Showing 81 - 90 of 146 annotations contributed by Miksanek, Tony
Two couples drink gin and discuss the meaning of love. Mel McGinnis, a 45-year-old cardiac surgeon, does most of the talking. As an example of bona fide love, Mel describes an elderly couple he treated in the hospital. They were severely injured in a motor vehicle accident and, despite great odds, managed to survive. What bothered the old man the most during his lengthy recovery was his inability to simply look at his spouse.
Mel’s wife, Terri, provides her own case of real love. She previously lived with a man named Ed who professed his affection for Terri the entire time he was beating her. After she left him for Mel, Ed attempted suicide--first by ingesting rat poison and later by shooting himself in the mouth. Terri insisted on being in the room when Ed died.
The other couple at the table, Nick (the narrator) and his wife, Laura, also think they know what true love is, but they have difficulty articulating its essence. After the gin has finally run out and the room gets dark, Nick is acutely aware of the sound of his heart and everyone else’s too.
Lloyd moves out of the house after a serious discussion with his wife, Inez. He rents a small place for himself and tries to limit his consumption of alcohol. Unfortunately, Lloyd continues to drink three or four bottles of champagne a day. About two weeks later, Inez pays him a visit. She needs to speak to him about money and other things.
That same morning, Lloyd wakes up and realizes his right ear is plugged with wax. He experiences difficulty hearing and trouble with balance. To no avail, Inez attempts to remove the ear wax with a nail file wrapped with tissue. She next instills warm baby oil in Lloyd's ear, and after awhile his hearing returns.
While Inez is still there, she comes across an open bottle of champagne that Lloyd has hidden in the bathroom. Inez decides she will return some time to have a talk with him. After she leaves, Lloyd sits on the sofa and watches television. Although it is the middle of the afternoon, he is wearing pajamas and drinking champagne straight from the bottle.
When Ben Nowak reached the age of fifty, his primary care physician for the past fifteen years, Dr. Ellen Parrish, began performing annual digital rectal examinations on him. Ben is still embarrassed by the female physician checking his prostate gland. He finds the younger Dr. Parrish attractive and available. She divorced her husband because the man was abusive.
Dr. Parrish's office receptionist happens to be the wife of Ben's friend, Jerry, who works at a landfill and brings home cases of expired beer. Once, Jerry found a dead newborn baby in the landfill. Dr. Parrish informs Ben that his prostate has gotten larger. The tests she orders come back "inconclusive" so additional tests are done. Ben concedes that he might have prostate cancer, but rationalizes that things could be "a hundred times worse" (29).
When his second set of test results are normal, Ben grasps that it is likely a temporary reprieve; he is only fine "until the next time" (34). He drives to the site of an illegal dump. The trunk of his car contains ten cases of expired beer (courtesy of Jerry). At the dump, he proceeds to drink one bottle of beer from each case and smashes the other twenty-three.
When a cousin is scheduled for major surgery, Richard and Joan Maple volunteer to donate blood. They have been married for nine years. During their drive to the hospital, the Maples argue about Richard's behavior at a party. The intern who performs the phlebotomy is clumsy and rough. He needs three attempts to successfully insert the needle into Richard's vein.
Richard and Joan occupy beds at right angles during the procedure and their blood is taken simultaneously. While watching the blood flow from his wife's arm, Richard experiences deep tenderness for her. An elderly man arrives and chats with the intern. Because Richard has never donated blood before, the three others in the room (Joan, the doctor, and the old man) all expect him to faint, but Richard never does.
The Maples have lunch afterwards. When the check arrives, Richard discovers he has only one dollar in his wallet. He and Joan must both pay. That's how marriage usually works.
When a wealthy man falls victim to incapacitating attacks of vertigo, a young doctor decides that the problem and solution both reside in the patient's head. Gierke is an eccentric widower in his forties who remarries. While honeymooning in Italy with his 17-year-old bride, he collapses after looking down from the heights of a bell tower. Gierke becomes paralyzed by a fear of future attacks of vertigo and eventually stops walking.
Multiple physicians evaluate him without success. Finally a neurologist, Dr. Hugo Spitz, is consulted. He wants to try psychoanalysis but the patient has become extremely introverted. Spitz interviews all Gierke's relatives and even hires private investigators. The doctor devises a theory that Gierke murdered his first wife by pushing her off a mountain and then inherited her fortune.
Spitz reasons that Gierke's vertigo is the result of repressed feelings of fear and guilt. After confronting Gierke with the explanation, Spitz orders his patient to stand. Gierke walks without experiencing any dizziness. Immediately after the doctor exits the house, there is a loud sound and Gierke's dead body, fractured in multiple places from a fall, is found at the bottom of the staircase. Spitz deduces it was suicide.
