Vets might fly, p.28

Vets Might Fly, page 28

 

Vets Might Fly
 


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  pettifogging detail.

  ~Oh don't worry, Helen," I whispered, putting my arm round her.

  "They won't hurt me."

  When Zoe came back with the food Granville was in his element, slicing

  the juicy smoked sausages length ways, slapping mustard on them and

  enclosing them in rolls.

  As I bit into the first one I thought I had never tasted any thing so

  delicious.

  chewing happily I found it difficult to comprehend my previous

  ridiculous preJudice.

  "Ready for another, old son?" Granville held up a loaded roll.

  "Sure! These are absolutely marvellous. Best hot dogs I've ever

  tasted!" I munched it down quickly and reached for a third.

  I think it was when I had downed five of them that my friend prodded me

  in the ribs.

  "Jim, lad," he said between chews.

  "We want a drop of beer to wash these down, don't you agree?"

  I waved an arm extravagantly.

  "Of course we do! Bloody gin's no good for this Job!

  Granville pulled two pints of draught. Powerful delicious ale which

  flowed in a cooling wave over my inflamed mucous membranes, making me

  feel I had been waiting for it all my life. We each had three pints

  and another hot dog or two while waves of euphoria billowed around

  me.

  The occasional anxious glance from Helen didn't worry me in the least.

  She was making signs that it was time to go home, but the very idea was

  unthinkable.

  I was having the time of my life, the world was a wonderful place and

  this little private pub was the finest corner of it.

  Granville put down a half-eaten roll.

  "Zoe, my precious, it would be nice to have something sweet to top this

  off. Why don't you bring out some of those little gooey things you

  made yesterday?"

  She produced a plateful of very rich-loo king cake lets. I do not have

  a sweet tooth and normally skip this part of the meal but I bit into

  one of Zoe's creations with relish. It was beautifully made and I

  could detect chocolate, marzipan, caramel and other things.

  It was when I was eating the third that matters began to deteriorate. I

  found that my merry chatter had died and it was Granville doing all the

  talking, and as I listened to him owlishly I was surprised to see his

  face becoming two faces which floated apart and came together

  repeatedly. It was an astonishing phenomenon and it was happening with

  everything else in the room.

  And I wasn't feeling so healthy now. That boundless vigour was no

  longer Surging through my veins and I felt only a great weariness and a

  rising nausea.

  I lost count of time around then. No doubt the conversation went on

  among the four of us but I can't remember any of it and my next

  recollection was of the party breaking up. Granville was helping Helen

  on with her coat and there was a general air of cheerful departure.

  "Ready, Jim?" my friend said briskly.

  I nodded and got slowly to my feet and as I swayed he put his arm round

  me and assiSted me to the door. Outside, the fog had cleared and a

  bright pattern f StarS overhung the village, but the clean cold air

  only made me feel worse and do~s!"

  "Hot dogs?" I cried.

  "Splendid idea!" It was a long call from all the spies the orient but

  I was ready for any thing.

  I stumbled through the darkness like a sleepwalker. When I reached the

  car' long griping spasm drove through me, reminding me horribly of the

  sausage' the gin and the rest. I groaned and leaned on the roof.

  "Maybe you'd better drive, Helen," my colleague said. He was about to

  open the door when, with a dreadful feeling of helplessness, I began to

  slide along

  I

  metal.

  Granville caught my shoulders.

  "He'd be better in the back," he gasped a began to lug me on to the

  seat.

  "Zoe, sweetheart, Helen, love, grab a leg each' will you? Fine, now

  I'll get round the other side and pull him in."

  He trotted round to the far side, opened the door and hauled at my

  shoulders "Down a bit your side, Helen, dear. Now to me a little. Up

  a trifle your si' Zoe, pet. Now back to you a bit. Lovely, lovely."

  Clearly he was happy at his work. He sounded like an expert furniture

  remover and through the mists I wondered bitterly how many inert forms

  had stuffed into their cars after an evening with him.

  Finally they got me in, half Lying across the back seat. My face was

  pressed' against the side window and from the outside it must have been

  a grotesque sight with the nose squashed sideways and a solitary

  dead-mackerel eye start sightlessly into the night.

  With an effort I managed to focus and saw Zoe loo king down at me

  anxious She gave a tentative wave of goodbye but I could produce only a

  slight twitch' of the cheek in reply.

  Granville kissed Helen fondly then slammed the car door. Moving back,

  peered in at me and brandished his arms.

