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The Doctor - Chapter 1

by Armadillo 

Posted: 30 October 2013
Word Count: 1007

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In the Wellington station a crowd gathered about the platform, each member a stranger to the other so that they coldly read their papers, frankly and without smiles. The occasional person dared to glance about them at the faces, looking downwards when they caught sight of someone they somewhat knew. One of these was Charles Favell. His stinging eyes weren’t used to the gusty gales of Wellington, though they were its frequent companion compared with the people he saw. How fat they were! What were they eating? His eyes followed a woman waddling along the platform. When she noticed him staring Charles quickly resumed his shoe-reading. It was the man behind her he knew. George Brinsdon. Had he come to live here too? Charles dropped his eyes as George scanned the faces along the seats. It was as he expected: George either didn’t remember him, or he still disliked Charles, who beat him in all the medical exams in their young days. Charles continued watching his movements indirectly, seeing him out of the corner of his eye entering the carriage and sitting down at a window. Charles whipped open his newspaper as if the wind wanted him to, and started reading some politics he knew nothing about nor from which he had the faintest desire to retain anything. The carriage began to move. Charles peered over the page and George’s eyes met his. Charles’ first suspicion was confirmed. George waved at him, eyebrows raised and flatly smiling.

“All buses will be replacing trains from platform 3, all buses replacing trains platform 3”. The crowd seemed to become friends after the woman’s announcement on the overhead.

“Typical” said a woman, her eyes rolling ironically. “Yes isn’t it” said a man. “I tell you yesterday was worst of all.” Charles battled with his newspaper, before joining the exodus to the bus terminal. “Buses again” said the waddling lady.

“Sorry, were you speaking to me?” said Charles.


“Oh yes sorry, I don’t know much about the train routine, it’s my first time.”

“You don’t say?”

“Just arrived from England” said Charles. She rubbed her arms, looked in her purse, and stared at him abstractly. At the terminal the people were disgruntled, but in an altogether gossipy way, as if the train delay had made them happier. The people were roused and full of expression. A tour bus arrived, though no tourists alighted from it. The faces were fully awakened as they filed into the bus. Charles sat down at the front.

“Ah it’s you again” said the lady, struggling to climb the steps like a toddler recently progressed from crawling.

“Patsy” she said, holding out her hand. He shook it. A giggle escaped him. “You’re a jolly one!”

“Yes why not?” he said, trying to push out of his mind the time he filled a rubber glove plump with water, like the hand he shook. “I’m Charles.”

“And what brings you to New Zealand?”

“I’m a doctor, though I’ll be doing some teaching here at the University”

“Will you be seeing patients?”

“Yes I’m a cardiologist.” Her eyes grew bigger than their pin-holes.

“I must take a card.”

“I’m sorry?”

“Your card. So I can make an appointment.”

“Oh –

“Yes it’s in the family, heart problems. I’m due for a check up.”

“I will have to –

“Will you come to my house?”

“Well –

“I don’t get out much, it’s hard you see –

“Here’s my phone number, it shouldn’t be a problem.” Glancing out and seeing his stop, he stood up and squeezed past her. "I'll call you” she said in a desperate strain.

Charles sighed. Staring up at the steep incline of the street, he sighed again. And as he thought of his job, the irony struck him that he should be so unfit, his pulse tripling the speed of the second hand on his watch.

Charles thought nothing of the fat lady on the bus; though she thought so much of him that if it were divided between the two they would be as if madly in love. Had he a wife? Children? Ah what a well-to-do man was this Doctor Charles.

“I met a wonderful man today on the Bus. He’s from England” said Patsy to her daughter.

“Pass the salt.”

“I met a Doctor from England” she said, as if this country had a significance that ought to be recognised by Maryann.

“I see.”

“Much nicer than the other fellow you’ve been seeing. He’s English too isn’t he? Say, I’ve been having a bit of heartburn lately.”

“We’ve Gavascon in the cupboard. That’s worked for me in the past.”

“No no, perhaps I need… an appointment.”
Maryann finally looked at her mother for the second time that day. A crashing despair swept over her, remembering what her father always told her. Life dropped one of its little hints of mystery as her father burst through the door.

