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1. Every four years I become a major irritant to the body politic. I volunteer for one campaign or another and make phone calls. The only thing more unpleasant than getting the phone calls is making them. I’m something of an introvert, so I hate doing it. My self-respect barely survives.
I made 110 phone calls in about an hour last week. Ninety-seven people didn’t answer, four told me never to call again, three hung up without commenting, five answered quickly to get me off the line, and one elderly lady spent five minutes telling me about her sciatica and her ungrateful son. I would have been happy to talk to her for twice that long. Just having someone pleased to talk to me helped restore the tattered shreds of ego I had left.
2. We had a British Vice President of research at a company I worked for twenty years ago. I’d written a research report that had been accepted by the American Journal of Veterinary Research. The paper had survived the reviewers and the fussy comments of the editors. Any revision in the paper at that point would have been difficult to make. That was the point at which John, the VP of research, decided to review the paper.
He asked me to stop by his office to discuss the paper. He objected to the spelling of “feces” and “hemorrhage.” Being British, he thought they should be spelled “faeces” and “haemorrhage.” I told him I’d used the American spelling for the words, as it was an American journal.
He got out his medical dictionary and made sure that I, the three reviewers, and the two editors had gotten it right.
Thereafter, my goal in life was to write another paper, use the word, “fortnight,” and spell it incorrectly. John would catch the mistake, and I’d tell him that whatever spelling I’d used was the American spelling. Both John and I left the company before I could do it. Was I setting my sights too high?
3. I enjoy cooking. One of my favorite soups is prepared by poaching a chicken breast in beef bouillon with carrots, celery, and onions. The vegetables and broth are discarded and the chicken breast chopped. The chopped chicken is simmered in chicken broth with apples, onions, and bananas that were sautéed in butter and curry powder.
Puree the soup in a blender. Pour the thick, green soup into a heavy pan and begin cleaning the soup you spilled off the oven, counter, and even the wall if the blender lid wasn't held down. Is the soup on the walls? Good. Everything's going according to plan then. The dog will help clean the floor.
This ends the first evening. You’re tired, and your wife won't be on speaking terms with you for a week once she sees her kitchen, but worry about that tomorrow. Isn't cooking fun?
Did I mention that this is snail soup? Don’t skimp on the escargot. Cheap cans of escargot have an odor all their own. Let them keep it.
Chop the escargot and sautée in butter with shallots. Chop the escargot finely so your guests don’t figure out what they’re eating. Flambé the escargot mixture with brandy (Taste the brandy to verify quality. Be aware that wives often don’t understand the care you’re taking.) Quench the flames with beef bouillon, unless you’ve managed to ignite the drapes. Use water on those.
Add the escargot mixture to the soup base, salt and pepper to taste, and heat. Ladle individual servings of curried soup into oven proof bowls. Cover each bowl of soup with unsweetened whipped cream and slide into the oven under the broiler.
Brown the point on the whipped cream and serve immediately, or whenever the EMT folks leave if you were careless with the flambê and had to have your burns treated.
Describe the soup to your guests slowly, so that you come to the escargot only after they’re finished eating. Some may be queasy about eating snails.
4 and 5. A shopping trip and a seminar. These are in the memoir part of Doc’s Codicil. Each has a chapter of its own.
Doc’s Codicil is a mystery told with gentle humor. It tells the story of a veterinarian who teaches his heirs a lesson from the grave.
Read an excerpt:
The house was dark except for the pool of light thrown by a lamp behind my chair and small multi-colored Christmas lights surrounding the window on my left. The lights gave a dim but cheerful glow to the edge of the room. The crystal, silver, and pastel globes on the Christmas tree standing against the opposite wall reflected that light, and as the furnace kicked in, the reflections danced across the wall, betraying currents of warm air moving gently about the room.
Heat, wonderful heat. I gave my wine glass a twist to celebrate feeling my toes again. The liquid ruby swirled round the glass, as I offered a silent toast to Mary, may she sleep soundly tonight. On the second glass, I was startled by a swoosh of air exhaled by the cushion of a wing-backed chair to my left. I glanced at the chair, but couldn’t bring it into focus. Contacts must be dirty, I thought and returned to my book.
I . . . poured a third glass. This had to be the last. Tomorrow would be another fourteen-hour workday. I took another bite of Stilton, crumbly yet creamy, a pungent and savory blue with a background of cheddar, when I heard a throat clear.
I put my book down and looked around the room. Empty.
. . . A shadow moved in the dining room . . . “Who’s there? What the hell is going on?” I whispered.
A man’s voice came from the kitchen. “Cripes, some host you are.”
About the Author:
Gary practiced bovine medicine in rural Wisconsin for nineteen years. He then returned to graduate school at the University of Minnesota, earned a PhD in microbiology, and spent the next nineteen years working on the development of bovine and swine vaccines.
Doc's Codicil is the bronze medal winner of Foreward's INDIEFAB Book of The Year awards, humor category.
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