watched the smoke from his pipe drift indolently toward the ceiling while
Doc Tandy poured another round of coffee.
Gus," the Doc was saying, "I'm glad you came over. I haven't sat down for a
good bull session like this for a long time. A man gets tired of talking
and thinking with 60-buck words and medical terms. I couldn't have
prescribed a better medicine for this old carcass of mine."
heck, Doc, I'm tickled pink to see you standing still for a change," Gus
savored the hot coffee. "When was your last vacation?" "Long ago," Doc
shrugged. "There aren't enough doctors in town as it is, but I'm used to
it. I should think you have pretty much the same problem, Gus."
I usually get away for a week or two each year."
rang softly on Doc Tandy's desk. "See what I mean? even on Sunday." The
snow-haired man smiled and went to answer it. Gus stirred his coffee slowly
and stared through the window at the budding leaves on the trees outside.
like I'll have to interrupt this enjoyable session to soothe a pet
hypochondriac of mine. Bill Williams, up on Waltham Road. Claims he's dying
of appendicitis, and between you and me, he's been dying of it off and on
for several years. Bill's a bachelor, and I'll lay odds he's just got a dose
of his own cooking again! Want to go along? It'll be a pleasant drive if
nothing else." "Sure, Doc, Why not?" "Let me get my bag. I've got some
bellyache medicine in it that makes castor oil taste like maple syrup in
comparison! Bill is one of those people who thinks medicine has to taste
horrible to be any good."
out to the driveway and climbed into a battered 1940 sedan. As Doc backed
her out, he said, "glad to have you along, Gus. I don't trust this old
heap, but my wife's gone visiting in the new car, the one I usually drive on
calls." After three-quarters of an hour of peaceful driving, Doc eased on
the brakes and turned off onto Williams' road. He stopped in front of a
porch cluttered with hounds.
it. I'll be out in a minute, Gus." Doc Tandy fixed a serious expression on
his face, straightened his coat, picked up his bag, and winked at Gus before
walking up the front steps.
minutes passed, and then 10 before Doc came out again. When he did, his
stern expression wasn't for the benefit of his patient. It was white and
real in his face. "Gus, can you help me move him to the car? It's not his
imagination this time - it's acute appendicitis. Another hour and it'll
scrambled out of the car and followed Doc Tandy inside to a dimly lit
bedroom. Bill Williams lay doubled up on an old brass-headed bed. "Ease
him into this chair, Gus. It'll be less rough on him than for us to try to
carry him stretched out. Move slowly and gently. Okay, easy now… easy…
don't try to straighten him out."
step, they carried the sick man to the car, and Doc made him as comfortable
as possible in the back seat. "You drive, Gus. I'll stay back here and keep
an eye on him."
the car around, and began the nerve-racking business of avoiding every bump
in the road without losing time. "You say we've got only an hour, Doc?"
"That's just a guess. It could last another day without breaking, but I have
a feeling it won't take that long. Hope I'm wrong."
happens if it does break?"
"Peritonitis, Gus." Doc leaned close from the back seat. "Poison spreads
through his whole system. Have to act fast or … well, it can be fatal."
concentrated on his driving and tried not to think about it. They came to a
steep hill a short time later, and halfway up, a cow began crossing the
road. "Probably been standing there all day, waiting for a car to come
along," Gus said wryly, and slowed down. "Never have seen it to fail." When
the ambling animal reached the other side, Gus stepped on the gas, but the
surge of power wasn't there. The car faltered and stalled. Gus pulled on
the brake, and hit the starter button. The starter failed to work.
Doc groaned. "Not again! Not at a time like this."
starter trouble before?" "Yes, once, a couple of weeks ago. Then it went
away. I should have known better than to trust it! What are we going to
climbed out and lifted the hood with nervous fingers. It was a bad time for
this to happen, with a sick man in the car.
why the car had stalled. He had felt flat spots even in slow acceleration
since they left the farm. The carburetor was set far too lean, but that had
nothing to do with the starter. The battery was good and strong, and yet,
when the starter button was pressed, nothing happened.
carburetor was set too lean. But I can't adjust it until I find out what's
wrong with the starter and get the engine going."
his head helplessly. He was busy keeping Williams calmed down. Gus started
looking for trouble.
examined the starter motor first, no loose connections; no bare wires.
