By John McDonnell
Petey and Muggs didn’t have an appointment, but after Petey bent down and whispered in the ear of Mabel Houston, the receptionist, she bolted out of her chair and said that she would see if the doctor could fit them in.
The doctor, a lean, thin-lipped man named Walter Bergstrom, ushered them into his examining room with the look of someone who had just smelled something unpleasant.
“My receptionist said it was an emergency,” he said. “It had better be, for the way you spoke to her.”
“Sorry, doc,” Petey said. “It’s just that I got a little problem, and I need some help.”
“Yes? What is it?” the doctor said, grabbing the gold pocket watch from his vest and looking at it impatiently.
“I, ah, well, I was with this woman, see, and. . .” Petey’s voice trailed off.
“Come on, man, I don’t have all day,” the doctor said.
“It’s kind of personal.”
“Maybe your friend should leave.”
“Nothing doing,” Petey said. “Muggs goes everywhere with me.”
“Well, then, I’d better examine you. Drop your trousers.”
“Nuts to that.”
“Then I can’t help you.”
“He just wants some medicine,” Muggs said.
“Sure, that’s what you all want,” the doctor said. “All of you goons. You disgust me. You come in here and want me to patch you up after your gunfights, treat you for the clap, arrange abortions for your girlfriends. I can’t stand what you represent. I grew up in a time when people went to church, lived good lives. That’s all out the window now. All the younger generation wants to do now is drink bathtub gin, listen to that godawful racket they call jazz, and have sex. There are no morals anymore. Well, I’ve had enough,” he said, standing up. “I have no time for this. Get out of my office now. Let somebody else help you.”
“Sit down, doc,” Petey said. His voice had a very low tone, like it came from a different person, and something about it made the doctor sit down quickly.
“That’s better,” Petey said, in his normal voice. “I was sittin’ here thinkin’ you look familiar. Don’t he look familiar, Muggs?”
“I dunno,” Muggs said. “Do we know him?”
“Sure,” Petey said. “Why, I think we seen him at Mr. Donovan’s place a time or two. Ain’t that right, Doc?”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
Muggs looked puzzled. “Did Mr. Donovan need some doctorin’, Petey?”
“No, you lummox. Our friend the doc here was a payin’ customer. Weren’t you, doc?”
The doctor flushed. “If you’re talking about that speakeasy in town, you’re sadly mistaken. I’ve never been near--”
“Oh, wait a minute,” Muggs said. “Now I recognize him. His face is all red, and that makes him look more familiar. He had a red face when I seen him before. He was comin’ downstairs from where the girls--”
“That’s preposterous!” the doctor said, but his face got even redder.
“Say, Doc,” Petey said. “Is that a picture of your wife on the wall? Gee, she’s a peach. Ain’t she a peach, Muggs?”
“She’s a peach,” Muggs said.
The doctor pulled out his prescription pad and scribbled something on it, then ripped the sheet off. There was a slight tremor in his hand when he gave the paper to Petey.
“Take that to Foster’s Drugstore, on North Main,” he said. “Take the whole dose. If you have any problems after you’re finished, come and see me again.”
“Thanks, doc,” Petey said, getting up. “What’s the charge?”
“Nothing,” the doctor said. “Just leave, please.”
“Sure, doc, sure,” Petey said. “Say hello to your wife for us, willya?”
Outside in the Packard, Muggs said, “Gee, that was a coincidence, huh? That you recognized the doc.”
“Yeah,” Petey said. “What a coincidence.”
“I like that better than goin’ to a stranger.”
“You said it, kid,” Petey replied. “It’s much better to deal with folks you know.”
Copyright John McDonnell, 2010