Finley Peter Dunne: Drugs


[ Today I’d like to offer a bit from Finley Peter Dunne’s Mister Dooley Says, and a little bit about medicine. I know that Mister Dooley bits can be challenging to read, but, there’s several lines in here, including the close, that I think are worth the effort required. ]

“What ails ye?” asked Mr. Dooley of Mr. Hennessy, who looked dejected.

“I’m a sick man,” said Mr. Hennessy.

“Since th’ picnic?”

“Now that I come to think iv it, it did begin th’ day afther th’ picnic,” said Mr. Hennessy. “I’ve been to see Dock O’Leary. He give me this an’ these here pills an’ some powdhers besides. An’ d’ye know, though I haven’t taken anny iv thim yet, I feel betther already.”

“Well, sir,” said Mr. Dooley, “’tis a grand thing to be a doctor. A man that’s a doctor don’t have to buy anny funny papers to enjye life. Th’ likes iv ye goes to a picnic an’ has a pleasant, peaceful day in th’ counthry dancin’ breakdowns an’ kickin’ a football in th’ sun an’ ivry fifteen minyits or so washin’ down a couple of dill-pickles with a bottle of white pop. Th’ next day ye get what’s comin’ to ye in th’ right place an’ bein’ a sthrong, hearty man that cudden’t be kilt be annything less thin a safe fallin’ on ye fr’m a twenty-story building ye know ye ar-re goin’ to die. Th’ good woman advises a mustard plasther but ye scorn th’ suggestion. What good wud a mustard plasther be again this fatal epidemic that is ragin’ inside iv ye? Besides a mustard plasther wud hurt. So th’ good woman, frivilous crather that she is, goes back to her wurruk singin’ a light chune. She knows she’s goin’ to have to put up with ye f’r some time to come. A mustard plasther, Hinnissy, is th’ rale test iv whether a pain is goin’ to kill ye or not. If the plasther is onbearable ye can bet th’ pain undherneath it is not.

“But ye know ye are goin’ to die an’ ye’re not sure whether ye’ll send f’r Father Kelly or th’ doctor. Ye finally decide to save up Father Kelly f’r th’ last an’ ye sind f’r th’ Dock. Havin’ rescued ye fr’m th’ jaws iv death two or three times befure whin ye had a sick headache th’ Dock takes his time about comin’, but just as ye are beginnin’ to throw ye’er boots at th’ clock an’ show other signs iv what he calls rigem mortar, he rides up in his fine horse an’ buggy. He gets out slowly, one foot at a time, hitches his horse an’ ties a nose bag on his head. Thin he chats f’r two hundherd years with th’ polisman on th’ beat. He tells him a good story an’ they laugh harshly.

“Whin th’ polisman goes his way th’ Dock meets th’ good woman at th’ dure an’ they exchange a few wurruds about th’ weather, th’ bad condition iv th’ sthreets, th’ health iv Mary Ann since she had th’ croup an’ ye’ersilf. Ye catch th’ wurruds, ‘Grape Pie,’ ‘Canned Salmon,’ ‘Cast-iron digestion.’ Still he doesn’t come up. He tells a few stories to th’ childher. He weighs th’ youngest in his hands an’ says: ‘That’s a fine boy ye have, Mrs. Hinnissy. I make no doubt he’ll grow up to be a polisman.’ He examines th’ phottygraft album an’ asks if that isn’t so-an’-so. An’ all this time ye lay writhin’ in mortal agony an’ sayin’ to ye’ersilf: ‘Inhuman monsther, to lave me perish here while he chats with a callous woman that I haven’t said annything but What? to f’r twinty years.’

“Ye begin to think there’s a conspiracy against ye to get ye’er money befure he saunters into th’ room an’ says in a gay tone: ‘Well, what d’ye mane be tyin’ up wan iv th’ gr-reat industhrees iv our nation be stayin’ away fr’m wurruk f’r a day?’ ‘Dock,’ says ye in a feeble voice, ‘I have a tur’ble pain in me abdumdum. It reaches fr’m here to here,’ makin’ a rough sketch iv th’ burned disthrict undher th’ blanket. ‘I felt it comin’ on last night but I didn’t say annything f’r fear iv alarmin’ me wife, so I simply groaned,’ says ye.

