Shortly we pulled into the Jackson Igo place, eighty acres, mostly rocks and hills, a shack and a sorry barn. Mr Igo cropped it a bit but it didn't seem possible that the place supported him and his thin, tired wife and his swarm of dirty children. Mostly Jackson Igo cleaned cesspools and built privies.
Some of those children and half a dozen dogs gathered round our buggy; one boy ran shouting into the house. Presently Mr Igo came out.
Father called out, ‘Jackson! '
‘Yeah, Doc. '
‘Get these dogs away from my rig. '
‘They ain't no harm. '
‘Do it. I won't have them jumping up on me. ' www.o-foreign.ru
‘Jest as you say, Doc. Cleveland! Jefferson! Get them hounds! Take ‘em around back. '
The order was carried out; Father got down with a quiet word over his shoulder, ‘Stay in the buggy. '
Father was inside their shack only a short time, which suited me, as the oldest boy, Caleb, my age or near it, was pestering me to get down and come see a new litter of pigs. I knew him from school, where he had attended fifth grade for some years. He was, in my opinion, a likely candidate for lynching if some father did not kill him first. I had to tell him to get away from Daisy and quit bothering her; he was causing her to toss her head and back away from him. I took the whip out of its socket to point up my words.
I was glad to see Father reappear.
He climbed into the buggy without a word. I clucked to Daisy and we got out of there. Father was frowning like a thunder cloud, so I kept quiet.
A quarter of a mile down the road he said, ‘Please pull over on to the grass, ' so I did, and said to Daisy, ‘Whoa, girl, ' and waited.
‘Thank you, Maureen. Will you help me wash, please? '
‘Certainly, sir. ' This buggy, used for his country calls and specially built by the carriage-wrights who built his racing sulkies, had a larger baggage space in the back, with a rain cover. In it was carried a number of items that Father might need on a call but which did not belong in his black bag. One was a coal-oil can with a spout, filled with water, and a tin basin, and soap and towelling.
This time he wanted me to pour water over his hands. Then he soaped them; I rinsed them by pouring. He shook them dry; then washed them all over again in the basin and dried them after shaking, on clean towelling.
He sighed. ‘That's better. I did not sit down in there, I did not touch anything I could avoid touching. Maureen, remember that bathtub we used in Chicago? '
‘I certainly do! ' The World's Fair had been an endless wonder and I'll never forget my first view of the Lake and my first ride on a railroad train up high in the air. .. but I dreamed about that tub, all white enamel, and hot water up to my chin. I could be seduced for a hot bath. They say every woman has her price. That's mine.
‘Mrs Malloy charged us two bits for each bath. This minute I would happily pay her two dollars. Maureen, I need glycerine and rose water. In my bag. Please. '
Father compounded this lotion himself and it was intended primarily for chapped hands. Right now he needed it to soothe his hands against the strong lye soap he had just used.
Once back on the road he said, ‘Maureen, that baby was dead long before Jackson Igo sent for me. Since last night, I estimate. '
I tried to feel sorry about that baby. But growing up in that household was no fate to wish on anyone. ‘Then why did he send for you? '
‘To bless the death. To get me to write a death certificate, to keep him from trouble with the law when he buries it. .. which he is probably doing this very minute. Primarily to cause me - and you - to make a six-mile round trip to save himself the trouble of harnessing his mule and coming into town. ' Father laughed without mirth. ‘He kept pointing out that I couldn't charge him for a call since I didn't get there before the baby died. I finally said, "Shut up, Jackson. You haven't paid me a cent since Cleveland beat Harrison. " He said something about hard times and how this administration never does anything for the farmer. '
Father sighed. I didn't argue with him; he had a point.
Maureen, you've been keeping my books this past year, would you say these were hard times? '
That brought me up sharp. I had been thinking about the Howard Foundation and Chuck's pretty penis. ‘I don't know, Father. But I know that you have far more on the books than you ever get paid. He noticed something else, too: the worst of the deadbeats would rather owe you a dollar for a house call than fifty cents for an office visit. Like Jackson Igo. '
‘Yes. He could have fetched that little cadaver in - never saw a child so dehydrated! - but I'm relieved that he did not; I don't want him in my clean clinic. .. or Adele's clean house. You've seen the books; do you estimate that collections are enough to support our family? Food, clothing, shelter, oats and hay, and a nickel for Sunday School? '
I thought about it. I knew my multiplication tables through twenty times twenty, same as everybody, and in high school I had been learning the delights of more advanced ciphering. But I had never applied any of it to our household affairs. Now I drew a blackboard in my mind and did some hard calculating.
‘Father. .. if they all paid you what they owe you, we would be quite comfortable. But they don't pay you, not enough of them. ' I thought. ‘Nevertheless we are comfortable. '
‘Maureen, if you don't want the Howard option, better marry a rich man. Not a country doctor. '
Presently he shrugged and smiled. ‘Don't worry about it. We'll keep food on the table even if I have to slide over into Kansas and rustle cattle. Shall we sing? "Pop Goes the Weasel" would be appropriate today. How is your weasel by now, dear? Sore? '
‘Father, you are a dirty old man and you will come to a bad end. '
‘I've always hoped so, but I've been too busy raising Kinder to raise Cain. Meant to tell you: someone else is interested in your welfare. Old lady Altschuler. '
‘So I know. ' I told him about her remark. ‘She thinks I'm Audrey. '
‘That unspeakable old cow. But she may not really think you are Audrey. She asked me what you were doing na the grandstand at the fairgrounds. '
‘Well! What did you tell her? '
‘I told her nit. Silence is all a snoopy question deserves. .. just fail to hear it. But the insult direct is still better. Which I handed that snapping turtle by ignoring her question and telling her next time to bathe before she comes to see me, as I found her personal hygiene to be less than adequate. She was not pleased. ' He smiled. ‘She may be so angry that she will switch to Dr Chadwick. One may hope. '
‘One may. So somebody saw us go up. Well, sir, they did not actually see us doing it' I told Father about the box heavy with weights. ‘Spectators would have to have been in a balloon. '