site map

To Do No Harm Russell Edson

A doctor, keeping to his promise to do no harm, keeps a spare old man with a white beard in his medical closet in case someone should choke to death on a tongue depressor. Then he presents the spare old man to the patient’s wife, in lieu of her husband, as another miracle of modern science—No extra charge for the beard.

Or, say he accidentally cooks a little girl to death with his x-ray machine, he can hide her under his white jacket and present the spare old man to the mother waiting in the waiting room, explaining that as he cooked her little girl she suddenly went into puberty, sprouting all kinds of secondary hair and nipples—Look, she even has a beard like a billy goat.

But even so, say the doctor should accidentally cut his own throat while shaving with his scalpel (this rarely happens), then he collapses into a pool of his own blood wondering if there is anything past death. If not, he simply fades into what he was before his mom and dad had groped each other in the dark.

And still no harm was done. . . .