Issue 34, Spring-Summer 1965
A DISAPPOINTING INNING
Mannish Madame Nevtaya slowly cried “Fur bowls!” and the Fideist batter, alert to the sense behind the sound of her words, jogged towards first base. The wind from the northern steppe blew coldly on the close of our season.
The Fideist division received the camp’s worst villains, and its team assembled their dregs. Among us Defective Baptists a love of baseball signified gentleness; among Fideists, cruelty. consider their team of murderers.
Left field: Sydney Valsalva, undertaker’s assistant and supplier to necrophiliacs, kidnaped infants for beheading.
Center field: Lynn Petomik, dentist, mutilated the mouths of patients, killing one.
Pitcher: Hilary Cheyne-Stokes, gynecologist, committed equivalent crimes.
1st base: Tommy Withering, dilettante,flayed a younger brother.
Shortstop: Evelyn Roak, surgeon, supplied human fragments to a delicatessen, and was undone by scandalous amputations.
(2nd base: Cecil Meli, nurse, had been unjustly jailed.) Right field: Lee Donders, grocer, transformed Roak’s material into “Donders’ Delicacies”
Catcher: Marion Gullstrand,obstetrician, tortured unwed mothers.
3rd base: Leslie Auenbrugger, psychiatrist—the “Restroom Bomber”.
Valsalva had walked. Since I was catcher, I went out to the mound to say a few words of encouragement. The second hatter grounded to third, forcing Valsalva; the next struck out; and the Fideists’ turn at bat would have ended with Withering’s high foul if, failing to allow for the wind, I had not misjudged it. Withering singled on the next pitch.
I was thus obliged to execute my plan in the first inning of the game. Having foreseen the possibility, I drew a prepared hall from my chest-protector to substitute it for the one in play.
I had made the ball myself. It was built around two tinusual parts—a tiny battery and an ounce of dynamite. From each of the battery’s outlets, a wire extended through the hair stuffing of the ball about halfway to the leather wrapper. The free ends of the wires, one of which passed through a firing- cap fixed to the dynamite, were eight millimeters apart- enough to prevent their junction at a mild impact, but not at a sufficiently hard one. The difference, which I had determined exactly, was that between a fast pitch caught and a slow pitch hit. The wire-ends separated into meshing sprays of filament, so that no matter how the ball was struck, it was certain to explode.
To shield myself, I had reinforced my equipment with layers of nylon in the chest-protector, steel in the cap and shin-guards, and a lucite screen inside the mask.
For Madame Nevtaya’s protection, I counted on her thick skin.
I expected the explosion to do three things: create confusion that would cover my actions; stun and knock down the batter; explain the batter’s death. I knew that the bomb itself would kill no one; but I had concealed in my right shin-guard, ready to use at once after the ball had been detonated, a small hypodermic of curare.
Evelyn Roak stood at the plate. To my dismay, the first three pitches were low—our pitcher remarked later on the ball’s imbalance. The fourth was a perfect strike, and my hopes revived. At the next delivery the hatter drew back to swing, but the pitch was wild—it sailed past my outstretched glove as I lunged at it, skittered over the ground behind home plate, off the playing field altogether, at last disappearing irretrievably, and with an abysmal liquid reverberation, into a drain.
MY DENTAL APPRENTICESHIP
The camp at Jacksongrad, in which I was completing my second year, had kept its prerevolutionary structure through historical, ideological and geographic change. Established during the Holy Alliance for the internment of heretics, it had since the eighties received offenders of every sort. Recently it had been transplanted intact, down to the last dossier, prisoner and guard, to its present southerly location.
The camp’s organization was still sectarian: on arrival, prisoners were arbitrarily and finally committed to the Americanist, Darbyist, Defective Baptist, Fideist or Resurrectionist divisions. Although the assignments were theologically haphazard, the divisions had real unity. Particular types flourished in particular sects, and were perhaps knowingly allotted to them; and the descendants of the first religious prisoners, faithful to their traditions, exerted a constant influence on their fellows
This influence was strengthened by the ban on all political and nonconformist discussion, and by the strict segregation of the sects. Fideists and Resurrectionists, Americanists and Darbyists only met on exceptional occasions, such as concerts, civic debates and athletic encounters. Even then the guards held intercourse to a minimum, and the mere exchange of greetings was beset with preventiotis and penalties.
