Chapter 5: Petits Soins
A CASE OF GOUT, ONE CASE OF PILES, two of diarrhea, three cases of respiratory distress, another three cases of lumbago, an assortment of neglected and infected cuts and abrasions, a rash of, well- rashes, and a dire case of paraphimosis later and I've dispatched my last patient of the morning. Well, dispatched may be no more than fanciful thinking on my part. I was however relieved to send away one particular whinging time-waster with a fresh plaster on her scratch after listening to her lurid tale attributing it to having been viciously attacked by a pack of rabid hedgehogs†.
This morning's activity may constitute a particularly busy day for many a GP, but as I'm not about to be cozened by the sleepy bucolic setting, I recognise it as a fairly standard day for Port Wenn. Soon enough now I will favour myself with a highly nutritious lunch in seclusion at the kitchen table with my new mobile and the opportunity to prepare its special software. But before taking sustenance, I'll allay myself with a brisk walk to secure my special plans for tomorrow evening.
"Morwenna, I'm popping out for ten minutes. I'll return before lunch."
"Doc, quick! Name that patient!" she exclaims to me as she abruptly swivels her computer's screen to face me.
"That's Mr. Sallingsworth's fractured patella," the radiological image she displays belonged to the bladdered arse who'd overly imbibed and fallen from a rooftop after his overtures were rebuffed by an apparently quite fetching seagull.
After a few more clacks on her keyboard she calls out to me again, "...and this one? C'mon Doc!"
"Mr. Hart's sprained carpus with fractured carpal bones in three places," the x-ray chart clearly indicates where his fist had missed the face of his so-called mate, Mister What's-it, and instead squarely struck the door whilst they brawled over the affections of some clearly deluded female.
"...and this?!" she fires this demand at me after still more keystrokes.
"Mrs. Tescher's lacerated hand- before the twelve stitches it took to mend it," I describe the photo shown as part of PC Penhale's investigation depicting the mad woman's wound from having cut herself in the course of hurling dishes in commemoration of her negligent husband on their tenth wedding anniversary.
"Gosh Doc, you got every name. Spot on too," Morwenna sat there looking at me, beaming like the cat who'd swallowed the canary.
"Brilliant, innit?" she persisted, "See how the new digital records provide for a place there for the patient's picture?"
"And...?" I could only beg the question since she'd clearly gone blinkered. She had yet to show me any patient photographs: after all I could hardly care what my patients looked like; I didn't treat them because of, or more accurately- in spite of, what they looked like.
"But I didn't do that, since you're, well, you know- you! Instead I placed there a picture of their injury or ailment or their medical issue or whatever you'd remember. I figured we can just take a snap of the other patient's complaint who come to see you and save it for our records. Exceptin' where there'd normally be a picture of the patient's face for identification, you know as if they were a person or somethin', I figured you'd know 'em from their medical context."
"Ah," I say with further cogitation. "That's very... well, it's a... ah, I'd have to say... that's- nominal, ahem"
"Really, Doc! Wow! You're not just saying that? Gosh that's- that's great! Really wonderful!" she enthuses making me fearful that I may have stirred up so much elation and self-satisfaction that she may feel compelled to bound across the desk and attempt to hug me.
"I'll be back before you take lunch," I nod apprehensively and back slowly towards the surgery door with some faint hope that her 'being stretched', as Pauline was insufferably fond of saying, will spare me yet another insufferable receptionist.
"Oh! I could print patient name tags with just the pictures... Ya know, hold on- even better, I'll make up flashcards, yeah!. No, wait- I've got it! Even better..." her last effusive words are gratefully lost as the door closes behind me.
"Oh, gawd," I mutter to myself as I take the last steps down into the Large Restaurant, far too late to back away unnoticed.
"Aunt Ruth... Mrs. Tishell," is my grudging greeting to the pair enjoying a companionable cuppa together.
"Doctor Ellingham, what a coincidence! We were just discussing you," this couldn't be good. "We couldn't agree on whether to convene the next 'Martin Ellingham' fan club meeting at the village hall or at the recreation centre?"
"Sally, the poor man can only grace so many command performances before his countless adoring worshippers," Ruth wryly adds as a taut smile stretches across her face.
"You are so right, Ruth. We must relent to only the largest of spaces, not just to try to accommodate all the assembled throngs mind you, but we must consider his hugely bloated head and that massive ego of his that would otherwise be constantly crashing into the rafters," they then turn to look at one another before succumbing to a savage paroxysm of giggles.
These two old birds formed their unlikely friendship in recent weeks founded surely upon the common bond (or so it seems) of my utter bedevilment. How on earth this turnabout has come to be since Mrs. Tishell's breakdown when she'd taken James Henry intent to lure me to her self-deluded romantic rendezvous at the Castle, I can scarcely fathom. But soon enough afterwards they were laughing together uproariously like schoolgirls at the idea that a woman could ever, acting of her own volition, be so completely gobsmacked infatuated with the likes of me to be anything but pure utter nonsense. My dear Aunt Ruth takes delight in arguing for her newfound friend that the poor woman had merely suffered an unfavourable drug interaction- not gone absolutely barking! Ruth has even come to deride my contentions that Mrs. Tishell was long consumed by thoughts and fantasies about me instead as an indication of my psychological cry for help!
Nowadays the two of them can be overheard all around the village prattling on about my obsessive delusions as a Lothario with irresistible charms who fancies himself as driving the female populace of greater Cornwall mad with desire! My trained-psychiatrist aunt and our local chemist charge that I imagine myself to be a dangerously addictive drug to women- an irresistible drug of desire! The latest gossip they've propagated is that I contrived the entire incident in order to incite green-eyed jealousy in Louisa so as to entrance her back under my Rasputin-like 'spell'. Ruth has taken to asking me drolly whether she might have a professional obligation to perhaps initiate some sort of intervention on Louisa's behalf!
Of course I concede that Mrs. Tishell's general behaviour has improved markedly since Aunt Ruth helped put a stop to her alarming self-prescription and started her on a proper course of treatment for social anxiety. Louisa also recognises the dramatic change but maintains that it serves to further extenuate Mrs. Tishell's mistake of mixing such powerful and interactional drugs in the first place. If only I had retained some evidence to prove the depraved and disturbing 'shrine' I'd discovered that Mrs. Tishell had erected to me- at least I think that's what I remember it might have been. All of which they find hilariously funny since it's dismissed as proof I am completely bodmin from projecting my own sensational fantasies. Even Louisa questions whether I might possibly be exaggerating the whole affair and begins looking very worried that it could belie my own extremely troubling fixation!
"Are you not spending lunch with James Henry today, Martin?"
"Ah no, I've come to speak to Al, actually," I motion over to Al as he busies himself with preparations for an imaginary rush of customers where I am glad to sidle and escape this pair's cruel confederation.
"Hello again Doc- a table for lunch?"
"Umm... no, but I'd like to have one for tomorrow evening, please," I ask without allusion to the otherwise empty eatery. "For two."
"Very good then. Two for you and Miss Glasson."
"Ah," I lower my voice further, "Could we have the quiet table there by the railing, please."
"No problem, Doc- for you our most romantic table, and I'd 'ave gladly taken your reservation earlier as I was visitin' your surgery."
"Ah, but you were a patient then," Al was one of the few in this impertinent village who didn't habitually harass me on the street for medical advice on-demand outside of surgery hours and I was intent on honouring that mutual professional consideration.
"What time then?"
"Right. Well, we've kept the usual favourites, so six o'clock it is."
"Meaning-," I observe Al's growing unease as I cock my head to ask, "the menu's changed again?"
"Well," Al tugs slightly at his shirt collar before continuing, "Dad's banished me from the kitchen today while he's workin' on his secret new culinary creation, but- but, he's already assured me that our favourites, your favourites and Miss Glasson's favourites are definitely still available."
"I see. Thank you Al," I remark as I turn to leave musing on how Bert's pear-shaped business ventures tended to follow his own.
"Ooh, did I hear you mention 'romantic', Doctor Ellingham? Hmm, while the cat's away, eh? Don't worry though, Miss Glasson won't find out about it from us- it'll just be our little secret," Mrs. Tishell smirks. "You are quite the irasibile, or is that risible, rascal aren't you Doctor?"
"Mrs. Tishell, Aunt Ruth," I sternly bid them my leave.
"Oh Martin, something serious before you go," Ruth turns to me sharply; no doubt to proffer me some parting torment. "I'm being asked to pay a visit to Broadmoor next week and was hoping you might come along so the two of us might collaborate on a new patient?"
"Oh?" I respond expectantly whilst in the background Mrs. Tishell becomes increasingly animated.
"Yes, Martin," she continues oblivious to the growing spectacle of Mrs. Tishell behind her clasping and caressing a spoon in a lurid display of lascivious kisses and licks with furtive gestures of my ravenous consumption.
"There's a new patient there whose veracity as criminally insane has been called into question and I'm being asked to consult," she continues undeterred by my increasingly dropping jaw at the sight playing out at her back. "I'm thinking what better diagnostic indicator could there possibly be than to test whether the patient were to spontaneously fall in love with you and..."
"Goodbye," I turn instantly on my heels to leave, only too eager to leave them behind as they erupt into ruthless snickering.
8/11/12 to be continued...
†rabid hedgehogs- hedgehogs do not carry rabies (the deadliest disease in the world), and there has only ever been a single confirmed case (one) worldwide of a hedgehog dying from it. Hedgehogs do display an unusual behavior called 'anting' or 'anointing' they engage in when first encountering a new or interesting object or food. They will lick the substance repeatedly until a frothy saliva forms in its mouth and then rub the excess saliva and froth onto its skin and spines to make themselves less palatable to predators.