The Doctor

Dubus, Andre

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Annotated by:
Terry, James
  • Date of entry: Nov-11-1994
  • Last revised: Sep-26-2013


The doctor in question is Art Castagnetto, an obstetrician out for a morning jog who encounters a terrible accident. A young neighborhood boy has been pinned underwater by a concrete slab. Art rushes to a nearby house to summon aid, then tries vainly to move the slab, knowing by feel that the boy is still alive and struggling. The fire department arrives too late. Devastated by this death, Art realizes two days later that he should have improvised a snorkel from a garden hose and saved the boy.


Dubus has packed several twists and ironies into this six-page story. For one, he sends his doctor out without the trappings or tools of his profession. As a jogger, people still wave at Art as "the doctor"; however, when he encounters the accident, they expect him to "do something." With a name like Art, should we not expect cleverness or improvisation? With a specialty like obstetrics, wouldn't the snorkel as an idea come naturally to a man familiar with umbilical cords? At the end of the story, Art cuts a piece of garden hose and puts it into his car trunk with his first-aid kit, but it is not clear exactly what he has learned from the ordeal of the drowning. Does "the doctor" need more "art" or just more readily available tools?

Primary Source

Separate Flights


David R. Godine

Place Published