Chapter 2: Impatient Patient
The following letter was saved for posterity by our typesetter, Phyllis Tyne. She had applied it to a gas ring, in order to light the revolting stuff she puts into a clay pipe – we haven’t quite caught up with the smoking thing. At the last instant, she realised that the communication might be of interest to some readers. No-one here knows how we came by this item, nor (barring receipt of a confession) are we likely to find out, as the top of the single page was singed by the flames, which obliterated the writer’s name and address, and the signature was unreadable. Anyway, here it is:
Dear Mr X
I write concerning the letter sent to you some time ago by my GP. Regrettably, I do not recall the exact date, as the matter has been obscured by intervening festive seasons, anniversaries, family birthdays, annual holidays, etc., from all of which I infer that you are indeed as overburdened as my doctor feared. You may recall that the problem is a cyst on my right knee.
As it is clearly necessary to alleviate your workload, I have decided to perform the operation myself. I have little medical knowledge, but have been fortunate enough to procure a copy of a book entitled ‘Surgery on the Hoof’, written for the inhabitants of the American Frontier. Although the work was published in 1802, I imagine that basic procedures have not changed much in the meantime. I have assembled almost all the required equipment, much of which, being an average householder, I had to hand. My wife has provided an extra-large ironing board, not dissimilar in shape and size to an operating table. I shall use this as my base, since I do not wish to incur the wrath of the distaff side by possibly defacing our teak dining surface.
My other items comprise an excellent horn-handled knife – a family heirloom – and a small silver mustard spoon. Here, I would have preferred stainless steel, but we do not live in a perfect world. The knife already has a keen edge, but not wishing to leave anything to chance, I shall hone it thoroughly and afterwards dip it in hot water – essential because the oilstone I intend to use has been lying open in my toolbox for over twenty years.