“While ye ar-re describin’ ye’er pangs, he walks around th’ room lookin’ at th’ pictures. Afther ye’ve got through he comes over an says: ‘Lave me look at ye’er tongue. ‘Hum,’ he says, holdin’ ye’er wrist an’ bowin’ through th’ window to a frind iv his on a sthreet car. ‘Does that hurt?’ he says, stabbin’ ye with his thumbs in th’ suburbs iv th’ pain. ‘Ye know it does,’ says ye with a groan. ‘Don’t do that again. Ye scratched me.’ He hurls ye’er wrist back at ye an’ stands at th’ window lookin’ out at th’ firemen acrost th’ sthreet playin’ dominoes. He says nawthin’ to ye an’ ye feel like th’ prisoner while th’ foreman iv th’ jury is fumblin’ in his inside pocket f’r th’ verdict. Ye can stand it no longer. ‘Dock,’ says he, ‘is it annything fatal? I’m not fit to die but tell me th’ worst an’ I will thry to bear it. ‘Well,’ says he, ‘ye have a slight interioritis iv th’ semi-colon. But this purscription ought to fix ye up all right. Ye’d betther take it over to th’ dhrug sthore an’ have it filled ye’ersilf. In th’ manetime I’d advise ye to be careful iv ye’er dite. I wudden’t ate annything with glass or a large percintage iv plasther iv Paris in it.’ An’ he goes away to write his bill.

“I wondher why ye can always read a doctor’s bill an’ ye niver can read his purscription. F’r all ye know, it may be a short note to th’ dhruggist askin’ him to hit ye on th’ head with a pestle. An’ it’s a good thing ye can’t read it. If ye cud, ye’d say: ‘I’ll not cash this in at no dhrug store. I’ll go over to Dooley’s an’ get th’ rale thing.’ So, afther thryin’ to decipher this here corner iv a dhress patthern, ye climb into ye’er clothes f’r what may be ye’er last walk up Ar-rchy Road. As ye go along ye begin to think that maybe th’ Dock knows ye have th’ Asiatic cholery an’ was onl’y thryin’ to jolly ye with his manner iv dealin’ with ye. As ye get near th’ dhrug store ye feel sure iv it, an’ ’tis with th’ air iv a man without hope that ye hand th’ paper to a young pharmycist who is mixin’ a two-cent stamp f’r a lady customer. He hands it over to a scientist who is compoundin’ an ice-cream soda f’r a child, with th’ remark: ‘O’Leary’s writin’ is gettin’ worse an’ worse. I can’t make this out at all.’ ‘Oh,’ says th’ chemist, layin’ down his spoon, ‘that’s his old cure f’r th’ bellyache. Ye’ll find a bucket iv it in th’ back room next to th’ coal scuttle.’

“It’s a gr-reat medicine he give ye. It will do ye good no matther what ye do with it. I wud first thry poorin’ some iv it in me hair. If that don’t help ye see how far ye can throw th’ bottle into th’ river. Ye feel betther already. Ye ought to write to th’ medical journals about th’ case. It is a remarkable cure. ‘M—— H—— was stricken with excruciating tortures in th’ gastric regions followin’ an unusually severe outing in th’ counthry. F’r a time it looked as though it might be niciss’ry to saw out th’ infected area, but as this wud lave an ugly space between legs an’ chin, it was determined to apply Jam. Gin. VIII. Th’ remedy acted instantly. Afther carryin’ th’ bottle uncorked f’r five minyits in his inside pocket th’ patient showed signs iv recovery an’ is now again in his accustomed health.’

