18 The neurosurgeon ponders his position

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Stephen Whiteside
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18 The neurosurgeon ponders his position

Post by Stephen Whiteside » Fri Dec 30, 2011 5:42 am

18 The neurosurgeon ponders his position

© Stephen Whiteside 30.12.2011

Hubert Wexler stood at the edge of the cliff with his hands on his hips. A Boston neurosurgeon, he had signed up for this trip with great anticipation. He didn’t get much exercise these days, and the prospect of a couple of weeks kayaking in the wilds of British Columbia held great appeal. Not quite the trip of a life-time, perhaps, but it had certainly loomed as the best holiday he had had in many years. HAD. Past tense. Strictly.

Wexler was not a fit man. The nature of his work did not permit it. There are only so many hours in the day, and when you took away working hours, time for sleep, meal breaks and travel, there wasn’t much left. He was overweight. Not grossly, but significantly. His muscles had developed themselves for fine, subtle movements. Technicians transferred his patients from their trolleys to the operating table. His limbs were reserved for lighter work.

Against this, however, he was a man of great determination. He had a powerful personality, and was a natural leader. He was blessed with a great natural intelligence, and was extremely well read within his area of expertise. But it didn’t stop there. The small amount of recreational time he did allow himself - which might better have been spent, perhaps, in exercise - was dedicated to a wider reading. In short, he had an excellent general knowledge. And he was used to getting his way. One way or another. Inspiration and persuasion were generally the most effective, but they didn’t always work, and there were fallback positions.

He pondered his position, and there was much to ponder. Even for an experienced, intelligent man like himself, the events of the last twenty four hours had been breathtakingly frightening and disorienting. One moment they had been at the height of a wonderful holiday. They had kayaked unassisted to a stunningly beautiful and remote location, and were beginning to observe a bear in its natural domain feeding on migrating salmon. Their guide, although a rather unusual personality, clearly knew his onions. It was all he had paid for, and everything he could have asked for.

The next moment, the victims had turned on their attacker. Within minutes, the bear had been reduced to a ragged skeleton by the salmon. In his extensive reading on the subject, Wexler had never heard of anything like this. Not even in the early behavioural studies in the labs. Then, after a confused and faltering retreat, they had found their kayaks and all their gear - inanimate objects - subjected to the same attack. Next had come the forced march - with the prospect of death from exposure looming constantly over them. Then, from nowhere, the surreal experience of a night of luxury in a never-before seen space-ship a squillion miles away. And now, suddenly back where they had left, their illustrious leader had hurled himself off the edge of the precipice into the freezing waters below, leaving them to their own devices. Wexler felt he could forgive himself if his head was spinning a little. If he ever made it out of this place alive, he would have dinner party stories to last a life-time!

Wexler thought about his comrades. If he was looking dazed and confused, it was nothing to the expressions on their faces. Some of them looked as though they were no longer there at all.

He had looked over the edge of the cliff after Pocus had left them. It was a long way down. He had noted the point of impact, the circle of ripples that followed. He thought he had seen his body surface again, but it was difficult to be sure. Presumably it was now incumbent upon him and his fellow tourists to pick their way down to the river’s edge somehow, and check on Pocus’ condition. Wexler’s medical instincts came to the fore. If neurosurgery was required, he was in no position to provide it. Nevertheless, he was still a doctor, and Pocus a potential patient. If other medical care was required, more primitive, basic care, he could well be of use - even if it was simply to prevent his companions from embarking on mythical medical manoeuvres that were likely to cause more harm than good. Besides, without their guide, they were as good as lost. They had been spared one night out in the cold. There was no guarantee of a space-ship rescue again tonight. They needed to find that people mover today.
Stephen Whiteside, Australian Poet and Writer

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