I’ve got a patient over in the County Nursing home named Dr. Henry Jenkins. It used to be called the County Home. (Lester Flatt sang it as “The Poor House.”)
His is a true story. Before you go and think this is a HIPAA violation, I want you to know I have his full permission. In fact, he is gonna help me write it.
Henry (we call him Indian or Indie for short) was a doc here in town for a long time, and he had a big following. It wasn’t the society people who went to him though; folks with even a smidge of status chose one of two established groups in town. Indie was one of those Docs who never cared a thing about money or any social status. He believed the poor would always be with us, and it was his job to look after them.
Now before you get the notion the Indian was some kinda Mother Teresa, well he warn’t, and not by a long shot. You see, Henry was one who liked to take a nip every so often, and he had chronic back troubles. Rumor was he took the occasional Vicodin, but I was his Doc and never prescribed it for him. If he did I don’t know where he got it.
But while Indie had his flaws, he was a likable sort. He sawed an extra good old time fiddle, and we fell in together ’cause of it. It worried my mama something awful, but I thought Henry was a better Doc than what his reputation indicated. He did care about his people and had a soft spot for the downtrodden I found admirable.
I reckon a lot of Docs have a bit of nurturer role in ‘em, and I’ve wanted to help Indie stay on the straight and narrow from the time I finished med school and came back home. It wasn’t an easy job. Indie stayed in trouble a lot, and had not a sole ally in proper society except for me. (I guess a lot of folks considered me to be on the fringes of it given I remained friends with the likes of Indie.)
As I said, he had substance abuse issues. He was just flat out an alcoholic, but he wasn’t a drunk. He never went to work intoxicated, and over the years I got him whittled him down to no more than one on the job. It was the best I could do. People still complained, but Indie was smarter after a nip than a lot of Docs in a sober state. The way I saw it, he was doing more good than harm. Few agreed.
And Indie wasn’t much to get into women troubles. Well, there was the one French foreign exchange student, and boy was she a looker, but….. well, that is another story. Ms. Jenkins issued the ultimatum on that one, and I sided with her. Henry was sore about it for a while, but he got over it. Other than his pal Blinky Wallendorf we were his best friends in town, and the only ones with any hope to pull him out of a jam.
When a Doc like Henry gets in trouble, it is lawyer trouble. And like everything else, Henry did it in a big way. When his friend Blinky Wallendorf died, Indie attracted more attention from men than Pamela Anderson would if she walked into Harnett Billiard and Bowl and ordered a cheeseburger. And all of ‘em were lawyers. Bunches of ‘em.
These days Indie is old and worn out. I’m still his Doc. Every Monday after Hospital Staff meeting, I’ll visit him at the Nursing Home. He loves to reminisce of the old days. The only thing he has left from his office is the old plasticized skelton that resided in the corner of his study for as long as I can remember. Everyone thinks he keeps it there to remind him of his doctor days.
I know better. Indie used a bone scalpel to fashion a lid out of the cranium. When you lift it up, inside the skull two small paper cups and a couple boot leg sized bottles of his favorite Jim Beam rest where the brain once resided. I don’t know who supplies him, but his liver is already shot, so I guess it doesn’t make much difference now.
One time he dropped one of the bottles. It crashed on the cold tile floor and shattered. The echos drifted down the hallway like a gunshot. I managed to sweep it all up before the staff got there to check on the commotion.
Indie offers the same toast ever time. (Bluegrass folks are people of ritual) “Bibey,” he’ll say. “I don’t know how you done it.”
“Me? It warn’t me, Indie. It was your cousin, that Navajo.”
“He ain’t my cousin, brother. No one knows the Navajo.” Then he’d turn up his shot, and we’d laugh like h**!. I’d place the paper cups back in the skeleton’s skull till the next Monday. I don’t think anyone ever knew, and I doubt they figured out the Mandolin Case either.
Indie is getting weaker, and his memory has started to fade. Mine is real good, and I have it all written down anyway, but I promised Indie I would not share the whole story until he is gone. I am sad to say that time is near. I wish he could go on forever, but none of us do, and he made me promise to show what happened before I’m gone, so I’m gonna do that.
Besides, if I didn’t Indie’d cuss me in heaven for all time and I can’t have that. We were too good a friends.