By James Lincoln Collier

Ordinarily, I don’t like to bother Doc Suture about simple illnesses like the sniffles or a sunburn, but the six-year-old was whooping like a crane, so I turned up at Doc Suture’s office. He gave the child a cursory glance. “These things go away in time,” he said. “I’m awfully busy at the moment. I’ve just seen a three-cent Tasmanian blue with the dog printed upside down. They want one hundred fifty thousand, but I said that my patients don’t have that kind of money.”

“Yes,” I said. “I understand. I don’t like to bother you with medical problems, but I thought perhaps a little anti-biotic—“

“Look,” he said, “We doctors aren’t wizards. You might try praying. A lot of my patients find that appealing to the Higher Powers works.”

‘Oh, of course. A wonderful idea. But in the meanwhile—“

“Yes, yes, try the pharmacy, they’ve got some stuff that’s good for this sort of thing. You take six of them every four hours , or four of them every six hours, I forget which.” He paused to glance at the six-year-old. “He’ll be collecting stamps himself pretty soon. Bring him around and perhaps I can help him out. ”

“Yes, sure, that’ll certainly be helpful. What do I ask the pharmacist for?”

“Ask for?” said Doc Suture, turning over a page of the stamp catalogue. “What kind of a question is that? Ask for the stuff that’s good for what the kid’s got.”

“I mean, does it have a name?”

“Of course,” he said. All these things have names. How do you think they’re going to market the stuff if it doesn’t have a name? You should have been able to figure that out. How long as it been since you were in the third grade?”

I cleared my throat. “I just thought it would be helpful if I could tell the pharmacist the name.”

“He’ll know,” the doctor said. “It’s probably in some book they have. They have big books full of the names of these things. I’ve been thinking of getting one myself. You wouldn’t want to give the wrong stuff to somebody. You could get into a lot of trouble that way.”

Doc Suture turned over another page of the stamp catalogue. “Okay,” I said finally. “Do I tell the pharmacist I need something for a cold, a cough, the sneezles, or what?”

“You should have said so in the first place. Drink a lot of fluids and get plenty of rest. ”

I cleared my throat. “Actually, it isn’t me who’s sick, it’s the kid. He’s got a terrible cough.”

“You should have said that in the first place. How do you expect me to help if I’m diagnosing the wrong person?”

“Sorry. I thought I made that clear.”

“I’m not a soothsayer,” he snapped. “If you want a fortune-teller, go to a Gypsy. I understand that some of them take Medicare these days.”

“I wasn‘t really thinking of seeing a Gypsy. I know some of them are very clever, but I thought that modern medicine might have a more scientific way of dealing with a kid’s cough.”

Doc Suture narrowed his eyes. “I’d be careful how you talk about Gypsies. Some of their stuff isn’t as crazy as it seems. They put a hex on one of my patients and his hair turned orange. I had a heck of a time getting rid of that hex. Finally I found something that worked—a bird’s nest dissolved in vinegar. I got it from Grimm’s Fairy Tales. Those old people knew a lot of stuff we’ve lost. You think there’s no such thing as ghosts? Once I had a patient come in who I knew for a fact had been dead for two years. He was carrying his head under his arm. He wanted me to sew the head back on. Of course I refused to do it. Ghosts don’t have Medicare.”

I looked at the six-year-old. He looked back at me and nodded his head. “Doctor Suture,” I said. “I see you’re kind of busy today. Maybe if we came back another time?”

He looked up from the stamp catalogue. “Yes, that’s a god idea. Take two aspirins, and if it doesn’t clear up, call the pharmacist. He”ll know.”

James Lincoln Collier, a regular contributor of humor pieces to WestView, is an American journalist, professional musician, and author of non-fiction books for adult readers and fiction books for children.

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