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More than just another pretty farce

Bob Morrissey


One thing about my dermatologist, Dr. Swalley: I never know what to expect when I come in for an appointment.


Every second or third year he examines my nose, checking to see if my cancer’s returned. He’s been doing this for 15 years and his routine never varies. He sits me down, looks at my nose, tells me all’s well — and  asks if I want a Kleenex. This takes all of 15 seconds, so it’s no wonder sometimes he doesn’t remember me.


And this week was no exception. Unprepared as usual, he greeted me with a friendly “and you’re …”


“Bob,’’ I said.


“Ah, herpes!”


“No such luck,” I said. “That would imply I’m sexually active, when nothing could be further from the truth. “It’s my nose.”


“What about it?”


“Every few years you check to see if my cancer’s returned. Sometimes, if you’re not too busy, you’ll run your fingers through my scalp, looking for sores. So far all you’ve found is dandruff … and a bobby pin, that one time.”


By now I could sense Dr. Swalley was getting impatient. My last appointment was three years ago and he still couldn’t place me.


“Well, let’s have a look,” he said, ushering me over to his examination table. Three seconds later, he again pronounced my nose cancer free. Swalley couldn’t have looked more bored if he tried. He was about to send me on my way when I asked, “See you again in three years? Jeez, I’m 81. I might not be around.”


“Hmm,” he said, “I might not be around, either. I’m thinking of retiring.”


Never one to pass up a chance to be punny, I said, “Please, don’t do anything rash.” Then I added, “I heard the rumour but I didn’t believe it.”


Said Swalley: “Do you mind telling me where the rumour came from? It wasn’t from here, was it?”


Time for another pun. “Could be. I’m afraid there might be a mole in the office.”


Swalley stared daggers at me. “I don’t believe it,” he said. You’re lying.”


I parried with, “Why would I lie when I don’t have any skin in the game?”


Take that, you pimple pusher.


By now my epidermis was getting redder by the second. Time to turn down the heat. “Let’s stop quibbling,” I said. “I’ve been your patient for 15 years. We’ve been through a lot together: nose cancer, acne, cold sores, heat rash, moles, warts, skin tags, zits, sunburn — you name it.”


“You forgot ED,” said Swalley. “Not that I was any help.”


I ignored that last little bit and said, “And through it all I’ve been an exemplary patient.”


“I wouldn’t go quite that far,” said Swalley, his face taking on a nostalgic look. “But I’ll say this: you’re a lot better patient than Ronnie Wood was.”


I was shocked. “You mean the Rolling Stone? You actually treated a member of the Stones?”


“Yes, he came all the way from Ottawa where they were performing.”


“What was his problem?”


“It wouldn’t be right for me to say.”


Then Swalley cringed. “My God, his face! What a mess. It looked like they held a track meet on it.”


“Poor guy,” I said.


“Not really,” said Swalley. “He thought his looks were fine. Didn’t  bother him at all. In fact, during my examination, I had to leave the room for a minute to take an urgent call. When I returned I could hear him singing: “My face, is a very, very, very fine face, with two holes in my nose and pock marks by the loads …”


And so ended my appointment.


“I’ll see you in a year,” said the good doctor, a ho-hum look on his face. “Hopefully, you’ll come in with something a little more interesting.”


Hopefully, I won’t.

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