The Country Doctor - A Dying Breed
by Clayton Jones
The last patient of the day, an eighty-year-old lady in for a checkup and a gossip update, said 'goodbye' and left Doctor Stevens (he prefers 'Doc') alone in his office with a paper plate full of cookies she baked for him. It was twilight and he had worked through dinner again, as he was prone to do since his wife of forty-five years passed away six months earlier. It was easier than going home to an empty house and TV dinner, or worse, eating out, alone in a crowd.
The office was getting darker as the sun set. In the fading light things slowly took on different appearances. Everything was softer, not as sharp as
in the bright light of day. The darkly stained heavy pine furniture looked almost black in the dim light. The roll top desk and chair, all the items in the office,
except the coffee maker, looked like they came from the early 1900s, and they did. Every flat surface had papers piled on it. On top of each stack of papers was a medical item used as a paperweight. The overall effect was the appearance of a literary flea market. Doc knew where everything was. He planned to get it all put away 'very soon.' He took his glasses off, laid them on the desk, and slowly looked around the room. His eyes were burning from the strain of the day and he rubbed them. Times like this, bone tired, sitting in his dark office he thought back to days gone by when he and his wife were young and just starting out.
The future looked bright and the world was theirs. He was going to start with his general practice then move to a big city hospital and 'specialize.' In what
he didn't know, but it was an up and coming thing and a way to make a lot of money. Things didn't work out as planned. Somewhere along the way, taking care of broken bones, delivering babies, and fighting death, he found he belonged in this little town. It felt right and the people needed him. His wife understood and agreed.
Besides, on a doctor's earnings, they would be able to travel every year and see the world. They were happy with their prospects. Now, forty-five years later
the sum total of their travels consisted of an annual two weeks at the Jersey shore and one week in the mountains. Through all those years Edith never complained. Now, he was alone and the travel brochures were still in the bottom of a desk drawer. He looked at her picture for a long time. 'Goodnight my love,' he said. Slowly he got up turned off the lights. He went out the back door down two steps and along a short path leading to a small area for patient parking. As he walked to his car he noticed it was a cloudless night with a nearly full moon. The cold September air smelled fresh and good.
The light green twelve-year-old 1970 Chevy Nova was waiting in the far corner of the lot. He remembered when they bought it new for $2,450. A basic two-door coupe, the only option he allowed himself was an A.M. / F.M. radio. Doc opened the car door and slid his bag across the bench seat to the passenger side and got in. He put on his seat belt and cranked the window down two turns to let in some air. Depressing the clutch, he moved the three-speed column shiftor into neutral and turned the ignition key. The small in-line six fired right up and settled into a smooth idle. Headlights on and a quick scan of the analog gauges on the dashboard directly in front of the steering wheel: gas, oil pressure, water temperature, battery charge. He noticed the odometer was at 249,999.8 and remarked
out loud, 'Two-tenths to go Becky. We'll have to get you a wash and wax after you turn 250,000.' Doc and Edith were never ones for material things. They spent much of their time and money doing volunteer work and helping local charities.
As he drove through the small town on his way home, he noticed a group of people up ahead standing on the sidewalk. As he got closer, he could see someone lying on the ground. Pulse quickening, he pulled over and grabbed his black bag. “What happened?” he asked as he approached the group. A teenage boy spoke up, “He was walking along, fell over and hasn't moved since. That was about two minutes ago.”
As soon as Doc got through the circle of spectators he saw a couple things: one, it was his long-time friend Bill Powers, and two, the gray pasty look of someone having a heart attack. “Has anyone gone for help?” His question was answered with blank stares. “Call for an ambulance, he's having a heart attack!” Quickly he rolled Bill on his side and checked the mouth for any obstructions. He rolled him back and arched Bill's neck to open the airway. “Anyone here who knows CPR?” Doc asked desperately hoping someone in the crowd of more than ten would be able to provide the actual breathing while he supervised. No one spoke up, the people either stared at him or looked away. One person commented to another that a course had been offered at work but it was after hours & you didn't get paid to take it.
