The story consists of a series of Dr. Mark Goddard's dictated office notes regarding the care of his patient Gregry McHune, interspersed with the narrator's description of these physician-patient interactions. McHune first presents as a standard case of high blood pressure; however, in subsequent visits the man tells his harrowing story.

Goddard learns that his patient was unjustly jailed for killing a black man in self-defense. McHune tells him about racism in the penitentiary and his fight for survival, both in prison and later. Eventually McHune and his family are hounded out of town by the son of the man he killed.

Through all these losses, McHune maintains his sense of humor and easy-going integrity. Meanwhile, the elderly Dr. Goddard is repeatedly harrangued by the clinic administrator (a vacuous young man) for including extraneous details and poetic language in his dictations. As time goes on, and he is transformed by his relationship with McHune, Goddard includes more and more poetry in his office notes.


This is a remarkably touching and humorous story about a physician and a patient who each had an epiphany as a result of their relationship; both were changed and strengthened. As Gregry McHune goes off to start his new life in Atlanta, the old physician proclaims the poetry of medicine in a stronger and stronger voice, despite stern warnings that shortsightedness and bureaucracy are determined to destroy his vision. Goddard is a thinly-disguised Ferrol Sams who spins a humorous yarn while telling a cautionary tale.

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Place Published

New York



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