I began to write thirty years ago, not merely to chronicle the events of my life, but to have them available for my children to read after I am gone. Sooner or later, I think most of our grown kids wonder what their parents were like.
Out of that writing has come reams of musings and two novels: ‘The Oath of Hippocrates,” and my latest, “A Journey Long Delayed,” due out at the end of March.
“The Oath of Hippocrates” is an odyssey. Like a photo album, it is where I’ve been… or where I’ve been led. Just as the soul cannot be crafted in solitude, neither can it be forged without the chastening effect of helplessness, and the tempering of humor and passing triumphs. It’s all here.
I began medicine convinced of the good I would do; and more honestly, the central part I would play in those good works. Vanity never lingers far behind charity. But I came to know that I am actually peripheral to the drama. My best employment is to comfort and to know the task of healing belongs to Another.
In the half-mad world of Emergency Medicine, you are there to work, not to weep or wonder, or to laugh. That comes later. These are the stories of people fate has set before me. Some encounters I handled well, performing inexplicably beyond my art, while others I badly fumbled.
You will meet: Harriet – as combative and stubborn as her mysterious ailments – who makes it clear to me I’m the most incompetent physician on the planet. So why does she keep coming back to me, each and every week… to me?
And Jason. Jason who looked like my son; Jason who died in front of me; Jason, whose father learned of his son’s death from my phone call; a man whose life is now divided between when Jason was alive, and after he died.
Meet the unrestrained and unrepentant Dr. Culpepper, my partner. At once my anodyne and scourge, he and I bumble our way through the day. Alone, I am average; paired with him, I’m custodial.
Miss Nannie, old and alone, who waited patiently for someone to take her home. How would you treat someone with palate spasms?
Mrs. Polarski and her husband Fudley who made me wish to turn in my stethoscope for a pipe wrench. And cocky young residents convinced you’ve outlived your medical usefulness.
In a larger view, `Apollo’ is about life, for working in an Emergency Department is merely life rendered bold, executed in vivid relief. Strangers meet, patient and physician. The usual rituals and courtesies of first meeting step aside for the intensity of the moment, and an intimacy is thrust upon you. Because it is about life, I doubt there’s anyone who could move through this book without lifting their eyes and staring off. In some stories, you will laugh; others – I promise you – will not be easily crowded from your mind.
In truth, I did not author these stories. I merely set them down.
“A Journey Long Delayed” carries a different brand than “Oath.” It is a western.
A large, vivid scar on his face has made Demas Roop [Cicatrix] a social outcast. And he has returned the favor. He is a bounty hunter; the best there is. But today, he’s riding to a new job: a scout for a wagon train. He will be a bounty hunter no more. On the trail, Roop encounters old Amanda being roughed-up by three drunks. He remembers waiting out a storm the night before, the friendly rancher, and his casual comment about the eccentric Amanda. “There’s some say she’s a `granny-woman’.”
Roop kills two of the drunks; the third escapes. Amanda closes her eyes to better see a vision. Then, she startles him with a prophecy just before she dies: “Beware the twisted cross, my son… and men who spring up from beneath the ground.” “Though gone, yet I shall be with you.”
Cicatrix will encounter many people as he goes along, some there to help, others to kill him if they can. And so the long and torturous trip back to being his true self begins…The Oath of Hippocrates is available online and at bookstores locally. “A Journey Long Delayed,” will be out in March. To Pre-order contact Lucky at: [email protected] By Lucky Garvin