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I am laid back about emergencies; the little boy has cried “WOLF!” once too often for me. Fax a photo of the wolf chewing on his scrotum, I say, and I might think about it. But the chains of our solemn office bind tightly; when we are called, we gotta go, no matter how bizarre the circumstances.
One day a little kangaroo hopped into the surgery, making urgent chittering noises. I love wild creatures, so I reached for my gun; stuffed and mounted, I thought, it would make a nice trophy for the waiting room, maybe scare the kids a bit, keep them out in the fresh air and away from the health centre and all those superbugs.
“Wait, doc!” my patient shouted, just before I squeezed the trigger, “He's trying to tell us something . . . something about a little girl, bottom of a cliff, broken leg, may need a splint, analgesia, and a drip.”
“Thanks a million, Dr Doolittle,” I said.
When we got there the mandatory crowd had gathered, and there was already a festive mood; a few tinnies had been cracked open and the scent of barbecued ribs graced the air. A little blonde-haired girl, unmistakably and adorably Aryan, lay at the bottom of the traditional cliff. I noted, with a fatal satisfaction, that the cliff looked on the verge of collapse. Someone had inexplicably obtained a park ranger's uniform, and he called me over, unsuccessfully trying to conceal his enormous enjoyment.
“Her leg's real crook, doc,” he said, “you better get down there.”
I was in my good clothes, it was muddy; where were all those paramedics in combats when you need them, I thought.
Eventually I got down, signing a few autographs and reluctantly dismissing a groupie on my way.
“It's a sprain,” I shouted up, and a ripple of fascinated horror went through the crowd; “A sprain, a sprain,” they wailed, like a sweaty and inebriated Greek chorus.
“The copter's on its way, doc,” said the park ranger enthusiastically, “but we'll have to MacGyver a stretcher from didgeridoos and wombat hides.”
“Actually, a sprain's not too bad,” I said, professional integrity outweighing the need to consummate the melodrama, “Up you get, girlie.” A little pinch emphasised my authority and she got to her feet reluctantly; the crowd began to drift away, giving me disapproving looks. Diverting from the original script was obviously considered bad taste.
Skippy reappeared: “Something about a cave, a landslide, two kids, a pneumothorax, a chest drain, and . . . ”
A single shot echoed through the eucalyptus groves, and far away a flock of parakeets rose, their wings golden in the sunset as the credits rolled for the last time.