H I M
A PLAY IN TWO ACTS
The setting is in the bright and white operating room of a hospital downtown in a major city. The air-conditioning makes a whirring sound. The doctor is bald, stringy gray hairs droops down the back of his neck, he is half deaf. The nurse speaks with a foreign accent in a stammer The patient' records tablet has only one word which is "anonymous", beside which someone has scribbled HM on the privacy and anesthesiology permissions.
DOCTOR: Can you get me any information from him about the situation, his medical history or even where he is from? I think we should know something more at this stage before I . . . go in. . . .
NURSE: I am afraid someone started the IV already with a little of the stuff and he is pretty comfortable now.
He won't or can't respond.
ASSISTANT: Not my fault, not my fault. They did that before he was brought in, I didn't know anything about it. When I saw it I told you it was wrong and we shouldn't go on but you didn't listen. Do hear what I am saying, Doctor, sir?
DOCTOR: What's that? From what I see he is already prepped and I guess we will have to go on. Are you ready with the anesthesia. . . . . do you hear me over there?
ANESTHESIOLOGIST: (he nods his head)
DOCTOR: Then we can go ahead. Nurse, where the hell is the wound?
NURSE: YOu don't have to swear at me, Doctor, that don 't help the sssituation at all.
DOCTOR: You say he is still bleeding now? Then we have to go ahead without further ado. What do you think about that, Assistant?
NURSE: I don't know where the wound is. There are three bbbandages. Let me see which one has the most bbbbblood udter it. Ja, I think I have it, over here Herr Doctor. It seems he got it crushed in something, it does not look very gggoood.
ASSISTANT: Not my fault. I put a new bandage on when he came in, I think it was this one over here you are looking for, but I am not sure. I can't take the responsibility, after all it's you who are in change, this is not my fault at all.
All together they lift HM onto the operating table, the assistant brings the light overhead, the cart with the surgical instruments is rolled to the left of the table where the Doctor takes up his position. Suddenly he pauses, as if struck by an important question.
DOCTOR: It seems we don't have a name for this person, which brings up something else. If for any reason God Forbid he should expire on the operating table, we will have an inextricable problem with the autopsy and the mortuary papers if we don't even have a name. Wasn't there anything in there at all?
ANESTHESIOLOGIST: On the cover sheet I see the handwritten note HM. I wonder what that could be for, a name?. Could be anything, couldn't it?
NURSE: I would go for Heinrich Mueller, just as a ppppossible suggestion, but you will ppprobably laugh at me and say that I am being . . . . . .
DOCTOR: Speak louder please! Did you say Harry Marker, nurse? That's not bad but not good enough for this hospital'a records. I think we have to do better. Go ahead someone with any other suggestion.
ASSISTANT: Well, my sister in law married a man who if I remember right had the name of Horace Manly, I could suggest that as a possiblity, just to cover up the situation.
DOCTOR: I don't hear anything coming forward about the name. Well, staff, we have to go on and I am going to name him officially HIM to cover all bases.
ANESTHESIOLOGIST: Well that sound official so let's go ahead. But I have another question. You mentioned what if he were to die on us, and that raises a second problem. We have no information about his religious affiliation, and without that it would be a problem for the undertaker, actually what cemetery he should go to. The Catholics are very choosy about that, if he were a Protestant they absolutely couldn't find a place for him. And if an Anglican were to land up in Baptist churchyard, that might plague his spirit for ages to come. Better look at those letters again, the HM might be from another alphabet? What if we have a Muslim going to a Jewish funeral, that would't be the right thing, would it?
NURSE: This is all fffoolishness, you are just joking the poor man around. He wrote HM, which in any language or religion would mean the Holy One, that is "Him" as in the Bible. I believe he is from some cult and he thinks that he is the Savior come after the apocalypse. That is why he was trying to write Him, but the pppen slipped and he list the -i-.
Doctor: What's that stuff you are all babbling about? Too much talk. I am a surgeon not a professor, I don't want to hear any more of this. I am going to call him HIM and we can let it go at that. Also that will stand for HOLD IN MORGUE as in othjer cases and that is a fact.
A generous round of applause as they prepare for the work at hand. Nurse lays out knives on a cloth on the stand, doctor washes hands and slips on gloves, they smile at each other and the operation begins.
DOCTOR: Nurse will you turn on that music, it helps to get my mind off what I am doing. But not loud, just enough to mask the sound of the saw if I have to use it.
