Saturday, November 3, 2012

From Black Irish -- a Novella

Brendan O'Malley began polishing the tarnished, pitted brass plate that he and Tino Orachetti had put up almost 40 years ago when they opened practice here on North Sepulveda Boulevard in Los Angeles. Orachetti died of prostate cancer 8 or 9 years ago and rather than changing the plaque, O’Malley just kept polishing it every year, trying unsuccessfully to remove the corrosive effect of LA’s toxic smog. He finished polishing, put the can and rag back in the sack, and went in his office.
Violet, his brother’s widow was already at work sorting through the folders of patients he was scheduled to see today. She’d glanced up when he came in but, concentrating on whatever the hell she was doing, she didn’t say good morning to him. He stood there glaring at her until she looked at him again, her graying eyebrows raised, which he took as impertinence, as if she was saying, What the hell do you want?

“What the hell are you doing here so early?” Dr. O’Malley growled.

Violet pushed her thin lips together in an exasperated frown and said, “Working, as usual.”

O’Malley hated it when Violet gave him these isn’t it obvious answers, like, eating my lunch, when he’d ask her what she was doing when she was eating her lunch at a time when he thought she should be writing one of his letters to the mayor, or the city council, or whatever politician he wanted to give some grief; not that it did any good, the useless sons of bitches.

O’Malley said, “If you can’t get your job done during normal working hours you should improve your efficiency.”

“Well, if you’d get the computer working so we could use the billing system I could be more efficient.”

“Darnell’s coming in later to work on it,” O’Malley said. He felt like sticking his tongue out at her, but just managed to restrain the impulse.
I wrote the novella, Black Irish, a couple of years ago and published it on It loosely based on my brother-in-law and his last years working as a general practitioner in a seedy area, but not in Los Angeles. He struggled to make ends meet, but never gave up on all his Medicare/Medicaid patients, many of whom he'd had for years and years. He was as irascible as Brendan O'Malley, and as heroic.

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