The Doctor Knows Best

Damon Runyon

A man has a pain in a certain spot.

It isn’t a severe pain. It isn’t an incapacitating pain. But it is nonetheless a pain.

The man goes to a doctor.

“Doc,” he says, “I’ve got a kind of a pain.”

So the doctor examines him. He takes the man’s temperature, feels his pulse. He looks down the man’s throat. He listens to the man’s chest. He tests his reflexes.

The doctor finds nothing. He gives the man some simple remedy and tells him that ought to do the trick.

The man is back in a few days. “Doc,” he says, “that pain is still there. I don’t feel so good.”

The doctor makes another examination. He has the man go to an X-ray fellow for a few takes of his teeth and his interior. The doctor puts the exposures on a rack and gazes at them intently. He sees nothing. He lets the man look at them. The man does not see anything, either.

Then the doctor gives the man diathermic treatments. He gives him vitamin pills and vitamin hypodermics. The needles hurt the man like hell.

“How are you today?” the doctor asks the man on the man’s next visit. The doctor is not taking the needles himself, so he has no call to cut himself in on the man’s suffering with that “we.”

“Doc,” the man says, “that pain is still there. I don’t feel so good.”

Now the doctor puts the man on a strict diet. He tells him to stop smoking and drinking and to cease doing all the other things the man enjoys.

“Doc,” the man says, “that pain is still there.”

The doctor commences to resent the man’s attitude. He commences to hate the very sight of the man’s kisser. So do his office attendants. They look at one another knowingly when he appears for his treatments.

When the man’s friends ask the doctor what’s the matter with the man, the doctor shrugs his shoulders. He purses his lips. He smiles slightly. He as much as says there is nothing the matter with the man.

The man is observed taking one of the pills the doctor ordered.

“He’s always taking pills,” the observer remarks. “He’s a hypochondriac. His doctor can’t find a thing wrong with him.”

Now if the man has had a good break from life and remains a bachelor, he is not in such bad shape, but if he has the misfortune to be married he is in an awful fix because his wife and family are more difficult to convince that he has a pain than the doctor. They resent his attitude even more than the doctor.

“I’ve still got that pain,” he says to his wife.

“It’s just your imagination,” she says. “You never looked better in your life. You mustn’t give way to every little ache that comes along. Think of all the suffering in the world. I’m really the one that ought to be in bed.”

“I don’t feel so good,” the man says.

“Nonsense,” his wife says.

So the man finally hauls off and gives up the ghost. He ups and dies. His wife and family are astonished, and indignant.

“Well,” the man’s friends say. “He wasn’t looking any too well the last time he was around and he was complaining about a pain, too. Must have been something radically wrong with the old boy, at that.”

The doctor is in a bit of a huff about the man dying that way.