Fiction by Elliot Swain

The Foretold Event and Its Features in Full Relief

Three rather homely young nurses are gnawing with their molars on peanut brittle in the children’s temporary-sick-barn in the evening. It is hard to eat—most of them are RN-DD (Regular Nurse - Dental Donors). While the BCE (Bovine Catatonia Epidemic) is a plague thus far attributable only to despair (Broel and Whispermint 1998), it has demanded VMIDCD (Voluntary Minimally-Invasive Dental Calcium Donations) to continue progressing when it comes to dental strength in Youth.

Dental strength is critical to muscular strength, in turn critical to the maintenance of a healthy stock of warriors should events transpire as semi-hourly silent radio warnings seem to portent. (Albeit, it should be noted for the historical record, this command in a spirit of jocularity wholly unbefitting for the gravity of which these events, should they transpire, surely merit the respect of any man of judgment.)

The nurses’ teeth–and these are sickly nurseteeth!–chip on the brittle and so it is that a faint white halo of dental dissipation surrounding their feet is visible chimneywise above. No bother,” the nurses say. Don’t need good teeth to tend to boys’ molars, I reckon?” Aye, we’ve got the pictures.” The sticky amber candy like violin resin. Grinding chompers, the uncomely lot of them, and the squeak, like the smooth shoes at the bowling lane as girls scoot round to curtsey in an ironical air while the men laugh supsicious. Benzedrine (1-phenylpropan-2-amine) helps if they can suck root beer lollipops to curb pathological dental diminution.

Should it need to be known in the case of the transpiration of events, the nurses are Jacqueline, Cosima and Marguerite, and they share a dormitory in the old grist mill, scant but for candles, parchments of brittle, and the wall hangings: portraits of great physicians and physiocrats. Grand docs the lot of them: Josef Breuer, Bill Reich, Hesy-Ra, Sushruta, Rabelais, Rudolph Steiner, Lister, Hippocrates, Ibn Rušd, RD Laing, Sextus Empirucus

It should go without saying to any man of medicine who knows the fads of the day among the girls that featured also were Richard Burton’s diagrams from The Anatomy of Melancholy and Thomas Eakins’ magisterial depiction of the great Gross Clinic,” a vision of gruesome miracles performed in the theater of Dr. Samuel D. Gross.

Fear this: the children’s temporary sick-barn can be reached on foot only by passing through the pastures. The nurses, tall as trees in this night, lay into the loamy mud barefooted, for it is said by al-Ghazali that cows possess our human faculties for hearing in the night. Naturally it is in the nature of cattle to be indolent just as it is in the nature of nurses to revere the great physicians. But these cattle are possessed of something like Bacchus deep in the caverns of their Lower Souls, in their slumped postures–some indecently coquettish, some supine with their legs to the heavens and their common and natural lowing is ragged, tremulous and overdrawn. (The tortured and beatific fatigue of cows.)

Underneath the gags and the strained conviviality of the hokey radiomen, as when they drew long and nervous from their cigarettes, anybody with ears to hear could hear the fright.

But all sorts of terrors give way to games and play as we know and cherish; cruel games and play–how else can we face it? The nurses spent away their evenings spooning up liberally from the laudanum, and they smacked and hit each other, with increasing vigor, to the tragic dirge of Handel’s Sarabande. It was inevitable that Marguerite, the smallest, would take the first passage. Hysteria, screaming, chants from the Upanishads–Marguerite’s indistinguishable from those of the others–quickly and almost in quiet unison gave way to the pliers. What was Marguerite, all bones and skin, to do? What were the other two to do, I pose? Wait for eternity upon the dawning good cheer of the cattle?

The notion is the very definition of hullabaloo and the enemy of good sense says the lower ward doctor.

Elliot Swain

IG: @caresofafamilyman

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