“Ah look at my lovely ladies, so alike. Sorry I’m late dear.” He stooped to kiss her puckered lips, not realising it was because her mouth was full. “Don’t get up, don’t get up” he said, “I’ll serve it myself”. With an air of arrogance, though to him it was duty, he swaggered towards the kitchen. The comment about the doctor was made and Patsy decided to leave it for now. There would be a more tactful time for it to flourish. She looked at the flowers through the window, tapping as if they wanted to be inside. The white roses were in full bloom. Ah such a waste to have them concealed in the dark. She gazed at Maryann, elegantly eating her dinner, and glancing about the room with her inner interior designer at work. There was a waste also.

“Ah!” said her husband from the kitchen. She closed her eyes and held her shaking forehead as confirmation came in the sound of a plate crashing to the floor. “You might have warned it was hot!”

“Ovens are often hot places” said Patsy.

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Comments by other Members

scampmacmil at 08:57 on 08 November 2013  Report this post
Hi Armadillo
A couple of minor points. 1st sentence - how about missing out 'the' and saying Wellington railway station. 2nd sentence - astoundingly for me came over a bit sexist. How about - them/they.
I liked the fat hand/glove analogy
I liked the way you leave us to find answers to the questions Maryann raises at the end
All the best Ian

Armadillo at 02:16 on 11 November 2013  Report this post
Hi Ian
Good point about the second sentence, I'll make the changes.

Wendy Mason at 09:02 on 05 December 2013  Report this post
This was an interesting scene setter introducing us to the characters. I liked the way you played with George and Charles before they acknowledged each other.

I found the part 'someone they somewhat knew' slightly difficult, I think its the word somewhat that does not seem quite right?

'There was a waste also.' I think this last sentence could be so much more interesting but I'm not sure where you are going with it. The link of the roses being outside being a waste is good but why is the interior designer bit a waste. Is it because she has failed to get the balance right, or that no one takes any notice? Why do we see her glancing at 'Maryann, elegantly eating her dinner' in the middle of the two other wastes unless she thinks her daughter is in some way a waste? Or will all be revealed later?

I look forward to reading more.

Armadillo at 03:01 on 06 December 2013  Report this post
Hi Wendy,

Thanks for the comments.

I know what you mean about the coupling of 'someone' and 'somewhat'. But 'somewhat' is exactly the word I mean. 'kinda' would sound dumb. I'm talking about those people who you see on passing and you know them, from years past, not enough to bounce over to them and talk to them.

'There was a waste also' - is alluding to Patsy's goal throughout the whole story - to get her daughter married to a well-suited man. There is her beautiful daughter, nearing her late twenties, and its a waste to see her not starting a family of her own (in Patsy's mind).

I hadn't posted the second chapter because I wondered whether anyone would read. Thanks for reading. I think i'll upload the second chapter now.


gavink at 17:51 on 22 December 2013  Report this post
Hi Tom,

I read this with interest. Here are a few points:

As already mentioned, you need to cut 'the' from in front of Wellington station; I expect you've already done this. Possibly could be specified as a train or railway station; however, a deeper issue for me was that I wasn't sure when this was set. Are these steam or electric trains? - the passage feels at times quite contemporary but at other times, particularly with the fairly formal register of language, old-fashioned.

Old fashioned: - a 'Doctor from England' (was Doctor intended to be capitalised?) being granted a lot of importance gave a slightly colonial atmosphere to the piece; 'Had he a wife' sounds a very stilted piece of internal monologue - surely, if this is contemporary, 'Was he married?' is more natural?

On the other hand, Gaviscon is I assume fairly modern, and a term like 'interior designer' places the piece in a contemporary setting. I think, although you describe things like the wind and people reading their papers well, there could be a bit more sensory detail to depict exactly the place and time of the story.

I would cut out 'so that' from the first sentence and end it there, then having 'They coldly read their papers' as the start of the next; so the reader infers the link between this behaviour and people being strangers, rather than you spelling it out. As commented by Wendy above, I wasn't keen on the jingle of 'someone' and 'somewhat' in the same sentence - how about 'partly' or 'half' before 'knew'?

There were some good images, though I might have referred to the doctor and Patsy shaking hands before mentioning the image of the rubber glove. Similarly, 'her eyes grew bigger than their pin-holes' seems a slightly odd order of exposition. Why not 'Her pin-hole eyes grew bigger'?

I like the undercurrent about wasted lives in the family scene. Like Wendy, I may have initially misread the sentence about the daughter and thought the glancing around interior-designer-style was referring to the mother. Possibly just referring to Maryann eating her dinner then going straight to the sentence on waste would make this clearer? Perhaps Maryann's career aspirations will feature more as the story progresses? I will be interested to see how it turns out.

Best wishes


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