The Bush Doctor

“You are a fool.”

Dorian smiled. “Frequently.”

Dr. Lao regarded him over the rims of her glasses. “We’re using your capture and sonogram to demonstrate to our students the kind of meatball medicine that’s being practiced out on the rim.”

“Then Ah’m pleased yah got mah good side,” he shrugged.

She keyed her tablet. “I see current certifications in general dentistry, endodontics, oral surgery, and dental prosthetics. That would be the extent of your credentialing?”

“Yes,” he nodded patiently.

Dr. Lao tucked the display under one arm. “You’re aware that practicing outside your certifications could not only mean revocation of your privileges, but arrest and imprisonment?”

“Ah am,” he drawled. “Ah’m also aware that three days’ flight time from here sees a reversal of technique and technology by a good hundred years. Take mah paper,” he said, his tone diffident. “When Ah’m called tah extract a bullet or stitch a prostitute’s face back tahgethah, mah patients won’t be lookin’ fah frames on tha wall.”

She tapped her lip, deep in thought as she turned toward the window. “Point taken, Dr. Adler,” the elder surgeon said as she gazed upon the living cityscape outside. “Stitches,” she said. “That is ancient.”

“We work with the resources we have.”

“And you’ve been at this for a few years?” she asked. “Since the war?”
“Ah’ve tried tah stick tah dentistry,” he watched her back as he spoke. “But sometimes people need more.”

Lao faced him. “Such as?”

“Y’already know that one,” he chuckled.

“Please…indulge me.”

“Alright,” he pushed himself upward on the raised bed. “Gunshot wounds, knife wounds, blunt force trauma, fractures, dislocations, all make and manner of burns, the usual round of diseases, tonsils…. His exposed eye lifted as he ticked off the various conditions of his experience. “Appendix…childbirth. Essentially your ER’s daily roster.”

“Indeed,” she nodded. “Indeed. I’ve heard stories that there are camps and towns all over the rim that have no medical facilities.”

“True. Ah’ve performed a lot of circuit dentistry…and tha medical as needed.”

“So,” she observed, “would it be right to say that on most occasions folk in those remote locations have to count on the crew medic of a visiting boat for their care?”

“That would be right tah say,” he agreed. “And tha gist is?”

“We’re a teaching hospital,” Lao replied. “You’re not the first emergency case from the rim we’ve seen. I’m considering a new course of certification…”Spaceborne Practitioner…”

“Bush doctahs,” he chuckled. “On Earth-That-Was, they were called “bush doctahs.”

“Then mayhaps we’ll revive that name,” she smiled. “The course would provide training and certification for boat medics to practice the most commonly needed procedures…”


“To improve the quality of care on the rim,” she seemed surprised to answer. “For instance, to conduct the surgery you directed, we typically go in through the lower eyelid, not a large incision on the temple.”

“More than one way home,” Adler said. “Fah two first time surgeons. Listen, Ah respect what yah tryin’ tah do, but Ah don’t see it workin’ particular well, ‘less there’s money in it fah tha medics an’ their boats.”

“I never even thought of that.”

“Elemental component of life in tha ‘verse,” he said. “That’s why Ah’m out there.” Not to mention its’ value as a cover story, he thought.
“So,” she brightened as she stood beside his bed. “How would you like to help me develop the program?”

Dorian chuckled. “First time someone evah called me a fool while offerin’ me a job.”

“I’m versatile,” she quipped. “You’d have supervised practicing credentials, a couple of interns to help with the basics…and a full Attending’s salary,” Lao said. “Office and lab, plus our visiting physicians’ service would set you up with proper living space.” She paused, gauging the impact of her words. “This is meaningful work, Dr. Adler. You could help a great many people. I might add that for a man who’s been so long in the black, Valentine would prove a surprisingly nice place to spend some time.”

Dorian folded his arms. “That’s a very sobering proposal, Doctah. Ah’ll need some time tah think on it.”

She nodded. “Of course. You’re admitted for another two days. I’ll drop in to twist your arm again during tomorrow’s rounds. Oh,” she remembered before striding out, “I’ve granted you access to the hospital’s medical library. Nurse will bring a sync box around with your afternoon meds. Have a good evening,” Dr. Lao offered, before slipping into the corridor beyond.

“And you,” he replied. Well, Dorian thought to himself, I didn’t see that one coming.
The job of rekindling a “bush doctor” program held a certain challenge…and he could see the promise it held for the beleaguered, threadbare worlds of the outer rim, a place where simple maladies like flu and diarrhea could still be fatal.

It was the sort of work in which his father would place value. Definitely life changing, he thought of the notion that he might just avoid ending up as a broken down old alcoholic who pulled teeth for a meagre living. To do…good work, he permitted the thought it’s place over the standard fatalism. And the surroundings aren’t without their allure Dorian thought as the nurse entered.

“It’s happy pill time,” her smile was somewhat lurid.

“Ah’m already happy,” he grinned. Nurse Killerney was a statuesque redhead whose generous endowments were hinted at via a series of the most delightful curves, all lovingly nestled within her crisp uniform. “Are we on fah tonight?” he asked.

She glanced toward the empty chair. “I don’t know. Where’s your mommy?”

“Callin’ on some old friends,” Dorian answered. “Ah expect fah some time tah come.”

“Well,” she teased, “you did promise me an oral exam.”

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