Kinky

Troubles at the Table
May 16, 2016
Galvin’s Ducks
May 16, 2016

Kinky

Every practice should have a triage specialist like her

Doctor Fingal Flaherty O’Reilly wasn’t the only character in the practice. Mrs. Kincaid, widow, native of County Kerry, known to one and all as “Kinky,” functioned as his housekeeper-cum-receptionist-cum-nurse. She was a big woman, middle-aged, with big hands and blue eyes that could twinkle like the dew on the grass in the morning sun when she was in an expansive mood — or flash like lightning when she was enraged. She treated Doctor O’Reilly with due deference when he behaved himself and sub-Arctic frigidity when he didn’t. She was the only person I knew who could bring him to heel. In her native county she would have been known as “a powerful woman.”
When she was acting in her nursing role, Kinky’s speciality was triage. Cerberus at the gates to Hades might have done a fair to middling job keeping the unworthy in the underworld, but when it came to protecting her doctors’ time from the malingerers of the town, Kinky made the fabled dog look like an edentulous pussy cat. Not only did she get rid of them, she did so with diplomatic skills that would have been the envy of the American ambassador to the Court of St. James.
I began to appreciate her talents one January evening. It had been a tough week. We were in the middle of a ’flu epidemic and O’Reilly, who’d been without much sleep for about four days, had prevailed upon me to come and help him out. By the week’s end both of us were knackered. We were sitting in the surgery, me on the examination couch, O’Reilly slumped in the swivel chair. The last patient had left and as far as I knew no emergency calls had come in. O’Reilly’s usually ruddy complexion was pallid and his eyes red-rimmed, the whole face looking like two tomatoes in a snowbank. I didn’t like to think about my own appearance. He massaged his right shoulder with his left hand. “God,” he said, “I hope that’s the last of it for tonight.” As he spoke the front door bell rang. “Bugger!” said O’Reilly.
I started to rise but he shook his head. “Leave it. Kinky will see who it is.”
The door to the surgery was ajar. I could hear the conversation quite clearly, Kinky’s soft Kerry brogue contrasting sharply with harsher, female tones. I thought I recognized the second speaker, and when I heard Kinky refer to her as “Maggie,” I realized that the caller was the woman who’d come to see O’Reilly complaining of headaches that were located about two inches above the crown of her head. She was in and out of the surgery on a weekly basis. The prospect of having to see her was not pleasant. I needn’t have worried.
“The back is it, Maggie?” Kinky’s inquiry was dulcet.
“Something chronic,” came the reply.
“Oh dear. And how long has it been bothering you?”
“For weeks.”
“Weeks is it?” The concern never wavered. “Well, we’ll have to get you seen as soon as we can.”
I shuddered, for it was my turn to see the next patient, but O’Reilly simply smiled, shook his head and held one index finger in front of his lips.
“Pity you’ll have to wait. The young doctor’s out on an emergency. He shouldn’t be more than two or three hours. You will wait, won’t you?”
I heard the sibilant indrawing of breath and could picture Maggie’s frustration. I heard her harrumph. “It’s the proper doctor that I want to see, not that young lad.”
So much for the undying respect of the citizens for their medical advisors. I glanced at O’Reilly and was rewarded with a smug grin.
“Ah,” said Kinky, “Ah, well now, that’s the difficulty of it. Doctor O’Reilly’s giving a pint of his own blood this very minute, the darling man.”
“Mrs. Kincaid” — Maggie didn’t sound as if she was going to be taken in — “that has to be the fifth pint of blood you’ve told me about him giving this month.”
I waited to see how Kinky would wriggle out of that one. I needn’t have worried, as I heard her say with completely convincing sincerity, “And is that not what you’d expect from Doctor O’Reilly, him the biggest-hearted man in the town. Goodnight. Maggie. I heard the door close. As I told you, O’Reilly wasn’t the only character in the practice.

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