Such circumstances had inspired the plan so unsuccessfully executed at the Fideist ball game. The stratagem was not my First
When, soon after my arrival, the camp authorities had asked me to choose a professional activity, I had refused. Because I was a musician, I was urged to join the camp orchestra, band or choir; but I had been too recently maimed to think of taking up the euphonium or singing hymns. The cultural administrator, irked by my refusal, had relegated me to the dental infirmary.
This was meant as a punishment, and proved a boon. The dental clinic had an evil reputation in the camp; but this reflected, more than its drabness and inadequate equipment, the mentality of its director, a martinet who spared neither his patients nor his assistants. When I reported to the clinic, this person had just been replaced by a kind and intelligent woman dentist. Dr. Zarater. She had been appointed by the authorities to apply a more humane policy, and she was empowered to reorganize the clinic according to her own high standards.
My relations with Dr. Zarater were good from the start. When I reported to work, she at once remarked on the fitness of my left hand, reduced to three spaced digits, for working inside the mouth. “No tool (she said) is as good as a finger, but with five it’s like using your foot.” She questioned me tactfully about my mishap, then about my life. When in the course of our conversation I mentioned the name of R. King Dri, Dr. Zarater’s interest quickened; for she herself had studied with Dr. King Dri and hoped to use the camp clinic to demonstrate his methods.
From that moment to the end of my time in Jacksongrad, Dr. Zarater treated me with special affection.
Who was R. King Dri? I had learned of him quite by chance some years before when, leafing through old magazines in a dentist’s waiting room, I came across a letter about him in a 1930 issue of Dental Cosmos.
King Dri called himself the “Philosopher-Dentist”. Victim of a long history of dental ailments that classical remedies could not relieve, he had invented to explain his own case a new theory of the human organism, and deduced from it new surgical techniques.
He describes the origin of the theory in his one treatise, a prodigious work that opens with a humble declaration of intent:
“Either men will think that the nature of toothache is wholly mysterious and incomprehensible, or that a man like myself, who has suffered from it thirty-six years, must be of a slow and sluggish disposition not to have discovered more respecting the nature and treatment of a disease so peculiarly his own. Be this as it may, I will give a bonafide account of what I know.”
Dri then relates how, refusing extraction, he had little by little so lost his strength through his clironic ailment that he was at last obliged to take to his bed, spending four months in total immobility. (“Movement,” he writes, “is one of the greatest troubles in toothache, since, with perfect quiet, the agony is just tolerable”) It was thus bedridden that Dri began talking to his teeth, at first cursing them, then praying to them, and finally addressing them as sensible beings in need of consolation and reassurance. A prompt diminution of pain and swelling followed Dri’s first attempt at “internal charity”. After three weeks of it, several afflicted teeth, including the one first smitten thirty-six years before, stopped aching. Only two failed to respond. After another ten days spent comforting them, the doctor decided that they knew themselves unfit for continued life in his body, wished to be free of it, but were unwilling, perhaps for fear of the unknown world outside, to take the initiative of leaving him. Dri thereupon patiently assuaged their fear, explaining that there was only one escape from their predicament, and that by delaying to choose it they were exacerbating their suffering, not to mention his own. In a week, without being touched, the reluctant teeth fell out.
King Dri’s conclusion from this experiment might be summarized thus:
The human body, richest of nature’s fruits, is not a single organism made up of constituent parts, but an assemblage of entities on virhose voluntary collaboration the functioning of the whole depends. “The body is analogous to a political confederation—not to the federation it is normally supposed to be.” Every entity within the body is endowed with its own psyche, more or less developed in awareness, but conscious— and self-conscious —nonetheless. (Acliing teeth can be compared to temperamental six-year-old children; an impotent penis to an adolescent girl who must be cajoled out of her sulkiness.) Most advanced of all entities is the heart, which at the center of the body does not govern but presides over it with loving persuasiveness, like an experienced but still vigorous father in this household of relatives and pets. Health exists when the various entities are happy, for they then perform their roles properly and cooperate with one another. Disease appears when some member of the organism rejects its vocation. Medicine intervenes to bring the wayward member back to its place in the body’s little society. At best, the heart makes its own medicine, convincing the rebel of its love by speaking to it with patience and understanding; but a doctor is often needed to encourage the communication of heart and member, and sometimes, if the patient is incapable of performing the task, to undertake it himself
In his treatise Dr. Dri gives many examples of such intervention. The following paragraph, the close of an address to the infected canine of a sixteen-year-old boy, may suggest the Indian’s stature.
