|Genre||Short Story (20 pp.)|
|Keywords||Communication, Doctor-Patient Relationship, Drug Addiction, Empathy, Individuality, Memory, Nature, Nursing, Professionalism, Trauma|
For three weeks the narrator has been working as a clerk in the emergency department. His good friend, Georgie, is a hospital orderly. Both men abuse drugs, and Georgie steals them from the hospital. The ER staff includes Nurse (an overweight woman who shakes) and the Family Service doctor (a physician with limited competence who is not well-liked).
At 3:30 A.M., a man named Terrence Weber arrives at the ER. He has a hunting knife stuck deep in his eye. Ironically, his other eye is artificial. Weber's wife apparently tried to blind him because he ogled the woman next door. The doctor immediately decides the situation is beyond his expertise and calls for an ophthalmologist, neurosurgeon, and anesthesiologist.
Meanwhile Georgie is prepping Weber for surgery. The drugged-up orderly, who cannot even tie his shoe at this point, somehow removes the knife by himself. Weber's vision is fine. Later on, the narrator and Georgie get lost while driving around in a pick-up truck without headlights. The truck runs over a jackrabbit on the road. Intent on making rabbit stew, Georgie cuts the animal open with the hunting knife he had earlier removed from Weber's eye. The rabbit is pregnant with eight miniature bunnies inside her.
Georgie decides to save the babies. Unfortunately the narrator forgets about the rabbits and accidentally squashes them to death. At the end of the story the two men encounter a hitchhiker who has gone AWOL from military service. Georgie promises to take him to Canada.
This entire story has a dream-like quality. The narrator is a drug abuser so the validity of his account is suspect. Maybe the events described are all a drug-induced hallucination. Misperception, it seems, is pervasive. Accidents and bad luck dominate the plot. Life might just be a series of "emergencies," some worse than others. The lives of these characters are defined by randomness. Their few precious moments of harmony are invariably the result of drug use and therefore both fleeting and fraudulent.
The medical profession is portrayed as inept. When the Family Service doctor enters the emergency department and sees a patient with a knife in his eye, the physician asks "What seems to be the trouble?" The doctor then announces, "I'm not touching that head. I'm just going to watch this one. I know my limits." Georgie, the orderly who is high on drugs, has no such trepidation. He removes the knife without any complications. He is a less than perfect savior who stumbles upon the problems of other people. After all, he does preserve a patient's vision and at least temporarily safeguards the lives of baby rabbits.
When asked what he does for a living, Georgie answers, "I save lives." But what are the chances he can even save his own? The narrator and Georgie are not searching for meaning in their lives. In fact they only seem to want to escape life and drugs are their tickets. While mopping up the floor of the operating room after surgery, Georgie tells the narrator "There's so much goop inside of us, man . . . and it all wants to get out." How's that for a statement both profound and obvious?
|Publisher||Farrar, Straus, & Giroux|
|Place Published||New York|
|Miscellaneous||This story has also appeared in The New Yorker and Best American Short Stories, 1992.|
|Annotated by||Miksanek, Tony|
|Date of Entry||05/11/04|