NURSE: Yes, Doctor. I have that disc of Bach here, music from the old country is so comforting, especially during an operation. In my country all the doctors put on Bach first, even ahead of American Rock and Roll. Since the war we have become so cultural, we have a long tradition down from the meistersingers. . . . and the lovely Vienna waltzes.
They do to their work, the anesthesiologist nods frequently that it is all going ahead well. The Doctor works with the precision of an expert who has had the benefits of many years practice, the nurse is a little nervous as she hands a scalpel to him a little too quickly and has to go get a bandaid for his finger. Soon the operation is concluded to everyone's satisfaction.
ASSISTANT: I hope Mr. HIM won't be surprised at the result of this emergency operation. After all, he came here without the proper paperwork, and he was in bad condition, so if his lawyer comes in to complain, we will make it perfectly clear that we had no choice. It was go ahead and do what is necessary. A case of gangrene could spread to other parts of his body, and he could die.
DOCTOR: I didn't catch all of that, what was that about the lawyers? I didn't know he had a lawyer with him when he came in. But I hope you as my Assistant had the good sense to check with the Business Office before they brought him up here, to see if he has adequate insurance coverage. I assume you took care of that first?
ASSISTANT: I am sorry, Doctor, I forgot in the rush of bandaging him up with blood coming out all over, it just didn't come to mind right then. But believe me it is not my fault, I didn't do it on purpose. And if everything hadn't been in such a rush, I would have had time to think ahead. They will figure out a way to handle it downstairs, I am sure. These days can't turn a person away just because . . . .
DOCTOR: Yes, I heard that about the insurance and I think we are in the clear. Now clean up and send HIM somewhere where we don't have to think about him anymore. This has been a grueling situation, people think we surgeons are just a crowd of sophisticated and educated butchers who enjoy their work and get good pay for it to compensate for all that bloody mess. They don't realize what a hard life we have, working at the cutting edge between life and death. Patients take risks, and so do we, and ther is nothing can pay us enough for them.
A round of generous applause from the staff and the cleanup crew who have just come in to sanitize the OR. These are all good people, professional and dedicated to their work, and we on the outside should raise a strong hand of thanks and applause for them and the incredible work they daily do.
Henry Ingersoll Mattingly is sitting the music room of his elegantly furnished garden-home in the environs of Beverly Hills. He has just put away the tuning fork and hammer after adjusting the strings on his magnificent Scarlatti style Italian harpsichord, and is opening the score of Johann Sebastian Bach's "Well Tempered Clavier" to a page of which has always been especially fond. He sits on the bench for a few minutes in deep thought.
PROFESSOR MATTINGLLY: As it turned out I was lucky with that operation. They were a thoroughly professional group in the OR, I spoke with them later and they explained how confused they had been when I was brought in bleeding and unconscious. No paperwork, not even my own name, how difficult it must have been for them. But that is what they do, they are prepared for situations like that. That is why we invest so much in our hospitals, so I told my lawyer to write out a healthy check for a new Recovery Room in the section where they worked on me. They may askto put up a bronze plate with the donor but it not really necessary unless by their rules. . . .
BUT first thoughts are usually, if not always, followed by second thoughts.
The problem is how I am going to be able to do this 23rd fugue from the WTC without a thumb on my right hand. My music colleagues raised their hands in fright when I slipped my glove off and they saw the result of my calamity. But old Prof. Friesenhauser who was my mentor many years ago, raised an interesting point. Bach's son Wilhelm Friedeman told someone years later that before his father's time the harpsichord was played with four fingers on each hand, the thumb being felt too short for serious performance. "But my father, he said, maintained that he needed every facility for his involved counterpoint, and I know he was regularly using the thumb in his playing." So I will have to unlearn some of the things I have been doing, and play the WTC as if I were Bach's friend G. P. Telemann, who was a four-finger man by all report. So perhaps my loss is not a catastrophe after all, it may be a chance to develop a new technique for performance, which may turn out to be interesting after all.
Professor Mattingly improvises a short toccata to familiarize himself with the sound of the newly tuned instrument, he turns the page to the Fugue of his choice, and begins to play. A smile of surprise steals over his face, as he listens to the precise tones of the ancient instrument , while thinking of the equally precise surgical strokes of the Doctor in that immaculate and musically tempered Operating Room. Life has a curious way, he mused as he played, of turning out well in the end.>