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Spygalss: Dr. Death 

By Azore Opio

He is a shortish slight man with a leaden complexion and black crow-like eyes. He speaks in jerks and stutters – just like his smile. He smiles mechanically as if he is controlled by a strong spring that snaps the lips open and apart at the same mental command, the force of the execution sometimes jerking his head to one side. Recently, he called a young doctor into his office, stared at him from under his eyebrows. "Do you know how important doctors are to the nation?" "I know."

"Living in this kind of society, doctors should benefit from the contributions they make to the welfare of the people," Dr. Death said sarcastically. "How is that?" asked the puzzled young man. "You don’t believe it? It is true!" shouted Dr. Death, "your patients are a means to an end." "Isn’t everything a means to an end?" asked the young doctor. Dr. Death looked the young man straight in the eye and beckoned him to follow him to the operating theatre.

"Introduction to the means to an end," he winked at the intern as he stepped into his gown and slipped a pair of operating gloves onto his crooked fingers. He went over to the still form lying on the table, picked a scalpel proffered by a nurse and sliced into the abdomen.

In a matter of minutes, the doctor had removed a clean appendix and a kidney from the patient. The appendix, he tossed into a garbage can; the kidney, he carefully placed in a jar of ether and locked it up in a sterilized cupboard. "There," said Dr. Death, "means to an end." Dr. Death doubles his practice and incomes daily by working round the clock. He repairs the old hernias of those working ‘swing and graveyard.’ With money to spare, he removes rotten tonsils, works on the heads of bleeding piles, and removes them out.

But now, as more doctors are appearing, the battle for patients are becoming a bloody one and the field is littered with casualties. All of them, doctors, especially Dr. Death, poach on wealthy and even less wealthy patients. His office is often filled with real and sometimes imaginary sickness to cure, which no fee is too high for. "Do you know, boy?" he asked the intern after the appendicitis operation, that my place, the clinic, paid for itself within eighteen months?" "How is that?" asked the intern. "I made 11 million in the first year with only twelve beds."

"That’s a lot of money, Doctor." the intern said skeptically, "for only twelve beds." "But it’s true," said Dr. Death, "a friend of mine has nineteen beds. He had a hard time getting it going, now he is swimming in money. He has bought a house already. He gets up to 30.000 francs. cfa a bed a day. He is thinking of putting up a thirty-bed addition." Dr. Death cleared his throat and spat a blob of slime on the pavement as he opened the car door.

"Do you know," he said, "the rental of a surgery in a fifty-bed hospital can bring over two hundred and forty francs cfa a day? "And that’s not including emergencies," added Dr. Death. The intern sat back in the soft upholstery absorbing what had just been said. Then he broke the silence. "I am tired of sitting in government hospitals day and night waiting for a woman to deliver, patting an old lady’s head and telling her that her daughter will be all right."
They laughed.

"Why don’t you open a maternity then?" asked Dr. Death. "I am doing some investigation on the possibilities of the thing," the intern said with a smile. Dr. Death’s position at Mountain View Hospital is impregnable and his relationship with the Chairman of the Board of Members makes it possible for him to control appointments and to wield an iron fist over its politics.

On more than one occasion, he has been known to force the dropping of a doctor or a nurse from the staff if the man or woman in any wing displeases him. Dr. Death’s physical appearance and habits area aggravating. Last week Dr. Death received a call at 2 am. He got out of bed and drove to the caller’s residence – thirty minutes away. He found a panic-stricken tycoon moaning in pain. "I think it’s coronary," gasped the sweating man. On examination Dr. Death found nothing but gas from over-eating and drinking that night.

Dr. Death took a cardigan and as he read the result, the tycoon sat in his bed watching every expression like a man about to receive a death sentence. "Your heart is sound. All you have is indigestion." "Oh, doctor, thank you so much," the tycoon cried out loudly, kissing Dr. Death’s hands with gratitude. Dr. Death later sent the tycoon a bill. The tycoon was so enraged he called Dr. Death. "Hey, man!" he screamed in the phone, "Do you think my money grows like plums, eh?  You are robbing me."

"All right," thought Dr. Death quietly, "next time I’ll collect the fee in cold cash." Dr. Death’s best operations, which he performs with the fullest confidence, are appendectomy and hernia. After the tycoon rebuked him, he prepared for them. By 11:30 am he had finished operating and after he checked his post-operative cases.

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