“You say, ’Is not the goal of life to die rather than to live, not to leave death to others but to accede to it voluntarily, giving one’s self up with rejoicing?’ No! that is neither joy, nor liberty, nor grace, nor eternal life; which are in your father’s love. Child of my being! Flesh of my flesh! As distant from death as the morning star is from a farm’s smoky fire, when that fair virgin on the sun’s breast lays her radiant head, may your father in his infinite love behold you forever in that place reserved for you! Next to such life, what is death worth? And what is life worth if not given to him? Must you torment yourself, when obedience is so sweet? Return and say: ’Now I have all! Everything is at my feet, I am as one who, on seeing a tree laden with fruit, and having mounted the ladder, feels a depth of branches bend under his body.
I shall Speak beneath the tree, as a flute neither too grave nor too shrill. Behold I am lifted upon the waters! Love unseals the rock of my heart! So let me live! Let me grow thus mingled with my father, like the vine with die olive tree.’” The tooth was cured.
The medical profession had not taken R. King Dri seriously during his lifetime, despite the attractiveness of his theory and the undeniable results he achieved in Punjab dental wards. According to Dr. Zarater, however, a revival of interest in the philosopher-dentist had distinguished recent stomatological writings in Europe, where a movement was under way to obtain legal recognition of his teaching.
During eight months as Dr. Zarater’s assistant, I learned much about the clinical uses of King Dri’s theory, as well as the rudiments of traditional dentistry. With the directress’s help I made such rapid progress that after only four months’ training I was able to treat simple cases.
I had hardly begun exercising this responsibility when a valuable patient was assigned to me. I had hoped to benefit from my position: as the clinic ministered to the entire camp, I would inevitably meet members of sects other than my own. But I was especially lucky that one of the first of these should he a young Fideist woman named Yana, celebrated throughout Jacksongrad for her beauty and visible good nature: more pertinently, Evelyn Roak was in love with her.
In order to see her often, I prolonged Yana’s treatment; and I wooed her myself (Dear Yana! I became devoted to her. Even when she lost her usefulness, I remained her friend.)
My courtship succeeded: Yana and I began meeting secretly in a storeroom of the clinic. Then as always we were obliged to address each other by gesture or in writing. Yana spoke no English, although she had learned to read and write it in school. One useful if unforeseen consequence of this was that during our exchanges we evolved a written code. At the time it was little more than a game between us; later, when meeting became harder and we had to rely on letters, the code preserved our relationship.
I was passionate with Yana but unpossessive—I had no wish to anger her Fideist suitor, for whom I feigned admiration. Lest this arouse suspicion, I asked Yana not to mention me by name. “A dangerous political matter,” I explained.
Meanwhile I had Yana deliver to her Fideist friend a succession of anonymous gifts, chiefly items then scarce in the camp—absorbent cotton, airmail stationery, Swiss toothpaste.
Seven of the presents were innocuous. The eighth and last, which I myself prepared in the dental laboratory, was a box of caramels. Dr. Petomi’s career suggested their composition. I mixed into the caramel sugar a few ounces of crystalline oxylous acid. This chemical, normally inactive, combines with certain phosphates into volatile compounds whose formation requires no catalysts other than moisture and mild heat.
I expected the glueyness of the candies to attach a quantity of acid crystals to the teeth. They would then transform the calcium phosphate of the tooth enamel into oxyluric acid, a violently corrosive substance.
Four days after delivering my present, Yana told me that her friend would report for treatment. I mounted a sleepless watch at the clinic entrance. Early next morning the patient was brought in on a stretcher and taken, as I had ordered, to my office. But Dr. Zarater had observed the arrival. It was she who conducted the examination and she decided to handle the case herself.
“Those cavities (she declared) are monstrous and unnatural!” Yana’s admirer had been unexpectedly generous. During the following week eight other Fideists called at the clinic with stricken mouths. Even Yana, unwarned, lost a molar.
Dr. Zarater had good reason to keep me from “my” patient.