Without tools, he couldn't take the motor apart, but from what he could see,
and from what he remembered of its sound back in Doc's garage and in the
farmyard, there was nothing wrong with it. Starter motors were a pretty
durable commodity. He traced the wires to the battery, and still found
nothing. From there he went along the maze of wires to the starter button on
can't wait much longer. I was too optimistic. This man's condition is
second more, Doc." He leaned under the dash and looked at the switch.
flashed rapidly back over the situation. Press the starter button and
nothing happened except the clicking of the solenoid. The starter motor
itself had seemed all right before. A bad one always sounds or feels
different -a looseness, a hesitation, a certain sloppy, grinding edge in the
way it turns the engine over. The wiring was in good condition. He had
spent possibly five minutes checking it over and there was nothing to be
Doc Decides to Go Back
stumped, Doc. Maybe another car will come along soon."
about getting to the hospital. We'll have to take him back to the farm. No
phone within walking distance, and no time to wait for an ambulance anyway.
We've got to get back some way."
to operate there. There's no other choice."
I'll see if I can't push us around and start down the hill. Maybe we can
get her going that way."
Gus put a
shoulder to the car, turned the wheel and began pushing. It was hard,
working against the pull of the hill, but the car began to move slowly, to
turn, and then to roll.
in and pointed her down the road. He put the car in gear, heard a loud
click and then the beautiful sound of the engine catching hold.
Doc. I think we're all right now!"
heaven! Now get us to that farm as quickly as you can. We've only got a
few minutes at most."
If Gus had
ever experienced a nightmare in broad daylight, this was it. He gripped the
wheel hard, trying to make time and yet avoid every bump in the road - and
prayed that they would make it.
came at last to Williams' place, Gus swung the car gently off the road into
the farmyard full of barking hounds. This time they carried Bill Williams
into the kitchen, to the broad, enameled table.
some water on to boil, while I get things ready. Then I’m going to ask you
to administer the anesthetic.”
don’t know, Doc…”
do it. Hurry now.”
water was on, Gus found himself, at Doc’s directions, slowly dripping ether
into a wad of cotton around Bill’s nose. The fumes rose heavily,
sickeningly sweet. Gus felt the room begin to spin when he saw the first
quick incision, but he closed his eyes and stuck it out.
Gus Nearly Passes Out
ether. You okay?”
I’ll make it.” He avoided looking at Doc. His knees were shaking.
know how long he had been standing there, fighting off the ether, with his
eyes closed or turned to the blank wall. Then he heard Doc talking to
someone far away, and felt a firm hand under his arm as he was led stumbling
to the wonderful fresh air of the front porch.
Doc. I though I was going to pass out.”
okay. Tough business for someone who isn’t used to it. You should have
seen me in medical school when I watched my first major operation. Carried
me out like a pile of faded laundry! You did fine, Gus.”
okay. Up and around in a few days. We made it just in time. I called an
ambulance. They’ll be here soon to take him to the hospital.”
Fresh Air Does the Trick
sure had a fright when that car stalled. Maybe I’d better set that
carburetor before we try to leave here.”
“You up to
so, This air is all I needed.”
the carburetor won’t help with that other business, will it?”
tell me, how did you get the car started last time the starter wouldn’t
was kind enough to give me a push. Why?”
remember hearing a loud click?”
heard one when we started rolling down that hill. I didn’t have much time
to think about it until now. Know what it means?”
grinned, “I know nothing about a car’s anatomy, Gus.”
Russian Roulette with a Flywheel
your car is playing Russian Roulette. You need some work done on your
flywheel. It has a worn tooth and if that tooth comes in contact with the
starter gear when you turn the motor off, it jams it up. All you get is the
solenoid clicking when you push the button. Usually a little push or
bouncing it back and forth will free it."
confused, but I'll take your word for it."
not give you any more trouble for a long time, but there is no point to
risking it. I’ll pick up a new flywheel for you first thing in the
started the engine, and richened the mixture until it was satisfactory.
Then he sat down and stoked up his pipe.
Doc’s Offer is Turned Down Cold
better go and have a look at my patient. He'll be coming out of dreamland
pretty soon. While I do why don’t you think over my offer?”
me in the medical profession. You wield a pretty mean ether bottle!"
winced. Next time you decide to pay on of your so-called hypochondriacs a
visit, you go by your self, I’ve had enough.” Give me a garage full of
broken-down cars any day and the good old smell of gasoline!”
laughing as he went inside and Gus tried to remember how quiet the morning