A Bothersome Old Bloke

Fiction By Timothy // 9/24/2006

The smog of the city faded and finally died off completely as my carriage rattled onward into the countryside. Finally, it ground to a shaky halt in the middle of a rambling collection of shacks and shanties. I emerged with confidence and determinedly sunk my feet into several inches of deep mud, courtesy of the previous evening’s rain.

As the mud enveloped my boots, I pondered the obvious conclusion that country streets were greatly different than city streets. I stored this away into my eternally growing database of knowledge that I had started collecting merely a month previously, when I had first started my practice.

This brought to my mind a further observation, that being that the city of London clearly needed its own branch of country doctors, to spare hapless subjects such as I the trouble of adjusting to practice outside of the city.

While pondering, my feet continued to sink, so I took what seemed to be the wisest course of action, that being to attempt to walk. I managed this with only some difficulty, the mud being not as deep as I had first imagined.

As I walked, I soon spotted the dwelling of the patient that I had been called to attend to. The shack showed definite sings of poverty, and I concluded as I often did that this would be a free call.

As I approached, a short, wizened man of considerable antiquity rose from his seat on a small chair in front of the door. He approached me with surprising speed, clearly a much better navigator of the country mud than I. As he neared, I tipped my cap and we exchanged the usual pleasantries. I then began to walk again, but the man stopped me, with a mischievous twinkle in his eye.

“You’re a-goin to see old Rogers, ain’t ye?” he asked.

“Yes, indeed,” I responded.

“Well, ye be mighty careful with Rogers. He’s a bothersome old bloke if there ever was one.”

“Oh, why, thank you,” I began, but the man was already shuffling off.

As I continued forward, I mused over the possible meaning of “a bothersome old bloke”, and wondered at the type of man that was deserving of a guard at his door for the sake of warning those who dared to enter.

Undaunted, I reached for the knob of the rough wooden door and confidently pushed it open. It creaked quite loudly as I entered. I had barely stepped foot inside when I suddenly heard a loud moan of anguish, which then melted into a yell of contempt, “Oh, my leg! What took ye so long?” I soon located the shout as coming from another old man, half lying on a simple bed in the corner of the one-room house. I immediately concluded that I was in the presence of “old Rogers.”

The man continued to moan as I examined his leg. Halfway below the knee was an incision of some three inches in length. It was quite narrow, and very superficial, although it was bleeding with some aggressiveness. I commented that it was a rather minor wound, to which the man disagreed vehemently.

“You’re bloody well lucky I didn’t bleed to death lyin’ hear so long, jest waitin’ for you to get here! Another few minutes and I’d have been a goner, fer sure!”

I politely ignored this outburst and reached into my bag. I brought out a small bottle of alcohol, with which I soaked a piece of cloth. Then, warning the man that it would be painful, I applied the cloth to the wound.

“Blasted doctor!” the man shrieked. “There’s no call for ye to go amputatin’ my poor leg now!”

“I assure you I’m not amputating your leg, sir,” I replied with some restraint. “I’m merely cleaning the wound with alcohol, as I warned you.”

“Well it sure feels more like a knife diggin’ into my flesh!” the man continued. It was becoming clear to me what a “bothersome old bloke” was.

I hurried the cleaning operation and moved on to the bandaging. I carefully applied some sterile cloth bandages to the wound, all the while trying to ignore the complaints of the old man. “My leg sure feels a hundred times worse than it did before ye came!” he shouted, “I don’t know why I called ye in the first place.”

Finally I was done, and I stood up and stretched, breathing a sigh of relief. The shouts of pain from the man suddenly ceased. As I began to gather up my supplies, I turned to him once more. There was a softer look in his eyes. He reached into his pocket and produced a small coin, which he placed in my hand. I began to protested, but was cut short as the old contemptuous look returned in his eyes.

“Dash it all! If I hadn’t wanted to give ye the money, I wouldn’t have given it to ye! Now go on and keep it like I intended for ye to do!”

I beat a hasty retreat for the door. As I emerged once again into the sunlight, examined the coin in my hand. It was of very little value, but I couldn’t help but think that it was the thought that counted. Yes, “old Rogers” was a bothersome old bloke, but I kind of liked him anyway.