My severed fingers had healed with difficulty—even healed, they remained abnormally sensitive. Recently a few pimples had appeared on the stumps, adding to the soreness a tormenting itch.
The pimples were small, lying nearly flush with the skin, with minute white spots at the center. They looked trivial; I managed not to scratch them in the hope that they would soon vanish if left intact. They would have gone untreated if Dr. Zarater had not noticed them (unluckily for my plan, on the very eve of its fruition). She limited my contact with her patients and told me to consult the camp doctor. I put off doing so; the directress became increasingly urgent; finally, when she showed signs of anger, I agreed to visit the infirmary.
The camp doctor was Dr. Amset, a popular figure in Jacksongrad, celebrated for his addiction to whisky, monologue and fresh air. On fair days he received his patients in the garden behind his clinic, and it was there that I found him on the morning of my visit. Dr. Amset had just dismissed a patient when I arrived; he began speaking to me as though we were resuming an interrupted conversation.
“Yes, there’s little doubt but what it’s cystic fibrosis! It’s a strange disease! Or if you prefer, ’familial steatorrhea’. It’s best to give at least two names to things, above all to diseases and plants, which I have a grim time grasping, memorywise I mean. It helps to know that neurasthenia is the English malady. St.John’s wort is klamath weed, old man’s beard...Hm—your hand! That’s funny—did you—let’s see, you’re a dental assistant. Wait a minute. (He sharply pinched one of the more swollen pimples; yellow matter issued.) Now did you happen to treat a young boy called...called...a Resurrectionist I think; Moe Kusa, that’s the name! You did? Oh oh. My dear, you can call it lues if you want, but in four other letters it’s syph. It has to be. You see I remember Moe’s mother—his older brother was congenitally syphilitic, and so Moe...as you say, the sores on his mouth. Well, I’ll give you three zillion units today and gone tomorrow.”
Two crows that had been circling above us settled in an alder at the far end of the garden. The doctor’s cure was useless. The gamut of antibiotics, tried during the long complications that followed my operation, had nearly killed me. Dr. Amset agreed that there was no chance of their helping now.
Having poured each of us a generous glass of whisky, he prepared me some wished me luck.
Leaving, I thought of little Moe Kusa. He was a charming boy who suffered his disagreeable affliction without complaint. (The ends of his mouth were ulcerated, so that eating and drinking were painful to him, and his pretty face marred.) He had mentioned suffering from diarrhea, and I had, while tillable to treat his principal affliction, effectively soothed the lesser one, with a broth of what the good doctor might have liked to call starwort.
IN THE BARRACKS
Our quarters were cleaned and supervised by an unamiable person known as “The Concierge”. Although a prisoner, she was dependent on the camp authorities for her privileged job, and she accordingly acted in their interests rather than ours. Her role was contemptible, but I took a tolerant view of it— she was a minor power and very well informed.
For a long time I could not persuade The Concierge to trust me. My assignment to the clinic seemed of little use, since she had incorruptible teeth and perquisites greater than my own; yet it was through my position that I at last won her over.
The Concierge’s joy was her pet, a miniature urubu. She spoiled it elaborately, nursing it through the ordeal of the Jacksongrad winter and providing it in all seasons, to our dismay, with gamy morsels of animal brain and eye. The vulture was as little liked as its mistress, and a resentful prisoner finally kidnaped it one night while The Concierge slept, returning it before dawn with its beak smashed.
Unable to pick or chew, the bird starved. The Concierge was in despair, and herself wasting away, when I intervened. Retrieving two drawn wisdom teeth from the clinic, I fashioned out of them a dentine beak, cut away the ruined bills, and wired the new ones to their roots. After a few days the urubu began using the substitute, soon mastered it, and so recovered its glossy health. The Concierge was in my pocket.
As a reward, she promised to tell me immediately, no matter how great the difficulty, any news she might hear concerning the Fideists.
Wandering into the barracks one Sunday morning, I found The Concierge alone, reading a back issue of The Worm Runners Digest and listening to the radio. An English-language program was being broadcast—
the people themselves
terrible spider plague?
the webs upon
more like tents than
than German incendiary
“food rose plants” from light and air. citizens
the autonomous Joe, the natural
Then in your view, Greg, a huge smokescreen has been spread between the true facts about medicine in America
“Those shmucks have muff it again,” The Concierge remarked as the telephone rang. She switched off the radio to answer.
