speaking.

`And not all teachers are old men!' Master Tong continued. `Your lessons begin now. I expect to see you back at my classes when you leave this place!'

Master Tong walked away. Jamie's eyes followed him as he walked through the door. Could Master Tong be right? `Are you ready, Jamie?'said Nurse Angie. It was time for her to wash him. Jamie liked Nurse Angie's cheerful company. She seemed to like him. He knew he liked her. He liked her very much. She smiled at him and he smiled back.

Jamie closed his eyes and relaxed. Maybe Master Tong was right. Maybe his lessons were only just beginning.

He felt Angle's touch and it was cool and gentle. Gentle as a feather.