Middle-aged Clyde Behn has been bothered by a twitching eyelid for two months. His doctor in Massachusetts diagnoses the disorder as minor and transient. While visiting his mother in the town in Pennsylvania where he grew up, Clyde seeks advice from his former eye, ear, nose, and throat specialist. Dr. Pennypacker examines Clyde but is less concerned with the twitch than a possible fungus problem of Clyde's eyelashes. The ENT specialist eventually decides the tic is the result of muscle fatigue.
While at Pennypacker's office, Clyde encounters a former girlfriend, Janet. Although both are now married, Clyde is still attracted to her and asks to see her again. Janet slips a handwritten note into Clyde's shirt pocket and then leaves. Because his eyes have been dilated by Pennypacker, Clyde is unable to read the note. Even so, he exits the doctor's office buoyed by the familiarity of his hometown and the promise of recapturing a bit of his youth.
While driving away from a dangerous city in an area of north Afghanistan ravaged by war, three men must journey by foot when their car is damaged in an accident. Donk is an American combat photographer. Hassan is a young Afghan translator. Graves is a British journalist suffering from a severe case of malaria and in desperate need of medication.
They arrive at a remote village ruled by a warlord, General Ismail Mohammed. Medication is unavailable there and transportation to a larger city is not possible for at least another day. The local doctor recommends an herbal remedy for the treatment of malaria, and General Mohammed attests to its effectiveness. The medicinal grass grows only in a nearby mountain valley. Two soldiers escort Donk and Hassan to the vale. They encounter a convoy of transport vehicles that have been incinerated by a bomb blast.
When the grass is finally in sight, Donk and Hassan race towards it even as the two soldiers shout at them. Too late! Donk steps on a bomblet and the device detonates. Badly injured (and maybe even mortally wounded), Donk and Hassan lie on their backs and gaze at the sky. They are surrounded by the thick grass they hoped might save the life of their companion, Graves.
The surgeon-narrator and his team of assistants (the anesthesiologist, scrub nurse, circulating nurse, surgical resident, and medical student) perform a difficult operation during the night. The patient has an infiltrating cancer of the stomach (linitis plastica) that has eroded his aorta. Because of uncontrollable bleeding, the operation (an exploratory laparotomy with attempted repair of a malignant aorto-gastric fistula) is as doomed as the patient himself.
The surgeon soon comprehends the hopelessness of the procedure as well as the patient's terminal condition. He turns off the oxygen from the gas tank and stops the patient's blood transfusion. Minutes later, the man dies. Blood is all over everything. The doctor must now deliver the bad news to the man's family. He has the medical student tag along.
Members of the patient's family are upset and some are even out of control so he dispenses tranquilizers to them. The surgeon returns to the operating room (OR) and even now finds blood everywhere. The OR team is still working. The doctor showers and then goes back to the OR once more. The room is now dark and empty but clean. The surgeon imagines the dead man's body with a row of abdominal stitches that he likens to hieroglyphics. The unsuccessful operation and the surgeon's actions are thus both concealed and unforgettable.
Two men who are not very fond of one another and opposites in almost every way are brought together by their affection for the same woman. Isabel is the 30-year-old wife of Maurice Pervin and the longtime friend of Bertie Reid. While fighting in Flanders during World War I, Maurice is blinded and sustains a disfiguring facial scar. He also has episodes of major depression. Maurice and Isabel have become socially isolated since his injury. Although their first child died in infancy, Isabel is pregnant again and due to deliver soon.
Bertie, a bachelor and barrister, pays a visit. The three of them enjoy dinner together. Afterwards, Maurice becomes restless and leaves the house. When Bertie goes out to check on him, he finds Maurice in the barn. The blind man asks Bertie for permission to touch him. With one hand, Maurice examines Bertie's skull, face, and arm.
He then asks Bertie to touch his useless eyes and awful scar. Without warning, Maurice places his hand on top of Bertie's fingers, which still rest upon the maimed face. The experience is a revelation for both men. Maurice suddenly understands the splendor of friendship while Bertie realizes how much he fears intimacy.
The narrator of the story, a former district doctor in Russia, reminisces about his frequent encounters with patients suffering from secondary syphilis ("the speckled rash"). The first case he diagnoses is a 40-year-old man seeking treatment for a sore throat. The doctor recommends the application of a bagful of mercury ointment once a day and a follow-up visit after 6 days, but the man never returns. The physician advises him that his wife needs to be examined also, but she is never seen in the clinic.
The doctor remembers many other cases of secondary syphilis in the community. Except for one young woman, patients seem to have little fear of the disease. Children and even entire families are infected. The physician decides to tackle the widespread venereal disease and to confront the rampant patient apathy in the district.
His weapons include mercury ointment, potassium iodide, Salvarsan (an arsenic compound) injections, harsh words, and warnings about the horrible effects of the disease if left untreated. He opens an inpatient unit to treat patients with syphilis. Now long-removed from that remote medical outpost, the narrator still wonders about the people living there.