Ransahoff had achieved the cold steel calm required of a cardiothoracic surgeon from his father, also a surgeon, who taught him to, love nothing alive and then death or tragedy will never hurt you. This had worked well until now but the loneliness of this emotionless existance was eating away at his foundation of steel. The words of his brothers, both physicians resounded in his mind: "you must love mankind to be a great physician and you must give that love in order to be loved." Because of this he turned down an invitation to join the most prestigious surgical practice in New York City . Instead he was going to a small town in Georgia that had been without a doctor for five years.
Upon his arrival in Georgia Ransahoff felt the warmth of his patients appreciation and he returned that warmth with true emotions of his own. After only a short time he knew his brothers were correct. However his personal loneliness remained.
This changed abruptly however when he met a stunningly beautiful girl. Her beauty was so great that it shone through the ragged clothing and the uncultured rawness of poverty and illiteracy. Dr. Ransahoff was hopelessly hooked. What followed was turmoil, a mixture of lust, exploitation, betrayal, and murder.
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LOVE NOTHING ALIVE
By JACK BIRGE
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2013 Dr. Jack Birge
All rights reserved.
The last of anything has a certain luster that sharpens the senses to build lingering memories. Things unnoticed become visible, the ugly becomes less vile, beauty catapults, and becomes inspiring, and what seemed miserable often changes to not so bad. Dr. Eric Ransahoff felt all of these as he coursed his aging Fiat sports car along the streets of Greenwich Village towards the ramp to the Henry Hudson Parkway, for his last trip to the New York Medical Center.
At dawn the narrow streets of Greenwich Village were dimly lit and dull and gray, broken only by dots of yellow light,' from windows of the tall buildings, that marked early risers.
Then, as he escaped the tall buildings and moved up the ramp onto the Parkway, it was like the entrance to another world, for the rising sun light came into view and sparkled off the wide, blue waters of the Hudson River, changing the drab gray of the sleeping city into a world of color and activity. Sea gulls glided lazily close to the water. A tugboat moved slowly up river, striping the blue water, trailing a decorative white wake.
Ad such serene beauty greeted him every morning? He hadn't noticed. This was the seventh June in a row he'd passed this way, so he'd had plenty of time to see it. He just hadn't looked—too engrossed in becoming a good surgeon. He thought back over the seven years of his surgical training. Hardly seemed possible that after today they would be over.
Warm summer air, cleaned by the cool of night just gone by, soothed his face, as it rushed through his topless sportcar. Traffic on the Freeway was light and he could drive relaxed. He didn't know exactly why he got such an early start each morning. Perhaps it was to get out of the deadly jaws of Manhattan before it awakened. Running away—that was it. He had been running from everything in life that wasn't pertaining to medicine and didn't happen in a hospital.
That's why he hadn't noticed the beauty of New York. He had been too busy running from its ugliness. Funny, he was leaving New York, but not running away. Quite the contrary. Where he was going took all the courage he could muster. The glare from the rising sun broke his train of thought. There ahead, in darkened silhouette, a towering cluster of buildings—his destination, the New York Medical Center. The sun's bright rays seemed to burst from the building tops and reach out towards the sky, like bands of glistening platinum, as if decorating them with a giant crown. A regal look. Appropriate. The Medical Center was like a ruling power, and he had been hidden in the sanctity of its security. How would it be, otherwise? Arrival at his exit mercifully cut off his mental search for an answer to that compelling question. He wheeled off the Henry Hudson Parkway towards Mid-town Manhattan, and the front of the giant Medical Center.
The trip from his one room Village apartment to the parking place at the Medical Center marked "Reserved-Chief Surgical Resident" helped start his day; for it usually freed his mind from turmoil for a short interlude. But this morning was different. His mind was nothing but turmoil, and even the trip had seemed unfamiliar. He cut off the Fiat's motor and sat in silent thought about his plans to practice medicine in a part of the country totally unfamiliar to him. Come to think of it, that was nothing new. He had known little about New York City, for his movements of the past seven years had been like those of the figures in the famous Austrian clock,—moving on schedule, along a track. For Ransahoff, life had heen to the hospital and back to the apartment, as precisely on schedule as the clock; for he had been a loner, dedicated to his work, with no one in his personal life to change it.
