Sunday, January 28, 2018

Side Effects

     [Have a quickie story while I finish the essay I’ve been working on -- FWP]

     Smith peered uncertainly at his physician. “Eczema?”
     Dr. Jones smiled and nodded. “Exactly. Rough, itchy patches of skin that sometimes seep, the same as you exhibit today. It indicates a sharp loss of moisture in those areas.”
     “Is that a disease,” Smith said, “and not just a symptom of a disease?”
     Jones drew himself up. “Are you questioning my medical expertise?”
     “Oh, certainly not, Doctor,” Smith said, “but aren’t there many maladies that cause exactly the same condition? I mean, I’ve had itchy breakouts before this, and—”
     “Were they rough and scaly?” Jones interrupted. “Did they seep serous fluid?”
     “Well, uh...” Smith searched his memory. What the hell is serous fluid?“I don’t remember any...seepage.”
     “Then that,” Jones said, his eyes seemingly on a horizon much farther away than the wall of his examination room, “was not eczema.”
     “Okay, okay.” Smith produced what he hoped was an appropriately deferential smile. “Is there a treatment? A lotion of some sort that will re-, uh, re-hydrate the skin?”
     “Oh no, no,” Jones said. “That’s the naive approach to eczema. It alleviates the symptoms temporarily, but it doesn’t address the underlying problem. You see, the human skin is hydrated from the inside. Therefore, eczema indicates a failure – usually partial – of the circulatory systems that feed the afflicted patches. We must treat those internal problems, and not be distracted by the visible symptoms.”
     The physician went to a cabinet and pulled out a large, threatening-looking hypodermic. “Fortunately for you,” he said, “I’ve developed a one-shot cure. Well,” he said, “two shots, really, since you have it on both forearms. But after this, I guarantee you’ll have no further eczema outbreaks there.”
     Smith tensed, but bared his right forearm to the doctor. Jones jabbed him there with the hypo and pumped half of the rather large amount of fluid it contained into Smith’s arm. “The other arm, please.” Smith turned and pulled up his left shirt sleeve. As Jones injected the remainder of the drug into his left arm, he was struck by a thought.
     “Doctor,” he said, “you mentioned that this treatment was your own, uh, invention.”
     “Yes, indeed,” Jones said as he cleaned and sterilized the hypo. “I developed it myself. I expect it to become quite popular.”
     “Well,” Smith said, “what testing have you done on it? You know, to make sure it’s safe.”
     “Testing? Bah!” Jones closed his cabinet door with a little more than the required force. “That’s a bugaboo of the giant pharmaceutical companies. This is an entirely naturopathic treatment. I guarantee you, it’s perfectly safe.”
     Smith’s nerves refused to settle. “Well, how many patients have you used it on so far?”
     “You’re the second,” Jones said, still fiddling with bits of equipment. “The first was a case exactly like yours.”
     “And the first patient was cured?”
     “Oh yes,” Jones said. “Completely. He’s had no eczema on his forearms since I treated him.”
     Smith’s next question forced its way out against his will. “Were there any...side effects?”
     For the first time that morning, the physician looked less than supremely confident and self-assured. His patrician poise failed him as his smile turned sheepish. “Well,” he stammered, “there was one.

1 comment:

ligneus said...

Thought this was heading to the old Farmer Giles joke.
A neighbouring farmer went to see Farmer Giles
'Say Fred, what did you give your 'orse as 'ad the screws?'
'Ay, Turpentine.'
A month later the farmer met old Giles again.
'Say Fred, what did you say you gave your 'orse as 'ad the screws?'
'Ay, Turpentine'.
'But my 'orse died.'
'Ay, So did mine.'