BMJ (Published 22 May 2008)Cite this as: BMJ 2008;336:1194
“Hurrah for Captain Spaulding,” I carolled as the door opened, which I thought quite droll, because his name, can you believe it, was Joe Spaulding. But the infectious bonhomie of Groucho Marx proved no defence against the horror that was to come; Joe was turning his back and pulling down his trousers even before the door was shut.
“Hold it right there, pal,” I said—but it was too late. I had no shotgun, and the cattle prod was on the blink.
“What do you think?” he asked.
This was an ambiguous question, and I deliberated for a long moment. I considered and rejected “I think you have beautiful soft skin” and “I think your buttocks are fine and taut— have you been working out?” before finally settling on, “I think I wish I was a thousand miles away, lying on a beach with a young lady massaging aromatic oils into my rippling muscles.” I’m not totally opposed to complementary medicine, you see; it has its place.
But this was the incorrect response, and Joe started to reverse, inch by dreadful inch. Denial is a powerful mechanism, but I could deny it no longer: Joe wanted me to peer closely and intimately between his cheeks.
Let me explain; I have always had a sensitive disposition. I don’t like actual physical contact (except when it involves certain types of complementary medicine). I don’t like touching patients; you never know where they’ve been. Anyway, this physical examination stuff is overrated. It’s for theatrical purposes only (to show How Much We Care). I’m a great believer in the primacy of the history.
“I’ve this awful rash,” the bare cheeks mimed, edging ever closer.
I retreated, but the cheeks kept coming, past sharp corners of desks, over a land mine (which, can you believe it, I’d won in a charity raffle). I emptied the sharps box, but the massive quivering buttocks ground inexorably closer, and the little needles lay squashed and pathetic, like Trojans on the banks of the Scamander as Achilles turned the river red.
I shrank back into a corner, a wild animal at bay.
“Alright, alright,” I sobbed, “I see it, I see it, it’s a rash, a rash.”
“What kind of rash?”
“An awful rash. Oh God, it’s awful. I’ll give you some cream.”
“And?” The buttocks wobbled threateningly, by now right in my face.
“Antibiotics—you need antibiotics,” I screamed, frantically scribbling on a prescription pad with averted eyes. And as a drowsy numbness pained my sense, with a final defiant gesture I signed it “Hugo Z Hackenbush.”