“This is Calvin nine oh nine oh.” She listened a moment and hung up. “I think that soon, very soon, I have important news.” She smiled horribly, and turned away to begin her weekly cleaning. A duster of which she was very proud (but which she never used, as the asthma faction was apt to remind her) hung from one shoulder. It had been made from the hair of Tula Finklea, a Hollywood actress who, having to shave her head for a prison role, had given away her locks in response to The Concierge’s distant appeal. No one knew why she had turned her trophy into a domestic implement.
TEXTS TRUE AND FALSE
Dr. Zarater reduced my position at the clinic to that of accountant; my baseball stratagem failed; and I despaired of exploiting legitimate opportunities. I felt that I must find a lure attractive enough to justify a secret meeting.
I knew that Yana’s friend was something of a dilettante (as children, we had studied music together), with a flair for history. According to Yana, this interest had recently led to a study of the five sects represented in the camp, and particularly of the origins of Darbyism.
This news left me perplexed until I remembered the “Black Pope” enigma.
The early period of Darbyism is plainly told in the documents of the time, all of which are published, and all but one easily accounted for. The exception is as mysterious as the rest are clear. It is a letter of about seven hundred words, unsigned, unaddressed, composed in a garble of tongues; no one has yet explained or identified it. Scholars refer to it as Pape Niger, after its opening words.*
It was my guess, which Yana confirmed, that her friend’s interest in Darbyism centered on this letter.
Using Yana as intermediary, I therefore let it be known that I too was interested in Pape Niger, that I had access to a document in the Defective Baptist archives that had a bearing on the Darbyist letter, and that I had made a copy of it. I even gave Yana a fragment of it to show her friend, for not only had I invented the document’s existence but forged a short text adorned with pseudo-scholarly notes.
I enjoy rereading my invention. Its tangential relation to Pape Niger, offering little to satisfy but enough to excite an expectant curiosity; the perplexing notes, whose slivers of apt information are sandwiched between thick irrelevancies; the text’s termination at a point when it evidently became most interestiPapeng; and above all the unspoken but compelling suggestion that Pape Niger was addressed to one of the Allants in an attempt to denigrate the Catholic Chavenders, while the Defective Baptists were on the contrary trying to pacify the warring families—these devices seem now no less cunning than they did when I put all my passion into them. Here is what I wrote:
The history of the Chavenders and the Allants is truly of the heroic nobility: a stock of peculiar strength, whence sprung great trees, and from the trees, great fruit.
Gloomy are these days of drooping gray fears among the golden-haired Chavenders. There is now much stored-up pain among the volatile Allants; and from this place I have heard the heavy din of verbal doughtiness. When Chavenders meet with Allants, there are swelling looks and injurious words, and many times brawls between them, in our day; but in the historidty1 of the clans is kinship and assurance. Here is the piety of family life, here is the sanctity of family religion where we may not look for other.
Two and a half centuries ago they united in wedlock: Dona Enula de Osorio, (by her sister) a near Cliinchon, who married into the Allants by the help of the selfsame Del Ve ga2, bore an amiable sturdy daughter, a little broken-headed, her part good partly violent nature had been distempered (as many of their unquiet climbing spirits) in Paracelsus’s school of healing; but this was a future virtue3. Entering the medical service, she had met and labored with a Chavender youth, in a terrible pestilence, in Genoa, where they were both infected. Afterward, the familial ires spent, they married in England, and settled near London, attaching themselves to the fortunes of Hector Chavender, from whom they obtained a worthy station.
Many are the examples of Chavenders, in subsequent times, attaining by the exertions of their sagacity, the heights of honor: the follicular “patch” that bears their name, Baillie’s tribute, and the authoritative collaborations of Rolando, and Kussmaul of “fearful dyspnea” fame—do they4 not attest it? Other is the Allants’ glory: from generation to generation they ministered dangerously to the plague-ridden; the first German dispensary for poor children was their merciful act, in Hanover; a practical keenness shewed them5, that nitrate of silver cleansed the eyes of babes, long ere any might reason it; and one, fated to die cruelly, has had, at last, distinguished letters6.
