Come up these stairs,
down this hall--
There's nothing to worry about--
hardly anything at all.

Remember the fire escape,
The window's too small--
and if anything should happen,
I'll try to stall.

Now, this is Bessie.
Give her your bag.
She knows what to do,
should we hit a snag.

It's all right, I'm a doctor,
and also a priest--
with city hall connections
by arrangement with police.

Do you have the money? All of it?
A tiresome detail, it's true--
Ah, that's fine, thank you my dear.
Right this way. After you.

Your dress is remarkably lovely,
and naturally must come off--
then, please, lie on this table,
and breathe deeply from this cloth.

I'm here to help. 
I'm here to fix.
It's normal if you're feeling
dizzy and a little bit sick.

Science! It's wonderful.
Medicine! The same!
I'm seeing a slight inflammation
originating in the brain,

flowing through the limbs,
and settling in the womb--
Bessie, would you kindly
set up the other room?

Can you hear me? Miss?
All right, she's out.
Let's get on with it, Bessie--
the same as the others, no doubt.

Hand me that.
Dammit, woman, the other one.
Did you hear the joke about the midget,
the rabbi and the nun?

This is getting a little dicey.
Come on, you little rat.
Hell's bells, I guess she won't be
having another brat.

All right, that's it,
can't put the bark back in the hound--
put my tools back in my bag,
then bring her back around.

Hello, how are you feeling?
We're done, you did just fine.
Others have lost far more blood.
Others have lost their mind.

With Bessie's help, do you think you can stand?
I'll help you with your coat.
Go home and rest, drink some tea--
and, perhaps, a little toast.

Tell no one of this. Forget you were here.
Forget this place, 
this room, my face...
and the shame of it, my dear.

Ah well, she's gone, that went all right.
She'll live to ninety if she lives the night.
Did you know her fiance is a financier?
Clean up, then Bessie, let's get out of here.

 for Mag 207


hedgewitch said…
Rather a ghoulish trip back to the time some people would like to see return. The 'doctor' is a perfect combination of greed and callousness, and the cynicism is palpable. The only thing that keeps me from hankering desperately after the days of hoop skirts are these deadly little details of what women had to endure because, as I'm sure those of the time would say, Eve ate the apple. The rhyme here with its sweet regularity underscores and contrasts with the grim subject matter.
Lolamouse said…
This made me feel a big knot in the pit of my stomach. As Hedge points out, this is what will be in our future if some people have their way. We must not be complacent about the issue of choice or we'll find it taken away from us and our daughters.
TexWisGirl said…
oh my. made my stomach churn. well done, shay c.
Kerry O'Connor said…
The doctor's tone is what makes this whole thing so horrific - his false gaiety can hardly disguise what an evil man he is. I'm not anti-abortion but I am anti-mutilation by amoral quacks.
Mama Zen said…
How very Republican!
thats a stunning narrative.your command of irony and sarcasm makes this a chilling read.
Kathryn Dyche said…
Back room butchery at its finest. It makes me sad that this isn't a thing of the past and that even in this so called modern day and age women still have to fight for certain rights, not least about their own body. Sinister but great write.
Susan said…
Brilliantly depicted, as if a nursery rhyme. I thought we were through with that, or, what was second-wave feminism for?
revelations said…
an chilling tale of what was supposed to be in the past... but the dark side never rests....
Bu Thyab said…
wow, really wonderful piece. I did not get it from the first time but the second round i was astonished at the depth of meaning and writing. Great work!
G-Man said…
And the diploma on the wall read...
Graduate of Coat-Hanger University Class of 37
Anonymous said…
brutality is a man-splendored thing ~
Steve King said…
An interesting and powerful narrative. The two contrasting voices work well to cast the practitioner in a perfect portrait.
Steve K.
Susie Clevenger said…
What a horridly visual piece...Sadly there is an element that would see women climbing those stairs again...Great writing!!
Sherry Blue Sky said…
Shay, such a heartbreaking depiction. You captured the tone of false cheer with deadly accuracy. "she'll live to ninety if she lives the night" - and not be able to bear children. A fantastic write, you nailed it, as you always do.
Margaret said…
The shame of it…. We didn't need abortions then, we don't need them now. The shame is to be had on society - and I applaud every woman who selflessly gives of herself to never harm a baby inside, and I grieve with those who chose to abort. I know, once again I seem to be a lone voice. We fool ourselves if we think women don't climb those "stairs" … they are just fast pace escalators cloaked in a prettier exterior - and a nice and tidy profit to be made even still! (sorry - you can delete if you like)

I think you wrote splendidly for the image…
Cloudia said…

ALOHA from Honolulu
Comfort Spiral
=^..^= <3
Anastasia said…
love this...

wonderfully, poetic storytelling!

stacy lynn mar
kaykuala said…
The doctor seems to go about it in a most mechanical sort of way. The compassion of connecting to the patient is of utmost importance as emotions are involved. Nicely Shay!

Lynn said…
That sure tells the story.
Herotomost said…
Reminded me of Cider House Rules. The ruthlessness of society can be a bit overwhelming. You have a way with the things that keep us up at night, but a way that soothes as well as points and scars. Heavy got it, like always, you got it.
Helen said…
The horror of back room / up room abortions. So many rendered sterile. As always, you hit us square in the gut. Beautifully.
Anonymous said…
So scary to think that some want us to return to such unregulated care.
21 Wits said…
Sounds like another day in some neighborhood! Excellent, held me to each line, deliciously so!
Tess Kincaid said…
Your rhyming style gave this even more creep factor...
Katherine said…
This was indeed wonderfully written but it has left me feeling cold.
Helena said…
Excellent portrayal of this hush-hush business! Reminded me also of the 10 Rillington Place story.
Antonietta May said…
oh, wow! what a compelling voice/ narrator. I could *see* him oozing slime. I felt chills! powerful story.
Mary said…
A haunting tale ..great character writing. Liked how you moved from light to very dark .. a powerful piece. Well done.

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