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FICTION on the WEB short stories by Charlie Fish

The Fast Track
by Reid Galler

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After years of waiting on a long list of less fortunate applicants to the Harvard College of Medicine - where the cost of tuition alone overshadows many a yearly salary - I made the sound decision to move to Havana, Cuba, where the wait to get into medical school is nearly non-existent and the tuition itself is free!

Close to receiving the degree of Medical Doctor after one very difficult semester - which by the way is a normal time frame at the University of Havana - I decided to exercise this newly attained knowledge on the lucky people back home in the good old U. S. of A, but before I could, I had to pass one more very stringent exam to prove that my skills were up to par, and waited my turn to visit with the head doctor of the school.

Quietly, I sat in my mentor's office and nervously scanned through a copy of the latest American Medical Journal as I waited. Finally, the door which led to the outer hallway opened and in walked the most respected surgeon in Cuba... the illustrious Doctor San Diego.

His bleached, white smock mysteriously awash in blood, I had to believe that he'd only moments before performed some major surgery and found myself formulating a question in my mind, one that appeared all too tempting to ask, and one that could wait no longer... "Doctor Diego," I began. "Everyone at the college knows your knowledge and skills are beyond compare, but my curiosity has peaked I must confess... have you performed a heart transplant just now, or another surgery of the like? I wish you had told me sooner, I would have cherished the chance to assist you."

"No, Señor Laurence," he remarked boldly as he strode to the sink to wash his hands. "Only one of the students here has sprained an ankle. Now then, tell me. Are you ready for your final exam? We have much to do."

"Oh yes Doctor, I am. You have no idea how long I've waited for this."

"Very well," he replied. "Follow me then to your destiny - however good or bad it may be - it's all up to you now."

"I won't let you down Doctor Diego," I said, as we left his office and walked down the long corridor. "It is my dream come true to make you and the entire staff here proud to have allowed me the honor of attending this fine institution."

"Well put Señor Laurence," added the instructor and surgeon, while he opened the door to one of the many patient rooms at the hospital which were filled with the many sick and injured of Cuba. "Now then, let's take a look at this patient's chart, shall we," he said, pointing to the first of three of the patients which occupied the small room. "Pick up his chart," he ordered, in a most commanding tone. "What does it say?"

"It says this woman has Tourette's syndrome and was found in the middle of a crowded restaurant shouting inappropriate words such as 'sheeny'; 'spic'; 'dago'; 'mick'; and the like. Local police then escorted her to the hospital here where she was recently admitted."


"And what?" I asked.

"Tell me what you would do for her. What medicines or procedures would you apply?"

"I would wait for a wonderful, sunny day," I began. "And I would drive her to a most beautiful promontory overlooking the ocean, tell her to look out at the waves as they come crashing to shore, and humanely push her off the cliff."

"Is that all?"

"No Doctor Diego. I would be thinking at all time that I must be quick and merciful, and to always uphold the moral code of ethics you and the other doctors here have taught me."

"Excellent," replied Señor Diego. "From this, I see you are able to think on your feet. A valuable commodity to any good doctor. Now then, let us go to the next patient. Pick up this man's chart," he continued, as we moved over to the next unfortunate case in the room. "Read it to me, what does he suffer from?"

"The chart says that he believes he is a chicken, and that there are no drugs known to man that will make him believe otherwise. Everything has been tried, and all attempts to bring him back to reality have failed."

"And so, Señor Laurence, tell me what you would do. How would you treat this illness?"

"Doctor Diego," I answered. "I would do nothing. Nothing at all."

"And why is that?"

"Because I could always use the eggs Señor, that is why."

"I see," replied my well known instructor. "That is both logical and benevolent. I am beginning to trust your diagnostic abilities all the more, even as the mounting pressure of this exam grows ever greater."

"Thank you Doctor San Diego. I find myself deeply in your debt, as without your lessons, I would have neither the knowledge or skills required to pass such sound judgement."

"Yes, I know. We have a fine school of medicine here, do we not?"

"Most assuredly, we do señor."

"Very well then," said my prominent mentor. "Follow me to the next patient." And without hesitation, I walked proudly to the next and last ailing person in the room, picked up the chart at the foot of her bed and began to read...

"It says that although this woman came to us for liposuction, the surgeon mistakenly gave her a hysterectomy. Now it seems she wants to sue the hospital and the doctor in charge."

"So tell me then, Señor Laurence. How would you treat the case? What is to be done now that we have made a mistake such as this?"

"I would destroy all evidence that this woman ever received treatment here and deny all charges completely and irrefutably."

"Excellent!" remarked my learned teacher. "You have not only passed your final exam, but you have scored a very high 'A+'. I cannot bestow any greater honor on you, but if I could, I would. Do you have any advice to offer other students that will one day soon be walking in your footsteps?"

"Only that I'm so glad," I said. "To have fulfilled my dream of becoming a doctor. It is so important to me to know that I did not take the easy way out and earn my M.D. over the internet or by correspondence school as others may have... Also, I would like to remind them that all the world should be thankful that institutions of higher learning still exist where degrees and ethics cannot be cheaply acquired but are hard won - or in other words - that anything worth having is worth working for. Lastly, don't settle for second best; in yourself; in your education; or in your career, or in the end, you may find yourself rich, famous and greatly loathed."

"Well put Doctor Laurence. I could not have said it better myself."

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