Infinite are the distempers of the human spirit, man is a prodigy of misery, lesser Allants and Chavenders have there been than these, on occasion. One, a century past, butchered his mother; one his wife; another publicly cornholed7 his little daughter, and was hanged; others have pursued disgrace more meanly. Over such the families have not fought; but then such are not needed to inflame them; for many have been the ills of others, to serve as ills of their own8. Now let them aspire &c.
(The document concludes with a long plea to reunite the two families in the Defective Baptist faith.)
1. The writer, who apparently means by this word a consciousness of genealogy, supplies matter for new discord where he hopes to reconcile. The Chavenders have tried always, in accordance with their progressive inclination, to seek their ancestry through a line of medical innovators to an origin in Trotula, of the school of Salerno; while the Hanoverian Allants, Galenists until 1700, and still conservative, trace their succession back to the less notorious Salcrnitan Alphanus I, doubtless the person who later became Archbishop of Salerno, but not to be confused with another Archbishop of Salemo of the same name. The distinction, insisted on by both families, is petty: for the Allants, in their tradition of dose attendance to the patient, follow the Hippocratic instruction as faithfully as the Chavenders, who are so particular to defend its theoretical consequences.
2. The implication here is that Dona Ana de Osorio. the first wife of Count Chinchon, was treated with cinchonaby the Count’s physician Juan del Vega. Dona Ana died before her husband became Viceroy of Peru, and it was the second countess, Dona Francisca Henriquez de Rivera, whose fever was cured by the controversial bark. This was not known until the twentieth century, after this document was written.
3. Although Catholics, tho Chavenden had supported Paracelsus.
4. Hector Chavender (1619-1688) discovered the aggregation of lymph nodules known as “Chavender’s patch” (1660). Matthew Baillic attributed to Evelyn Chavender (1730-1782) elements of his descriptions of lesions. Ello Chavender (1775- 1851) collaborated in Rolando’s investigation of the spinal cord, and Jeremy Chavender (1819-1880) in Kussmaul’s research on acetone.
5. The same pragmatic instinct led Walter Allant (1818-1901) to drink a pint of typhus culture in order to demonstrate that typhus had a non-bacterial origin. Koch »said that this failure to contract the disease retarded bacteriology by a generation.
6. The reference is to Ham Bakerloo Allant (1851-1886), whose discovery of the goundou bacteria found its way into print in 1885. The following year, seeking in Mexico the cause of yellow fever, he had the bad luck to isolate the Leptospira of Weil’s disease from several cases harboring both maladies. He grew a culture of Leptospirae and developed a vaccine &ora it; and having (he thought) vaccinated himself against yellow fever, he proceeded raging. He succumbed to it immediately,
7. A word of unknown origin, probably from the French encanailler. Professor B. M. Jemm’s derivation (made in discussing a contemporary instance) from The Cortihill Magazine seems no more than wishful thinking.
8. The writer means that the two families feuded over medical issues. For example:
Forceps Royalties. In 1699 Chubh Chavender announced the obstetrical forceps. He did not, however, describe the instrument, which had been used for several generations by his branch of the family, midwives by profession. Attempts by outsiders to learn the secret of the apparatus, whose pain saving renown drew many women under Chavender care, were frequent but unavailing. When at last a group of civic-minded Londoners collected a purse of 500 to be bestowed on Chubb Chavender, he accepted the money, but in return gave up only one blade of the forceps. In 1725 his son, learning of the invention of another forceps in Europe, finally dis- closed the entire instrument against a further sum and an exclusive patent. The Allants asserted that the forceps (together with Enula’s daugher) had come into Chavender hands from them, and claimed a share of the money. There was subsequently much bad blood between the two houses on this account.
Purging. Shortly after, the Cliavenders attacked the Allants both in public and in private for their views on purging. Accepting G. E. Stahl’s theories, the Allants not only purged universally but never checked the “hemorrhoida! flux”, which they thought was a healthy process. Evelyn Chavender’s father wrote his cousin Wilhelm Allant that “without doubt he would presently claim the title once held by the Chief Physician of the ancient Egyptians, viz. ’Shepherd of the Rectum’, except that ’butcher’ might fit the truth nicer.” Bleeding. In 1810 the two families corresponded long and abusively over the daily quantity of leeches bought by the Allants. The latter declared it never passed two hundred, but the Chavenders counted by thousands. It should be remembered that at least ten Allants were practicing at this time.