A TRAGIC AFFAIR

By George M. Burden


“Hon, I’m going to a conference tonight,” Greg shouted from the shower. “That new bone expert from Cincinnati is in town with some pretty hot material. I think I’ll stay downtown at the condo afterwards, though. You know what the after-speaker dinners are like at the City Club. Lot’s of vintage claret, so I probably shouldn’t be driving.”

This was met by dead silence. Greg knew that Kathy didn’t like him staying away over night. He had to spend enough time away from the family, what with evening offices and on call at the hospital. The hours of a family doctor were long and arduous.

“Oh, okay Greg,” she replied. Her tone suggested it wasn’t okay and Greg felt a twinge of guilt. Kathy had seemed a bit testy this morning.

“Why the bee in your bonnet?” asked Greg.

“You’ll think it’s silly,” said Kathy, “but I had this dream that you met a pretty woman doctor and left me and never came back. Her name was Dr. White.

“Did you get a first name?” asked Greg.

“It’s not funny!” said Kathy, frowning.

Greg shrugged his shoulders and finished dressing, firmly knotting the double Windsor in his Armani tie. “Women!” he said to himself, as he exited the town house and climbed into his sedan.

The day was a bitch. Hospital rounds brought one complication after the other. Some days were just like that. Mrs. Jozefowicz.s incision had broken down, and the Pirelli twins had both spiked fevers overnight in peds. Greg finally got to his office, one hour late, and faced the hostile stares of a waiting room full of patients.

“Mrs. Henderson is on line one, Dr. Barton,” said Jeannie, Greg’s receptionist. “She’s having that funny pain in her chest again.”

“Damn,” thought Greg, “there’s another half hour shot.”

“Tell her to come down at two,” he said.

The afternoon was murder, but finally it was over. Fortunately no evening office and no duty tonight. Greg was looking forward to the evening’s lecture and the convivial dinner afterwards.

He drove down to the club and pulled into the parking lot. Entering the buildings opulent front entrance, he climbed the stairs to the main lecture hall and grabbed a seat near the aisle.

“Hey, Barton! How’s it going?” asked Charlie Wentzell, an orthopedic surgeon and erstwhile classmate as well as frat buddy from med school days. “Life sucks,” said Greg. “My office was hell today, my inpatients are all getting sicker, and Kathy is pissed off at me because I told her I was staying at the condo tonight.”

“Life’s a bummer,” said Wentzell cheerfully. “Yeah,” thought Greg, “unless you’re a hypomanic ex-jock surgeon.” The expert from Cincinnati turned out to be a dud. “Boring,” muttered Greg’s seatmate repeatedly under his breath. “Let’s hope dinner isn’t as deadly,” he replied.

Greg was not disappointed. The prime rib was thick and succulent, served with honey-glazed carrots, and a baked potato smothered in chives and sour cream. The claret was Chateau Talbot, seventy-one, a superb year, and three or four glasses soon went down smoothly with the gourmet meal. Dessert, bananas flambé, was also up to the City Club’s world-class standards.

Greg glanced at his watch. Good God, it was eleven thirty, time to leave. He got unsteadily up and headed for the phone to fetch a cab to the condo. “Damn it, no,” he thought. “Kathy will be furious, especially after that silly dream.” Greg navigated the stairs and headed for the parking lot.

“Good night, Dr. Barton,” called Earl, the doorman. “Don’t you think I should call you a cab, sir?”

“No thanks Earl, I’m fine,” said Greg and headed for the lot. After three tries he got the key into the lock. He started his car and pulled out, heading for the freeway. The sedan wasn’t so bad really. It even had more pep than his old sports car. Greg downshifted at the ramp and floored the accelerator pedal, not noticing the eighteen-wheeler barreling into the adjacent lane.

***


The nurse slowly shook her head as the emergency room doctor entered the trauma room. The pretty female physician looked somber as the R.N. said quietly, “D.O.A. I’m afraid. Not much you can do for this guy Dr. White.”


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

George Burden is a family physician, a graduate of Dalhousie University, who has practiced for over twenty years in the small village of Elmsdale, Nova Scotia. In his spare time he loves to write. He has published in genres ranging from humour, horror and historical fiction to medical history and on-the-edge travel. His writing has taken him from the depths of the ocean to the cockpit of a CF-18 fighter jet, from Antarctica to the palace of the King of the Ashanti. He was recently named by the Explorers Club as regional chairman for the Atlantic provinces, and published his first book, Amazing Medical Stories in May of 2003.


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