“Yes, sir, if I was a doctor I’d be ayether laughin’ or cryin’ all th’ time. I’d be laughin’ over th’ cases that I was called into whin I wasn’t needed an’ cryin’ over th’ cases where I cud do no good. An’ that wud be most iv me cases.

“Dock O’Leary comes in here often an’ talks medicine to me. ‘Ye’ers is a very thrying pro-fissyon,’ says I. ‘It is,’ says he. ‘I’m tired out,’ says he. ‘Have ye had a good manny desprit cases to-day?’ says I. ‘It isn’t that,’ says he, ‘but I’m not a very muscular man,’ he says, ‘an’ some iv th’ windows in these old frame houses are hard to open,’ he says. Th’ Dock don’t believe much in dhrugs. He says that if he wasn’t afraid iv losin’ his practice he wudn’t give annybody annything but quinine an’ he isn’t sure about that. He says th’ more he practises medicine th’ more he becomes a janitor with a knowledge iv cookin’. He says if people wud on’y call him in befure they got sick, he’d abolish ivry disease in th’ ward except old age an’ pollyticks. He says he’s lookin’ forward to th’ day whin th’ tillyphone will ring an’ he’ll hear a voice sayin’: ‘Hurry up over to Hinnissy’s. He niver felt so well in his life.’ ‘All right, I’ll be over as soon as I can hitch up th’ horse. Take him away fr’m th’ supper table at wanst, give him a pipeful iv tobacco an’ walk him three times around th’ block.’

“But whin a man’s sick, he’s sick an’ nawthin’ will cure him or annything will. In th’ old days befure ye an’ I were born, th’ doctor was th’ barber too. He’d shave ye, cut ye’er hair, dye ye’er mustache, give ye a dhry shampoo an’ cure ye iv appindicitis while ye were havin’ ye’er shoes shined be th’ naygur. Ivry gineration iv doctors has had their favrite remedies. Wanst people were cured iv fatal maladies be applications iv blind puppies, hair fr’m the skulls iv dead men an’ solutions iv bat’s wings, just as now they’re cured be dhrinkin’ a tayspoonful iv a very ordhinary article iv booze that’s had some kind iv a pizenous weed dissolved in it.

“Dhrugs, says Dock O’Leary, are a little iv a pizen that a little more iv wud kill ye. He says that if ye look up anny poplar dhrug in th’ ditchnry ye’ll see that it is ‘A very powerful pizen of great use in medicine.’ I took calomel at his hands f’r manny years till he told me that it was about the same thing they put into Rough on Rats. Thin I stopped. If I’ve got to die, I want to die on th’ premises.

“But, as he tells me, ye can’t stop people from takin’ dhrugs an’ ye might as well give thim something that will look important enough to be inthrojuced to their important an’ fatal cold in th’ head. If ye don’t, they’ll leap f’r the patent medicines. Mind ye, I haven’t got annything to say again patent medicines. If a man wud rather take thim thin dhrink at a bar or go down to Hop Lung’s f’r a long dhraw, he’s within his rights. Manny a man have I known who was a victim iv th’ tortures iv a cigareet cough who is now livin’ comfortable an’ happy as an opeem fiend be takin’ Doctor Wheezo’s Consumption Cure. I knew a fellow wanst who suffered fr’m spring fever to that extent that he niver did a day’s wurruk. To-day, afther dhrinkin’ a bottle of Gazooma, he will go home not on’y with th’ strenth but th’ desire to beat his wife. There is a dhrug store on ivry corner an’ they’re goin’ to dhrive out th’ saloons onless th’ govermint will let us honest merchants put a little cocaine or chloral in our cough-drops an’ advertise that it will cure spinal minigitis. An’ it will, too, f’r awhile.”

“Don’t ye iver take dhrugs?” asked Mr. Hennessy.

“Niver whin I’m well,” said Mr. Dooley. “Whin I’m sick, I’m so sick I’d take annything.”

Author: Joseph Nebus

I was born 198 years to the day after Johnny Appleseed. The differences between us do not end there. He/him.

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