In 1957 New Orleans was a happening place and almost anyone visiting for the first time would have found the place amazing. Theophise Martin, emerging from the bayou, thought he had landed on another planet – an impression confirmed by a giant billboard for the movie “Invasion of the Saucer Men”. As the bus passed another billboard, this time advertising “The Incredible Shrinking Man” … the student doctor smiled to himself and sat back in his seat.He had made it out of the Bayou and into the world (New Orleans may not have been the whole world, but it was a pretty representative slice of of everything in it – the best of everything according to any New Orleans Yat).
At the lodging house, he was shown to his room by a shy young creole woman, who helped him with his bags whilst bringing him some tea and trying to introduce herself all at the same time. As any introduction in New Orleans involved gestures involving at least two hands, she managed to spill everything except her name – which turned out to be Cecelia Dauphin. Cecelia was a student nurse but was presently employed (some might say over-employed) at her mother’s lodging house, fulfilling any position that needed filling.
In the evening, Theophise Martin made his way to the dining room for supper and was greeted cordially by the other guests. Service was again provided by Cecelia, who managed to avoid spilling everyone’s food except that of her fellow student, a fact which did not go unnoticed by Cecelia’s mother. After dinner, all present settled themselves around the salon. On the T.V. Donna Douglas (Miss New Orleans) was smiling for all she was worth on the Perry Como Show, which caused some good natured mutterings and the odd comparative comment in Cecelia’s direction, for the edification of the latest arrival (just in case he was blind)
1957 was also the year that the TV show American Bandstand began to broadcast and Dick Clark, brought Rock & Roll and Doo Wop into the living rooms of American teenagers every weekday – Monday through Friday. New Orleans artists were heavily featured (Professor Longhair being a particular favourite of Theophise, who appreciated not only his music, but the immortality that his records would bring).
It is now 1984, Dr. Marten is 45 years old and has his own clinic in a quiet street in NewOrleans. It is clear that the clinic is specialised and very private. No sign advertises its presence and the clinic building itself is set back far enough from the road to be hidden from view. Patients do not arrive every day by any means, but today two are expected. The Doctor and Nurses Cecelia were both waiting expectantly.
The first patient arrived at an otherwise completely empty reception. Moments later Nurse Cecelia opened a side-door and attracted the man’s attention simply by her presence. Not deeming speech neccessary, she held open the door for the man to enter the clinic proper. He was young and appeared to be unconcerned. The extent of the man’s cognisance was not of interest to the nurse. Any gaps in his awareness would be soon be filled literally and figuratively. Having led the man to the dressing room, Nurse Cecelia watched disinterestedly as he stripped naked. As she helped him into a surgical gown, the man’s musculature, the calluses on his knuckles and several scars did not escape her notice. Nurse Cecelia knew all about scars. “Dis man be trouble fuh sure.” Still, she mused, meal-tickets come in all shapes and sizes and no-one with any sense (at least no-one from New Orleans) turned away food. Gesturing for the man to sit, she picked up a razor from the trolley and proceeded to shave the man’s head.
Meanwhile, Dr. Martin was studying the MRI images which had been supplied by the man’s employers. The images showed the brain to be completely normal (a scan of any other part of the man would have revealed the same). This was not a surprise to Dr. Martin. Nurse Cecelia entered the operating theatre pushing a wheel-chair. The man hoisted himself onto the operating table, laid back and closed his eyes still seemingly unconcerned by what he must surely know was to follow. Dr. Martin locked eyes with his nurse, ground his teeth and began. The procedure lasted for 45 minutes.
As Nurse Cecelia conveyed the patient to the recovery room, Dr. Martin headed for the scrub room to prepare himself for the next. As he methodically stripped off his surgical gloves, a much-told story of Le Traiture’s filled his consciousness. The story was of ancient Greece. A story so old that even the ancient Greeks themselves told the story as a lesson learnt (or not) from long ago. It concerned a boy – a lump of clay into which the Gods had breathed life. The Gods had assumed that the life given would be spent praising the creators of that life. However, the boy, perhaps simply because he was human, was not inclined to give credit to anyone but himself. Whilst walking in the Arcadia Woods (sounding so close to the Louisianan Acadiana of Dr. Martin’s boyhood), the boy stooped by a pool of water and admired what he saw. Pride before the Gods. Hubris. Nemesis was swift.
A light over the door glowed orange. The next patient had arrived. Dr. Martin returned to the operating theatre to await the second and last patient due to receive this particular treatment. The patient was a two year old girl.