  "See you soon, I hope, Jim. It's been a lovely evening!" His big face

  v wreathed in a happy smile and as I drove away my final impression was

  t he was thoroughly satisfied.

  ~i Chapter Twenty-six Being away from Darrow by and living a different

  life I was able to stand back and assess certain things objectively. I

  asked myself many questions. Why, ~ instance, was my partnership with

  Siegfried so successful? ; Even now, as we still jog along happily

  after thirty-five years, I wonder ate' it. I kr ~ liked him

  instinctively when I first saw him in the garden at Skel" H- at very

  first afternoon, but I feel there is another reason why ~ r. ~ because

  we are opposites. Siegfried's restless energy impels him \o alter

  things while I abhor change of any kind. A lot of pe~ ,;% 'brilliant,

  while not even my best friends would apply the ; , 0~, ~s mind

  relentlessly churns out ideas of all grades excell~ h ~ ~"O inge

  indeed. I, on the other hand, rarely have an idea al>` o ~ ~,ing

  shooting and fishing; I prefer football, cricket m SredSd;l' 1$ tn we

  are even opposite physical types and dogs!" ~ $." gn that we have

  never had our differences. Over 4 "Hot dogs?" I crie(l.^ ~ ;~ A;~,~

  I~.~ wil val l~u~ ~111~.

  the orient but was rectal One, I recall, was over the plastic calcium

  injectors. They were something new so Siegfried liked them, and by the

  same token I regarded them with deep suspicion.

  My doubts were nourished by my difficulties with them. Their early

  troubles have now been ironed out but at the beginning I found the

  things so temperamental that I abandoned them.

  My colleague pulled me up about it when he saw me washing out my

  flutter valve by running the surgery tap through it.

  "For God's sake, James, you're not still using that old thing, are

  you?"

  "Yes, I'm afraid I am."

  "But haven't you tried the new plastics?"

  "I have."

  "Well . . . ?"

  "Can't get away with them, Siegfried."

  "Can't . . . what on earth do you mean?"

  I trickled the last drop of water through the tube, rolled it small and

  sli
pped it into its case.

  "Well, the last time I used one the calcium squirted all over the

  place. And it's messy, sticky stuff. I had great white streaks down

  my coat."

  "But James!" He laughed incredulously.

  "That's crazy! They're childishly simple to use. I haven't had the

  slightest trouble."

  "I believe you," I said.

  "But you know me. I haven't got a mechanical mind."

  "For heaven's sake, you don't need a mechanical mind. They're

  foolproof."

  "Not to me, they aren't. I've had enough of them."

  My colleague put his hand on my shoulder and his patient look began to

  creep across his face.

  "James, James, you must persevere." He raised a finger.

  "There is another point at issue here, you know.

  "What's that?"

  "The matter of asepsis. How do you know that length of rubber you have

  there is clean?"

  "Well, I wash it through after use, I use a boiled needle, and . .

  ."

  "But don't you see, my boy, you're only trying to achieve what already

  exists in the plastic pack. Each one is self-contained and

  sterilised."

  "Oh I know all about that, but what's the good of it if I can't get the

  stuff into the cow?" I said querulously.

  "Oh piffle, James!" Siegfried assumed a grave expression.

  "It only needs a little application on your part, and I must stress

  that you are behaving in a reactionary manner by being stubborn. I put

  it to you seriously that we have to move with the times and every time

  you use that antiquated outfit of yours it is a retrograde step."

  We stood, as we often did, eyeball to eyeball, in mutual disagreement

  till he smiled suddenly.

  "Look, you're going out now, aren't you, to see that milk-fever cow I

  treated at John Tillot's. I understand it's not up yet."

  "That's right."

  "Well, as a favour to me, will you give one of the new packs a try?"

  I thought for a moment.

  "All right, Siegfried, I'll have one more go."

  When I reached the farm I found the cow comfortably ensconced in a

  field, in the middle of a rolling yellow ocean of buttercups.

  "She's had a few tries to get on 'er feet," the farmer said.

  "But she can't quite make it."

  "Probably just wants another shot." I went to my car which I had

  driven, rocking and bumping, over the rig and furrow of the field, and

  took one of the plastic packs from the boot.

  Mr Tillot raised his eyebrows when he saw me coming back.

  "Is that one o' them new things?, o/~} "Yes, it is, Mr Tillot, the very

  latest invention. All completely sterilised "Ah don't care what it is,

  ah don't like it!"

  "You don't?"

  "Naw!"

  "Well . . . why not?"

