Friday, February 7, 2014

Flash Fiction Friday

You don't see buildings like this today; buildings that share a purpose.

But when I was younger that was all you did see. Retail on the ground floor, commercial upstairs. Or living quarters.

Like this place. The first floor was a general store. Notions and bobbins and buttons and candy; what do you need? Dress goods, boots, canning supplies and candles. Lamp wicks, dress hats and all wool long johns, with or without the 3 button drop seat.

Next door, down Robertson Street was the Post Office, and off to the left was the Pharmacy. It was a handy system; Doc Swanson had his office upstairs. He would write a prescription and the pharmacist downstairs would fill it. What what his name again? We all called him Doc, but he wasn't a doctor. what was his name? I went to school with his two kids- brats they truly were. The older boy helped out in the store. John? James? Some things just don't seem to hang around in the old memory. Maybe it ain't that important anyway.

Holiday; that was the Pharmacists name; that's why we all called him Doc. And his boy was Doc-ette; that's why I couldn't recall his name; I doubt I ever used it. The other child was a daughter; always had dresses full of bows, and matching bows in her hair. Her name was Sally, if I recollect. She married a soldier during the War and gone to Texas, far as I know. Doc-ette went off to Pharmacy College, like his Dad. Graduated and then got called up for the war. He was on the Indianapolis when she went down. Doc hung on long as he could, but old age got him in the end, like it does us all. His widow sold the business and moved south to be with Sally and her young ones.

That curved tower room? That was the least popular place in town. That was where Doc Swanson kept his dentist chair. Doc was a pretty durn good country doctor, but he didn't make any claim to being any kind of dentist.

But he was all we had. If you had a bad tooth he pulled it. During the summer months with all of those windows open you could hear the noise for a couple of blocks in any direction. It would start off quiet enough Doc giving directions to the nurse for the pain killer.

Now Nurse- he would say- hand me that bottle of cocaine. Those would would usually draw a crowd on the street corner; the layabouts over by the hardware store would be the first to saunter over, and the checker players by the courthouse would see the layabouts move and know something interesting was in the air and the games would be put on hold until the after the festivities. The kids on the sandlot playing stick ball would see the checker players leave the courthouse square and figure if something was more interesting than checkers, it was more interesting than stick ball too, head over to hang out under Doc Swanson's dental alcove.

The cocaine would work sometimes, or the tooth was loose enough, or maybe Doc just got lucky. And the show would be over before it started.

But there were other days; days when the tooth grippers wouldn't clamp right on the tooth, or the cocaine solution wasn't quite right. Or maybe doc's luck ran out. But instead of hearing Doc say 'SPIT', there would be a holler from the patient. Usually it would be an early attention getter; 'Yo Doc!' was always a favorite, although some of the old farmers would cut loose a volley of profanity that would cause a few windows to close and curtains to get drawn and more than one grin from the checker players, layabouts and stick ball players.

Hold still, Chester, or Earl or Fred; I'm almost done we'd hear the Doc holler. And then the next sound was always a thud, followed by a dull clang. The patient would involuntarily straighten a leg and wind up kicking over Doc's coat rack, which was just tall enough to hit the bottom of the brass umbrella stand when it fell.

Then the moaning would start. Sometimes long and low; others loud as a church bell and almost as deep. And punctuating the moans like a steam whistle through a thunderstorm were Doc's directions, some times to the Nurse, sometimes to the patient/victim and sometimes just a statement directed at nobody in particular: Some more of the cocaine Nurse; Chester sit still and get your dangs hands off my throat! Lord-a-mighty why did I ever start this? Now Chester I can't pull this tooth with you pushing me away like that; Nurse hand me that other pair of forceps; Alright Chester; put that dam knife away; I'll quit.

If the layabouts were lucky the show could go on all afternoon, or at least until Doc ran out of cocaine and patience. But eventually it would end, sending the stick ball players back to the sandlot, the checker players back to the courthouse square and the layabouts back to the hardware store.

At least until another poor soul found himself settling into the chair in the Tower Room.

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