How to vet a doctor

The circus I worked for employed both a doctor and a vet, and I could choose to visit either one. I generally preferred the vet, who was an amiable eccentric called Hugo “Smacker” Ramrod, so named because of his predilection for whacking horses on the rump after treating them. Smacker was a cheerful young fellow who hummed stirring tunes, such as Men of Harlech, while treating his patients. He had no qualms about sticking his fist up an animal’s rear end, which seemed to happen quite often in the line of duty. He knew better than to try any of those tricks on me, of course. I usually went to him for dental treatment, and he was always very careful to tell me what he was doing before he did it. We had a good relationship based on mutual respect and a certain amount of fear (on his part).

The doctors employed by the circus never lasted very long in the post. Being a physician to “artistes” is a high-pressure job and few are up to the challenge. I soon lost count of the number of these characters that came and went, and have a good recollection of only one of them: a Dr Felix Boobenstrausser from Dortmund. The circus hired him after an incident that occurred when we were performing in his home town.

What happened was this: A large female guest, watching the show from the ringside, fainted when one of the clowns accidentally fell on her during his act. Boobenstrausser, who was also in the audience, took immediate command of the situation and revived the woman with some smelling salts in his possession. He then convinced her that she had suffered no lasting damage, and should not blame the clown for a harmless prank which had brought everyone much pleasure. After the show, we gratefully offered him the vacant position of circus doctor, which he accepted on the spot.

When we returned to England, our suspicions were aroused by his unorthodox treatment of the knife-thrower’s assistant, a striking young woman named Doris. After she came to him with a severe migraine, he promptly took out his stethoscope to listen to her heartbeat.

“Hmm, it seems you have some kind of problem in ze chestal area,” he diagnosed. “Remove ze upper garments, if you please.”

He then proceeded to give Doris what he called a “chest massage”, to which she consented in her desperation to have her malady cured. After returning to her trailer, and finding that the remedy had not been effective, Doris began to suspect that the good doctor had actually been treating himself rather than his patient. The news of the illicit groping quickly filtered out after she had spoken to her friends, and we decided to check Boobenstrausser’s credentials by getting our copy of his German degree certificate translated. The next day we got the following fax message from the German consulate:

We are pleased to inform you that Dr Felix Boobenstrausser’s degree certificate is entirely genuine. He holds a doctorate in Astrophysics from the University of Dortmund.

The job of dismissing Boobenstrausser was given to Smacker Ramrod, so the impostor would get his marching orders from the nearest thing we had to a real physician. Smacker went straight into his trailer and said:

“The game’s up, Boobenstrausser! We know you’re not a man of medicine, so just pack up your things and clear off by tomorrow morning.”

To Smacker’s astonishment, the cosmological quack took this statement as an invitation to begin an impassioned tirade:

“Unt who are you to say vot is a man of medicine, you shtoopid animal-inspector? You who have only examined ze hindquarters of donkeys and cows! You zink some dumpkoff in medical school can teach me anyzing? I who have studied ze formation of galaxies unt ze lifecycle of stars! I am fully self-taught in ze mechanics unt dynamics of ze human body. I am aware of ze exact location of every bone, every fibre….”

He went on like this for a minute or so until Smacker left the trailer and came to see me with a crestfallen look on his face. We quickly hatched a plan to rid the circus of the turbulent Teuton. The initial phase began when I jumped onto the roof of his trailer and hopped around a bit to create a disturbance below. An irate Felix Boobenstrausser soon emerged from inside and beheld me with a mixture of surprise and indignation.

“So! Zey send an ape to do a man’s job!” he shouted. “Come down at vunce you cheeky beast, I have no fear……”

But he spoke no more, for he felt a sting in his backside. Cursing loudly, he pulled an object from his rump and fell drowsily to his knees as he began to examine it. His head hit the ground a few seconds later, for the tranquiliser dart had contained enough sedative to put a full-grown lion to sleep. After congratulating Smacker on his good shooting, I removed the dart from Boobenstrausser’s hand and poured half the contents of a whiskey bottle onto his face and neck. We then carried him to a waiting taxi with instructions to drive him to the nearest police station.
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