Posted by: Brad Nixon | December 9, 2016

Physician, Heel Thyself

I got a recorded message from the office of my sawbones, Dr. Marx, reminding me I had an appointment. I didn’t remember making one, but I showed up at his office at 10:00 am. yesterday, as instructed.

There was no receptionist, just the empty waiting room with old copies of Saturday Evening Post and Time magazines lying around, some of them from the 1960s.

After sitting there for about ten minutes, I wandered back behind the desk and found Dr. Marx in his office wearing his usual grubby white coat (with some disconcerting burgundy stains). He had a Time magazine open in front of him with Nikita Khrushchev on the cover.

“Um, doctor?”

“What? Oh. You. Have you seen this?” (holding up the magazine).

“It’s, um, Time magazine.”

“The Russians have nuclear missiles in Cuba! 90 miles from Miami!”

“Doctor, that magazine’s more than 50 years old.”

“It is? Well it’s news to me. Did they blow up the United States?”

“No.”

He tossed the magazine over his shoulder. “Well, they should have. I hope we do something about that Castro character.”

“He died a week ago.”

“See? Serves him right. What do you want? How’d you get in here?”

“Er, I have an appointment. Your receptionist wasn’t there.”

“She left.”

“Just walked out?”

“The ingrate. Said she wouldn’t work another day unless I paid her. Just because I asked her to cover my appointments for a week while I went to Bermuda to attend to a very sick patient with a very healthy bank account.”

“Wasn’t that unreasonable?”

“Have you ever had a pain in your Bermudas? Terrible! I got there just in time to relieve some of the pressure his wallet was exerting on his gluteus.”

“I mean expecting your receptionist to cover your appointments.”

“After all I did for her, too. I treated that woman like I was her father.”

“Maybe you should have treated her like you were her employer.”

“I worked for MY father and he never paid ME.”

“What did he do?”

“He was a doctor. All the men in my family have been doctors for generations.”

“That’s impressive.”

“You can see why they were so pleased when I became the first member of my family to finish high school.”

“What did you do to help your father?”

“You mean other than leaving home? I started out taking temperatures, did my first appendectomy at 13, and got pretty darned good at it, especially the first part.”

“What do you mean, the first part?”

“Cutting them open. I never learned to stitch ’em up. My little sister used to come in for that. She took Home Ec classes and everything. Then she turned 15 and got married, and we came up with our self-help plan for patients.”

“Oh? What was that?”

“Gave ’em a needle and thread and they sewed themselves up. We called it ‘Suture Self.’ Pretty catchy, eh?”

“And you never lost a patient?”

“Never. Not that they were hard to find. They were lying dead right there on the table where I left them.”

“Look, Doc, can we get down to business?”

“Sure. Who’s business should we take down first? Mine’s already hit rock bottom.”

“I mean my case.”

“Okay, tell me what your problem is.”

“Don’t you know?”

“Don’t expect me to keep track of it for you. It’s your case. Just be quick about it. I have patients to see.”

“I didn’t bring my brief case.”

“That’s enough of that. I get the lines here. You’re the straight man.”

“All I know is I got a call about an appointment. I don’t remember making one.”

“So, that telemarketing company is finally scaring up some live bodies for me. Have you seen my cash flow? There just aren’t enough sick people to go around. They keep going to those doctors who have certifications. I had one prospective patient who came in here and ask me if I’d passed my boards. What am I, a termite? The problem today is too many people working out and eating healthy. It’s a disaster. I had to give myself three physicals and a hip replacement last week and file all the insurance claims just to pay my nitrous oxide bill.”

“I didn’t know doctors used nitrous oxide; I thought that was dentists.”

“They can do whatever they want for recreation, I’ll do what I like.”

“I thought it might be about the prescription you gave me last time.”

“I wrote you a prescription? I didn’t know I was allowed to do that.”

“You’re a doctor, aren’t you?”

“At least until the AMA hears about it. Okay, what’s your prescription for?”

“Zenmycin.”

“Oh. That. Sure. Zenmycin. It’s in all the literature lately. A lot of buzz about Zenmycin. Yep. All the rage. What’s it supposed to do?”

“Didn’t you just say it’s in all the literature?”

“Yeah, so are Proust and Tolstoy. You don’t expect me to have time to read novels that last longer than any of my marriages, do you?”

“Look. It’s blood pressure medication. It’s supposed to ….”

“Wait! You’ve got pressurized blood? Why didn’t you tell me? We’ve got to relieve that pressure immediately! Something could blow any second. Your eyeballs could pop right out of their sockets!”

The doc dashed madly around the room, opening drawers and looking in cabinets.

“Where are my leeches? I’ll bet I left them down in the cafeteria. Well, I’ll have ’em for dinner.”

“Don’t you mean you’ll get them at dinner?”

“No. You leave any sort of protein lying around the cafeteria and it goes right in a pot. Say, that reminds me of the time I had a patient’s kidney with me ….”

“Please, I’d rather not know.”

“Really, the sauce was ….”

“Doc! I’ve gotten my blood pressure extremely low, and Zenmycin was the last step toward not needing medication at all.”

“I can’t let you go without medication. It’s a violation of the Hypocritic Oath.”

“Isn’t that the Hippocratic Oath?”

“Darned if I know, it’s all Greek to me. How would you say your blood pressure is now?”

“Extremely high, thanks to the past ten minutes with you.”

“See? It’s working already. A few more treatments and we’ll have ‘er all the way up as high as she can go. Ah, better living through chemistry. That’ll be ten dollars. And don’t forget the tip jar on your way out.”

“Who gets the tips?”

“I do, of course. You don’t expect me to retire on the lousy kickbacks I’m getting from the drug companies, do you?”

© Brad Nixon 2016. Magazine cover © Time Magazine, Sept 8, 1961

For the Zenmycin episode, CLICK HERE. Or see my first encounter with Dr Marx HERE.

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