The Patient

This story is from Gilbert Krebs. It, my dears, could certainly be classified as a classical shaggy dog story. Certain spelling conventions make me think it may be British in origin.

It was a fine morning in early August, when a new patient called upon our hero, Dr. Fenuberry. Despite the balmy weather, the gentleman wore a Trilbey hat, which he did not remove while he was in the waiting room, even under the disapproving stare of Ms. Anthrup, the receptionist. Gentlemen were expected to remove their hat indoors at the time, whereas ladies were expected to wear a hat, especially in church.

Eventually his turn came, and he marched square-shouldered into the examination room, still wearing his hat, despite the loud “tut-tut” which followed him. Closing the door carefully, the patient turned and immediately fixed the Dr. with a baleful stare. Then, without so much as a self-introduction or even a perfunctory eyebrows greeting, he inquired, “Do you fellers still know ‘ow to keep a secret, then?”

Rather taken aback by the directness of his latest client, the good Dr. Fenuberry replied, “If you refer to the practice of medical confidentiality, then I can assure you it still comes very much within my territory, so to speak.”

“That’ll have to do, I ‘spose.” And with this, the rustically clad gent sat down directly in front of the Dr. and removed his hat. Inclining his bald head forward, he demanded , “And what about that, then?”

The Dr. peered at the pate thus displayed. At first glance what appeared to be a wristwatch size birthmark took on a whole new aspect. It seemed to be alive.

Finding his magnifying glass he peered closer, and stared into what might be a miniature TV screen. To his astonishment he saw a small pond, surrounded by tall reeds and bulrushes. A large frog was basking on a lily pad, and as the doctor looked closer, it’s tongue lashed out at a passing dragonfly which disappeared as if it never existed.

Sitting back in his chair, the Dr. was just barely able to compose his face, before the patient looked up. “Well, then, wont the ‘ell is it?”

Trying to give his most reassuring smile, the Dr. replied, “Oh nothing to worry about, my dear chap, nothing at all. I shall prescribe something for it, and please came back and see me in a week.” He hastily wrote a prescription, and ushered his client to the door.

With hat firmly back in place, the chap was just able to make it to the outside door without withering under the terrifying glare of Ms. Anthrup. Then, she was further disturbed when the Dr. cried, “Cancel all of my appointments at once, and hold all calls until further notice. I have work to do.”

With this astonishing instruction he whirled about, slamming the door behind him as he disappeared into his sanctum sanctorum, to hurl himself at his sizable collection of medical texts. Long hours passed. Ms. A. left for home, and still the Dr studied on. Burning the midnight oil and the candle at both ends, not to mention a few brain cells. he studied on an on…particularly reviewing everything on dermatology and neurology. For six days he laboured until his prize would return.

Finally dawned the fateful day, and once again the rustic Trilbey darkened the doors of the examination room. “Do come in and take this seat, there’s the chap!” exclaimed the doctor

“Them suppository things you gave me tasted awful,” griped the gent. “For all the good they done me I might as weel ‘a shoved ’em up me arse.” [Combs note — this is an ancient pharmacy joke. It seems to pop up anywhere.]

“Yes, well, never mind. I’ll sort you something else out in a jiffy,” replied our hero. “Now, if you’ll just doff that fedora, let’s take another look.” Dr. Fenuberry leaned forward in anticipation.

The “spot” had increased in size to resemble a minicam viewfinder. So had the view. The pond was now a lake, large enough accommodate somnolent anglers along its banks, a yachting club and elegant clubhouse opposite a bluebell-thronged woods, where a young tweed-skirted schoolmarm lead charges along a nature trail. Songthrushes sang in the willows. and a handsome couple were punting on the lake… an idyllic scene.

“This is it,” thought Fenuberry,”at last, my very own syndrome.”

“Unusual case, old fellow, and I’ll need some photos for the file. Now if you’ll just hold still…. there’s the good chap.”

The Doc whipped out a telephoto camera and took a series of closeups of the gent’s pate. Full of the joy of discovery, but cautious to the last, he sent him away with a couple of lotions to use, instructing him to return in a week.

He was hardly out the door before frowning Ms. Anthup was pointing out that this was the only patient he’d seen in a week. Fenuberry cut her off. “My dear Ms. Anthrup, precious hardworking Leica, take your self off for a week’s vacation at full pay. I have research to do!’ And with this, he whirled to his car, film canister in hand.

All the next long week he laboured in the University Medical Library, from the moment the doors opened until he was, sometimes impolitely, asked to leave after closing time.

Finally, after having plumbed the depths of all citations, he was convinced this discovery was his and his alone. Nowhere was there even a hint of such a phenomenon – as if the mind had opened up and projected a subconscious vision… even a primordial remembrance… who knows? He dared not think of a Nobel, but he was convinced that lasting fame would nonetheless be his.

There was no time to lose. Dashing back to his office he cajoled the secretary of the local medical society to schedule a special meeting for an extraordinary announcement and demonstration of entirely unique “syndrome”. E-mail and letters went out immediately to all the great names, the biggest wigs, the eggiest heads in the halls of medical academia… all invited to be present at the unveiling of this newest monumental discovery. The last letter went to the great Prof. Mortimer Scabius, an 87-years-old still the greatest living dermatologist on the planet

An astonishing 152 of 160 invitations were in the affirmative. Almost gibbering with glee, our hero arranged the stage setup, and assured his Trilbey patient of fame, plus the promise of free treatment by comely nurses imported from Yorkshire especially for him

The great day finally arrived. Entering, just a tad late of course, Dr. Fenuberry and his still Trilby-covered patient strode purposely to the stage — a hush falling over the expectant ranks of the assembled throng.

Calling upon the great Professor Scabius to please step forward, with a modest flourish, as the lights dropped he deftly removed the patient’s sombrero. A collective gasp issued from the audience, as huge TV screens reveled close-ups from carefully positioned cameras.

The size was the same but the scene had enlarged. The last ragged remnant of morning mist clung to the east bank of the lake, partly shrouding the nature reserve where camouflaged wardens guarded against egg-collectors and poachers. The occasional haunting cry of an unseen bittern could be heard traveling across to the west shore. Here was an artist busy recording, dotted in the shade of the hedgerows and willows, putting images of the local fauna on canvass, while the real things were busy eating his lunch. At the far end of the old forest, small deer and wild ponies grazed, just beyond the ivy-covered hedges of a naturist colony where comely young maidens enjoyed nature in the buff, which scene was zoomed on by an unseen young male camera assistant back-stage.

On the lake itself, a photogenic schooner sailed in the most favorable position a Zen artist could imagine. In the background were massive dolmen standing boulders, left millennia before by the Druids, and the horizon was framed by the craggy mountains from which all those stones had been transported centuries ago. And in the sky soaring great eagles could just be seen.

The crowd sighed, as well as gasped, at this phenomenal scene. Next, his face flushed with triumph, Dr. Fenuberry raised his arms to regain the attention of the rapt audience, and turned to the Professor, who alone among the audience showed no sign of emotion, no moistening of eye, no yearning sigh, and asked, “Professor, I believe we are witnessing a new phenomenon, ne ces’s pas?”

Clearing his throat, the Professor peered over his half-moon specs. at our hero, and speaking with a voice cracked with age, but nonetheless possessed of unarguable authority declared, . . . “Naaagh. It’s just an old beauty spot.”

Previous Post

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *