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Friday, August 6, 2010

Pickles

Once upon a time there was a medicine man. He was competent but no miracle worker. He fell in love and got married as a young man. After a few happy years, the wife was infected by germs and nearly died. He tried everything he could to cure her. The illness was incurable, but he stubbornly worked to keep her alive. They stopped making love.

A few years later, the good doctor fell in love with another woman. She was vibrant, healthy, talented, interesting, and, worst of all, was also in love with him. Then what?

They chose not to cut off all contact with each other and instead became close friends, as close as they could be without causing a scandal. Yet they also chose to not have a physical affair. And they decided to hide their fondness for each other from the dying wife.

The wife had been given the prognosis of dropping dead any time, but she continued to refuse to die and hung on for her dear life ... for nearly 10 years.

That is what I am most curious about. All those insufferable years.

In the dark corners of their hearts, in the endless waiting and despair, did the other woman prayed for her rival's natural death? Did he think about it? He was a physician and a writer of crime novels. He could poison her and nobody would suspect a thing --- because he had been such a selfless and devoted husband in the years past. Or perhaps, he could not bring himself to murder her precisely because his platonic affair with the other woman was known by many people out there --- perhaps I am letting my own cynical black heart slipping out for a moment, sorry.

They insisted that they were strictly platonic before the wife's death, but who knows. And I would rather they consummated their feelings for each other. That would be a bit more humane. Even if they did, the uncertain future and the guilt (and perhaps the impatience and hatred? Oop, here comes my black heart again) must have gnawed at them from the inside from time to time. Ten years! I can't imagine.

What about the wife? Did she suspect anything? Did she want to keep on living for the benefits of her poor husband? Was she just trying to eek out a few more years because she did not want to die? Did she think about what would happen to her husband if she died...

Finally she was dead. They got married in the next year and became a perfect couple. As if nothing had happened. As if there had been no bitterness and evil thoughts and ... It was a darned happy ending.

Yet, the Maughamism in me cannot rest. Did certain thoughts float in his mind? --- It would be so easy. A tiny dose of digitalis. A bit more morphine. Even if only a slight delay or neglect in care would do it. It would be so easy. He had seen it so many times in newspapers, police reports, and even his own patients. Murder could be so easy and he would have done it better than anyone. He would never be caught. And all of their problems would have disappeared ...

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