Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Bullet-hole surgery

The kids were playing doctors and nurses in the garden, and although it was getting close to tea-time I didn't want to lose the peace and quiet in the house.  I thought about calling them and telling them to come in and wash up before we ate, and then I decided that tea could be an hour later.  My mother's best friend was visiting and she obsessed over her blood sugar levels, so having to wait an hour for tea would almost certainly incentivise her to leave.  I made her tea without sugar, and hid the sugar-bowl in the fridge, just in case.
As I put the cups on the tea-tray, I glanced out of the window, just in time to see Daniel coming out of their improvised triage tent with blood all over his hands.  I sighed, and opened the kitchen window just enough to shout through it.
"Daniel!  Wash your hands now!"
"Yes Dad," he called back, holding his hands up.  They appeared to have bits of red something clinging to them as well.  I admired his commitment to realism.  "Can you open the doors for me?"
I tutted, but I opened the kitchen door, and beyond that the conservatory door to the garden, letting Daniel come in without touching anything with his hands.  I also turned the tap on for him.
"What are you kids doing in that tent, then?" I asked, leaning on the kitchen counter and watching to make sure he cleaned under his nails as well.
"Playing doctors and nurses, Dad."
"And you're a...?"
"Doctor, Dad, obviously.  I'm a surgeon."
I frowned.  "Why did you choose that?  When I was a kid all we ever want to be were gynocologists."
"Never mind, you're a bit young yet.  Why a surgeon?"
"Well, you've got the two volumes of the Oxford Manual of Surgery on the shelf, Dad; we just thought we'd try them out."
I nodded, then stopped nodding.
"Which bits?"
"Well, we thought we'd start at the beginning and just work out way through."
"And how far have you gotten?"
"Bullet-hole surgery."
I took the tea-tray in to the women, and then returned before Daniel could get back out to the garden.
"There is no bullet-hole surgery section in the OMS," I said.  "I know."
"It's hand-written," he said, looking sheepish, and suddenly I had a flash-back to the early nineteen seventies, and adding several pages of field notes on what we'd called bullet-hole surgery back then.  Pointing a pistol at someone and finding out what organs and other tissues it removed when you pulled the trigger.
"Who?" I asked.
"Piano-wire Pete," he said, holding his hands out to show me how clean they now were.  "He stiffed us on the girl-scout cookies last month, remember?"
I let him go back out to the garden and the other kids, and then wandered upstairs to cross Piano-wire both off my list of problems and my list of contacts.  None of our patients back in the good-old days had ever survived surgery, but I was pretty sure we hadn't mentioned that in the notes until the end.

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