  "Ah'll tell ye. Mr Far non used one this morn in'. Some of the stuff

  went in eye, some went in 'is ear 'ole and the rest went down 'is

  trousers. Ah don't think the bloody cow got any!"

  There was another time Siegfried had to take me to task. An old-age

  pensioner was leading a small mongrel dog along the passage on the end

  of a piece string. I patted the consulting room table.

  "Put him up here, will you?" I said.

  The old man bent over slowly, groaning and puffing.

  "Wait a minute." I tapped his shoulder.

  "Let me do it." I hoisted the little animal on to the smooth

  surface.

  "Thank ye, sin' The man straightened up and rubbed his back and leg."l'

  arthritis bad and I'm not much good at lift in'. My name's Bailey and

  I live "'council houses."

  "Right, Mr Bailey, what's the trouble?"

  "It's this cough He's all us at it. And 'e kind of retches at tend of

  it."

  "I see. How old is he?"

  "He were ten last month."

  "Yes . . I took the temperature and carefully auscultated the chest.

  As I moved' the stethoscope over the ribs Siegfried came in and began

  to rummage in cupboard.

  "It's a chronic bronchitis, Mr Bailey," I said.

  "Many older dogs suffer from it just like old folks."

  He laughed.

  "Aye, ah'm a bit wheezy me self sometimes."

  "That's right, but you're not so bad, really, are you?"

  "New, new."

  "Well neither is you little dog. I'm going to give him an injection

  and a couple of tablets and it will help him quite a bit. I'm afraid

  he'll never quite get of this cough, but bring him in again if it gets

  very bad." .

  He nodded vigorously.

  "Very good, sir. Thank ye kindly, sir."

  As Siegfried banged about in the cupboard I gave the injection and

  counted out twenty of the new M&B 693 tablets. ;: :~: ~.

  ~, _~ .

  The old man gazed at them with interest then put them in his pocket.

  "N.

  what do ah owe ye, Mr Herriot?"

  I looked at the ragged tie knotted carefully over the frayed shirt

  collar, at threadbare antiquity of the jacket. His trouser knees had

  been darned but one side I caught a pink glimpse of the flesh through

  the material.

  "No, that's all right, Mr Bailey. Just see how he goes on."

  "Eh ?" r "There's no charge."

  "But . . ."

  "Now don't worry about it it's nothing, really. Just see he gets his

  tab' regularly."

  "I will, sir, and it's very kind of you. I never expected . . ."

  "I know you didn't, Mr Bailey. Goodbye for now and bring him back if

  not a lot better in a few days."

  The sound of the old man's footsteps had hardly died away when

  Siegfried emerged from the cupboard. He brandished a pair of horse

  tooth forceps in . 1 !

  my face. God, I've been ages hunting these down. I'm sure you

  deliberately hide thingS from me, James."

  I smiled but made no reply and as I was replacing my syringe on the

  trolley my colleague spoke again.

  ~JameS, I don't like to mention this, but aren't you rather rash, doing

  work for nothing?"

  I looked at him in surprise.

  "He was an old-age pensioner. Pretty hard up I should think."

  "Maybe so, but really, you know, you just cannot give your services

  free."

  "Oh but surely occasionally, Siegfried in a case. like this . . ."

  "No, James, not even occasionally. It's just not practical."

  "But I've seen you do it time and time again!"

  "Me?" His eyes widened in astonishment.

  "Never! I'm too aware of the harsh realities of life for that.

  Everything has become so frightfully expensive. For instance' weren't

  those M&B 693 tablets you were dishing out? Heaven help us, do you

  know those things are threepence each ? It's no good you must never

  work without charging."

  "But dammit, you're always doing it!" I burst out.

  "Only last week there was that . . ."

  Siegfried held up a restraining hand.

  "Please, James, please. You imagine things, that's your trouble."

  "I must have given him one of my most exasperated stares because he

  reached out and patted my shoulder.

  "Believe me, my boy, I do understand. You acted from the highest

  possible motives and I have often been tempted to do the same. But you
>
  must be firm.

  These are hard times and one must be hard to survive. So remember in

  future - no more Robin Hood stuff, we can't afford it."

  I nodded and went on my way somewhat bemusedly, but I soon forgot the

  incident and would have thought no more about it had I not seen Mr

  Bailey about a week later.

  His dog was once more on the consulting room table and Siegfried was

  giving it an injection. I didn't want to interfere so I went back

  along the passage to the front office and sat down to write in the day

  book. It was a summer afternoon, the window was open and through a

  parting in the curtain I could see the front steps.

 
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