Doc couldn't risk teaching someone with his friend's life on the line so he got on his knees and started the routine with the compression's and breathing. The concrete was cold and hard, but it provided support for Bill's back for the compressions. Doc's pulse was racing wildly and the forced breathing was the last thing he needed, but he had no choice. As he worked on his friend, long ago memories of things they did together came flooding back. Time spent at the proverbial swimming hole. Sneaking a smoke behind the barn. Awkward first dances and even a fight over a certain girl in high school who had long since moved away to New York City. So much of his life had been shared with Bill. He couldn't live with himself if he let him die. “Where's the ambulance? Did anyone go for help?”
People looked at each other. A young girl said, “I don't think anyone went.” Five people started to move, one rose to the occasion. “I'll go,” shouted the girl as she ran off. The others sputtered out and came back to watch the one old man try to save the other old man. Such was life in the country before cell phones. Doc was so intent on keeping the rhythm that he failed to notice the growing pressure deep within his chest. The first sharp pain was like being kicked in the ribs by a horse. “Oh no! Not now!” Bill was just beginning to breathe but then stopped. “Come on Bill! I can't keep this up! Just a few more times!” The second pain was sudden and massive, it took Doc's breath away. He collapsed unconscious on top of his friend. His last thought was of Edith.
The spectators moved back as one, intimidated by the lights, siren and speed of the approaching police cruiser skidding to a halt inch from Doc's car. The ambulance was right behind, swerving to the curb in front of the two vehicles. The officer was already directing traffic as two young EMS jumped out flung open the ambulance doors grabbed their gear and ran to the motionless figures lying on the sidewalk. They worked frantically to revive their respective patients. The crowd, their faces illuminated by the red and blue flashing lights, watched spellbound as dedication and technology did their best. Sally, the EMS person working on Doc, had to be pulled away ten minutes later when the on-call doctor arrived. With a heavy heart, he pronounced both Bill and Doc deceased.
Sally broke down in tears. Twenty-three years ago Doc had delivered her at the home for unwed mothers. With no children of their own, Edith and Doc had taken a special interest in doing what they could to help her and her mother, as they did for many in the community. For Sally and others, they were a Godsend and dearly loved. They are gone, but will never be forgotten.
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Uninspired Fling -by Don Erdek 2018c
This is a collection of some of our members short stores & poetry. Stop back monthly for additions.
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Damn this life. Damn its empty existence.
I once was young , you know.
What was the purpose, the destiny..........it seems to have passed me by.
These waters I see before me I don't understand, I'm sure they in turn care not for me. So let this solitary bay deal with this shabby hat that I cast away in distress.
I have become a sea apart from human understanding and a universe of separation from the answer to why.
I seek not reciprocity, agreement or amnesty.
My body sags limp inside baggy pants, my mind downcast, I'm saddened by a departure of faith. Alone in mind, frozen in snapshot time.
The now of soft water is lapping at my feet, inexplicably soothing my uninspired woes. It's not my age that hampers nor the white of hair.
It is the unknowing of my genesis in a universe guided by entropy that speeds evermore rapidly to empty.
What is my destiny? Do I ever get to know?
So alone I remain frozen in photographic poise, eyes and head downcast in despair. Yet in defiance the might of my right arm rebels and flings my hat.
Could it be my reverie searching for some time before or possibly a better heavenly after?
I'll wait a moment before I look up to see if that hat will float away or chance a route of return. Life is but happenstance with a probability ring.
So will my mindless hat, by gentle wave-assist, return to me or slowly drift away without a solitary care?
Returning a sign to hope and pray; drifting away a sign to remain apart in an uninspired way.
Moonset On Sunset Beach
by Richard Carr
As the moon sets on Sunset at six-thirty a.m.
a new day is beginning to dawn.
The ocean is calm while mere traces of waves
wash ashore causing barely a sound.
The birds are hunting their prey in the usual way.
The only thing out of place here is me.
And, as I watch the moon sink upon the western horizon,
the first rays from the sun to the east kiss the beach.
Soon the masses will arrive with their
bundles of civilization to spread on the sand.
There’ll be young boys and girls and grown women and men.
here to play, or to just work on their tans.
Then, come the end of this day, they’ll pack up
their belongings and go home … but their footprints will remain.
But now … it's moonset on Sunset ... all is peaceful and calm.
Such sweet moments in life keep me sane.
Copyright ©2014 Richard Carr; email: firstname.lastname@example.org