Dr. Oliver (Novella Teaser)

The Court Jester Stanczyk Receives News of the Loss of Smolensk During a Ball at Queen Bona’s Court (1862) by Matejko

Slouched outside the small clinic’s door with eyes closed and chin on chest, Karl made one last search for any possible excuse. Finding none, he took a deep breath, opened the door, and muttered an apprehensive, “Morning, Doctor,” with as much life as he could muster.

Dr. Oliver, thoroughly startled by the sudden entry, let out four yelps in quick succession. The first, from surprise. The next from the pain of hearing the first yelp through his stethoscope, which just happened to be buried in his mouth at the time. Another from the pain of reflexively yanking the stethoscope out of his ears. And one last yelp out of sheer embarrassment, as much for the compromising state his guest had found him in as for the four girly yelps.

Sufficiently rattled and without much social protocol to guide them, each stood and stared at the other blankly. After a few moments of silent wonder, Karl ventured, “Are–Are you alright?”

Taking quick stock of any salvageable pride, he blurted, “Quite. Quite alright.” with as much poise as possible, waiving the question off with one hand and straightening his suit with the other. “It was a mere experiment, you see. Doctor stuff. Science and whatnot.”

“Right” Karl responded, letting the poor excuse slide. “Anyway, I’m here for my checkup.”

“Of course. Yes, of course.” Oliver said, still with an air of overcompensation. “And what exac’ly we checkin’ up on again?”

Already beginning to regret the visit, he answered, “Well, all of it, I suppose.”

“All of it? But what about yer economunism?” He remarked while struggling to squeeze his gut between the wall and the examination table separating him and Karl.

“My communism,” he corrected for what seemed like the hundredth time. “It’s called communism. And what does that have to do with the price of tea in Prussia?”

“There ya go again, makin’ me do all your werk for ya.” he said, finally popping out the other side of the cranny.

“Oliver! Please! What are you on about?” He pressed with irritation growing in his voice.

Oliver, distracted by his accomplishment, looked up with a proud grin to Karl’s steely scowl right above him. “Oh! Right! Well, first yous come in without the dec’ncy of having first found yer problem. No, instead, ya want me to play detec’ive for therdy minutes while you jus’ sit back n’ enjoy the ride. Then ya start makin’ me answer these economy questions fer ya like how yer economunims affec’s tea prices in Prussia n whatsnot.” He paused for a second to catch his breath. “But I thought yous said wes suppose to do tha davisions of labor. Doctor do doctor stuff, patient do patient stuff, and economunist do economunist stuff.”

Karl was massaging his eyes in frustration. “No! I said division of labor is poisonous to the human spirit and alienates the working man. It cannot be allowe–”

“Makes ‘em higher” he casually interrupted.


“Economunism makes em higher. The tea prices, that is.”

“What do yo–Wha–Why?”

“Well, if one guy in Prussia’s gotta go all tha way ta Inya ta get tha tea leaves, dehydrate ‘em in tha Chinese fact’ries, mine tha tin and shape it inta cans, package the tea in tha cans, n’ bring ‘em all tha way back ta Prussia, I suppose the price would go up.”

Taken aback, Karl responded defensively, “Well, not all division of labor is all bad. For example, you should leave the economics to experts like me. And I shouldn’t have to diagnose my health problems; that’s your job. Got it?”

“I think so. Jus’ one more question.” Dr. Oliver said making a quite serious face.

“And what, pray tell, would that be?”

“Will you be pay’n cash or labor?” His lungs collapsed with the bellowing outpour of laughter while Karl swore to a God he didn’t believe in that he would find another doctor if it was the death of him.


To Oscar Wilde who taught me The Importance of Being Earnest.

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