Sara and I were watching a show and laying a male character out to filth for his bad behavior. Then my mother spoke through me and said, in reference to the bad behavior of his female interest:
She’s no better than she should be.
The Strange Case of Doctor Verbiage
By Marian Allen
Left Hand Pete staggered into the saloon, his right hand smeared with blood.
Nick – the bartender, saloon owner, and sheriff – boomed, “Hey! Don’t get that on my woodwork! Go let Doc Verbiage take a look at that.” He set a mug of beer in front of a customer bellied up to the bar and said, “He usually staggers out.”
“I did go see him, but I never saw him.”
“I’m cutting you off, Pete,” Nick said. “No more for you.”
“I ain’t had none, yet! I’m trying to tell you, Doc Verbiage is gone! I went to get this here scratch tended to and he wasn’t at his place in town, and he wasn’t at home. Miz Verbiage says he didn’t come home last night, but she didn’t think nothing of it. When she checked, none of his clothes was gone, and hadn’t tooken the cash they kept in a coffee can in the kitchen. He didn’t even leave a note!”
A stunned silence in the bar was followed by a babble of disbelief. Doc Verbiage couldn’t sneeze without talking about it for fifteen minutes, and he didn’t go to the outhouse without leaving a three page letter.
Nick took off his apron and tossed it to his son, Nick Junior. “Look after things here, son. I got some sheriffin’ to do.” He deputized six patrons who were the least pie-eyed and directed them where to start looking: the stagecoach office, the livery stable, the bank, and the dry goods store. The fourth man went with Nick to check out the doc’s office.
Everything was in order at the office. The elderly woman who helped Doc out at the surgery came in at her usual afternoon time, but she was as shocked as everybody else.
“No,” she said, “he never told me he was going anywhere or had any patients to go out to this morning. She was bewildered at the lack of a note, but pulled herself together to look through the files.
“No files are missing, as near as I can tell. That doesn’t mean he didn’t take something out of a file.” She shook her head. “This just isn’t Doc.”
The other deputies reported to the sheriff at the doctor’s office. No one of any description had bought a stagecoach ticket, rented a horse and/or buggy, withdrawn any cash from the bank, or bought more than a hair ribbon or a collar button at the store.
It hadn’t rained for a week, so there were no footprints to follow. The doc was just … gone.
He hadn’t spoken to the preacher about any troubles. He hadn’t told any whores any secrets (and all the whores were present and accounted for). He hadn’t been acting peculiar, hadn’t missed any diagnoses or prescribed any wrong treatments or medicines. No stranger had come to town. The saloon was also the post office, so Nick knew the doc hadn’t sent or received any letters in the past month.
Nick and his deputies rode to the towns within walking distance and checked at the train stations and telegraph offices. No sign of Doc Verbiage. No telegrams to or from him. The only tickets bought were bought and used by people the stationmasters knew.
Nick deputized pretty much everybody in town and had them search inside town and out, as far as the surrounding towns. They questioned ranch hands, farmers, Indians – anybody they came across. No sign of the doc, and no dead bodies or parts of dead bodies.
For a year or so, the hopeful expected Doc Verbiage to turn up with a good explanation.
For another couple of years, they thought he might turn up with an explanation only a fool would believe.
When seven years had passed, Mrs. Verbiage started going by Widow Verbiage. She wore black, with a modest ruffled black cap that covered her graying hair.
The town had recruited a new doctor, of course; he was a young man with new ideas, and it took a long time for the town to warm up to him. Miz Verbiage took him under her wing, though, even renting him a room in her and the doc’s house, and the elderly woman who had assisted Doc Verbiage assisted the new doctor, so he was grudgingly accepted.
Doctor Verbiage was never seen or heard from again.
This post is part of Linda G. Hills weekly blog hop, One-Liner Wednesday. If you have a one-liner or just like them, follow the link.
MY PROMPT TODAY: I poked a finger onto the jumble on my desk and touched this line on a slip torn from the front of my latest check packet: “absence of original document verbiage”.