Doc Mindler

Damon Runyon

Doc Mindler was our County Physician.

He was a nice man.

He came to Our Town from the East for his health. Four years after he arrived he was elected County Physician on the Democratic ticket.

It was a year when the Democrats didn’t figure they had any more chance than a snowball in Hades, and they were nominating anybody who would take a nomination.

All the other Democratic physicians in Our Town were pretty hot when it came out that Doc Mindler was elected, but they were not any hotter than the Democratic business men who refused to run for Sheriff, and Assessor, and the other offices.

Doc Mindler was a young fellow, and right good looking, and he was single. He had a Harvard accent. He got it going to Harvard College.

A lot of women in Our Town made sheep’s eyes at Doc Mindler, but he would have no part of them. This was considered strange, as some of the women of Our Town are not hard to take.

Then it leaked out that Doc Mindler was fond of a woman by the name of Mrs. Gershing, who was the wife of Joe Gershing, the dentist. They were separated, but not divorced, because Joe said he had scruples about divorce. It was the only thing Joe was ever known to have any scruples about.

Doc Mindler was seen coming out of Mrs. Gershing’s house late one night, and it created great scandal in Our Town. The women who had been making sheep’s eyes at Doc Mindler said they were probably living in sin. The other Democratic physicians said it was an awful disgrace to have such a man representing the profession in office.

Doc Mindler was pretty sore about all this talk, especially when it was taken up by a lot of prominent business men, who talked of taking steps to get him removed from office. He said he didn’t mind about himself, but was thinking of Mrs. Gershing. Doc Mindler said she was as pure as the driven snow, and perhaps purer. Doc Mindler said he would get even with the whole town for this.

At two o’clock one Sunday morning, Doc Mindler slapped a quarantine on the entire district of Our Town that was known as The Line. It was where the hot spots and gambling halls were located. Doc Mindler said he had discovered a Mexican woman there suffering from smallpox.

The quarantine was enforced by deputy sheriffs armed with shotguns. It created considerable excitement, because over one hundred prominent citizens of Our Town were caught in the quarantine, including many of those who had been talking about Doc Mindler and Mrs. Gershing. By daylight there was so much scandal in so many of our best families that Doc Mindler and Mrs. Gershing were entirely forgotten, and were not remembered until two years later when they got married.

Doc Mindler kept the quarantine on until noon the next day when he said he had learned that the Mexican woman had chicken pox and not smallpox, although the head nurse at St. Joseph’s Hospital afterwards said Doc Mindler must have known about it five days before when the Mexican woman was first brought to his attention in the hospital.