Until the last six months, such a lonely routine life hadn't bothered him; but then something happened inside his mind, and his monk-like existence began to etch his emotions and push him to seek a change. He had done just that Today marked the end of that kind of life; for it was the last day of his surgical residency. He had refused a lucrative offer to practice surgery with a group of highly successful New York surgeons. Sight of the glowing Medical Center and the sign at his parking place reminded him of that fact, as well. Ransahoff pulled the Fiat's convertable top in place, fastened it, then struggled through the opened window—the door hadn't worked in months. He then h·urried towards the ·newsstand on the broad sidewalk near the hospital's entrance. The saddened face of Paddy McGlaughlin, the newsstand vendor, was waiting. The bent, gray bearded old Irishman seemed limp, as if the checkered cap atop his head weighed a ton and was pushing him into the concrete sidewalk. Paddy was sad because he was losing a friend. Not only his first customer every morning for the past seven years, that gave him a few moments of his time in idle conversation, but also a man he loved who had saved his life! A ruptured aneurysm could have meant death if it hadn't been for Ransahoff. Since then, they had been closer than just friends. For a moment they faced each other in silence. Words that flowed through their brains couldn't find their lips. Tears moistened their faces. The old man grimaced and momentarily looked away, then he grabbed Ransahoff in tight embrace;
"God be with you, Son." For a moment he trembled, then shoved Ransahoff away: "Now, get outa here, and take this damned paper, or I'll call a cop."
The stern look he had constructed didn't hold, collapsing into melancholy: "I'll miss you, Doc. Who's gonna come by and argue with a worthless old Mick about how ugly that statue that clutters up the front of the hospital is? Who's gonna do that?"
Ransahoff couldn't speak. The mental turmoil he brought with him now swirled out of control, checking words long before they could get to vocal cords. His thanks to the aging Irishman came with but wet eyes and a grip to the old man's shoulder. He then turned to leave.
Ransahoff looked around.
"You're the expert on statues. Read the article about the human statue on the front page."
Ransahoff nodded with a warm smile, glanced at the folded front of the Times, tucked it under his arm, and stalked the massive, ornate arches and glass of the cathedral-like entrance to the large hospital. He hesitated, and mumbled: "The last time I'll walk through these doors as a resident. I've lived like a monk in this monastery, but no more." He suppressed a slight feeling of apprehension and pushed through bronze doors into the medicinal atmosphere of a marble corridor. He walked rapidly through a faceless crowd of bustling people to an elevator. Hurrying was another bad habit he had learned in New York. He was rushing without need, for he was early, as usual. Plenty of time to change into his white clothes and read the newspaper before rounds with the junior residents and interns. Ransahoff left the solemn, wordless group in the elevator at the third floor and entered the residents' quarters. The dark, dingy, musty smelling old recreation room had changed very little in the three quarters of a century the New York Medical Center had been healing the sick and training young doctors in the latest methods to aecomplish this. It was rarely occupied, for doctors in training had little time to relax and play; so only time had worn its appointments. Covering the walls of the room were pictures of stiffly standing figures in short white coats, shirts and ties, and starched white pants: the young doctors that had learned the arts of medicine and surgery at the huge hospital.
Among those pictures were the faces of Ransahoff's father and his two brothers: Donald the eldest, and Michael the brother just older than he. He knew the location of each very well, for he often stood before them in thought—as a matter of fact, more often during the past six months.
He paused before each of them momentarily, then progressed to a picture hung only yesterday:the newest group of residents finishing their training. The fact that he was the scrawny, short, bushy headed guy with a large nose and thick glasses on the front row didn't dim the pride he felt over his accomplishment. He was now a damn good surgeon, and he felt it.
Maybe pride and self confidence, of being a polished surgeon, would overcome his self-consciousness over his physical attributes, or lack of them. He knew that hang up had been one reason for the secluded, anti-social life he had lived and had now pledged to himself to change.
Ransahoff fingered a small gold honor medical society key (.AOA) in his pocket. It had been awarded to his brother Michael for scholastic achievement in medical school. Michael was brilliant; and his medical school grades reflected that. Ransahoff had earned one of his own, just like it; but during the past year he preferred carrying Michael's. It reminded him of what both Donald and Michael had preached to him through the years. They still preached it, for he could hear their voices saying: "Learn to love people. That's where happiness lies." Recalling their words now seemed to give him courage—to change his life and do what they said.
After his brothers were killed, he had become totally withdrawn but he was handling their memories better now and wantedto hear their voices in his mind; and he was ready to seek the happiness they had found. Maybe he was ready because he had achieved everything they did. Anyway, thoughts of them were rescuing him from loneliness, and he was convinced such thoughts, and the courage they brought, would lead him to happiness.
Ransahoff surfaced from his trance, took one last glance at the pictures before him, then proceeded to his room in the quarters—his home when he was on duty. He quickly changed from his jeans into starched white coat and pants. The tie he was wearing was atrocious and his button-down, Oxford, blue shirt was frayed and without buttons to button it down, for clothes, amongst most material things, had meant little to him. He checked his watch. He had thirty minutes to read the Times before rounds. He flopped down on the creaky, ancient, flat-springed, iron bed. It probably antedated his father and filled most of the cubbyhole-like room. He gathered the pillow under his head and unfolded the paper. "A Human Statue :Found!" The article stirred Ransahoff's emotions. It told of an outlaw named McCurdy, who was killed in a desolate part of Oklahoma in 1911, after robbing a bank. Instead of being buried, his body was displayed in circus side shows for 15 years, then disappeared to be discovered that week, coated with a ceramic covering, standing in a house of horrors in Los Angeles, California—a human statue for countless years. Description of the violent death of the outlaw McCurdy kindled unpleasant and buried memories of his brothers, Michael and Donald. Both had died violently, murdered. Such memories always opened up wounds and unleashed a gnawing sickness in his stomach.
There was something else about the article that stirred Ransahoff: a human being had been made into a statue'!· Ransahoff dwelled on that thought, for he had more than a casual interest in statues. In fact, he had accumulated a whole library on the subject and had studied sculpture and sculptors during most of his off time. Actually, his interest in that field provided the main source of his entertainment and led to his collection of the many ceramic and plaster figures that cluttered his one room apartment. Ransahoff referred to the figures as "his friends" and spent many hours studying them; for in ach of them he perceived an emotion: happiness, sadness, rage, strength, pity, helplessness. To him the small statues represented moments of life, captured, that would never die. Reading the article made Ransahoff think about the emotions the outlaw McCurdy, as a statue, captured. He visualized a face of agonized horror. That was it: terror and agony. Could any artist create a figure that could capture those emotions as well as plaster—following the lines of a real face, with real expressions, from real horror and agony? No sculptor could reproduce that. Oh, how he would have loved to have seen that statue. Amazing that a body could be preserved that long. Ransahoff became uncomfortable with his thoughts, for they were leading him along old lines that he had pledged to abandon. Until now·he thought, "Love nothing alive, then death will never hurt you". In many ways that creed still seemed appealing, and a haven protected from the pain he had felt before. He had to rid his mind of that creed if he was going to follow the advice of his brothers, and look for love and happiness. That meant he would have to care for living things, not inanimate objects. He discarded the paper, got up, stepped towards the door, hesitated in momentary thought, then returned to the paper. A search of the drawer in the bedside table yielded bandage scissors. Carefully he clipped out the article and tucked it in a compartment of his wallet—not sure why he wanted to keep it—then hurried out the door to the elevator, the tenth floor, and rounds on a surgical ward. Ten West was one of six surgical floors the Chief Resident supervised, operating on the most difficult cases admitted there, and instructing the residents junior to him in surgical technique, as they operated on the less complicated ones. At center corridor, a glass enclosed nurses' station guarded a seventeen bed ward. Down the corridor in either direction were semi-private rooms. The beds were eternally full, and many of the occupants wore neat incisions from the scalpel of Dr. Eric Ransahoff, under their gauze dressings. At precisely eight o'clock, Ransahoff stepped from the elevator into the heavier atmosphere of inner hospital. The twang of intermingled antiseptics mixed with odors of sick humanity. He glanced at the collection of white clothed residents and interns clustered between the double row of beds in the ward, ready for rounds with the Chief Resident, and proceeded to join them.
Mrs. O'Brien, head nurse of the floor, appeared from her glass enclosure and intercepted him. Behind her was an unfamiliar but pretty, olive-skinned face peering from under an unfamiliarly shaped, winged nurse's cap. "Dr. Ransahoff, I want to introduce you to Miss Delbello, one of our new nurses. She'll be working on this floor."
Ransahoff's expression emerged from removed thought, as he paused and focused on the white clad pair before him. "Oh," he said. It was a surprised "Oh." His facial expression explained, then changed to uneasiness as his eyes repidly covered the dark haired, dark eyed beauty in white. "Glad to meet you, Doctor," Delbello smiled warmly. The presence of the beautiful woman brought Ransahoff discomfort, and it was obvious. He searched for words, then instinctively extended his right hand, judged that improper, quickly withdrew it and fumbled clumsily, shoving it into his starched pocket: "Uh ... glad to meet you, too."
Ransahoff's eyes seemed to be glued to the source of his discomfort, and lingered, as he quickly turned to join the waiting group of young doctors. Far too consumed to have noticed the approach of the tall Assistant Chief Resident, Dr. Sandy Silverstein, Ransahoff's sudden move brought collision. Silverstein staggered back a step and caught the flailing arms of Ransahoff sprawling forward. He set the small man back on his feet, cast a look of consternation, and asked, "Are you ready for rounds, Dr. Ransahoff?" Ransahoff smiled sheepishly, looked back at Miss Delbello and said, "Hope you like it here." He waved departure with two fingers, and turned to Silverstein: "Sorry about that, Sandy." He then constructed a professional look and accompanied the towering Assistant Chief Resident to their waiting colleagues clustered around the bed of the first patient. Nurse Delbello was apprehensive. "Did I say something wrong?" she asked. O'Brien remained silent with a puzzled look for a few moments, stroking her chin. Finally she spoke: "I've known Dr. Eric Ransahoff for seven years, and I've never seen him act quite like that. He's always been timid and withdrawn, but never upset. Too bad he's leaving tomorrow. From the look on his face, I believe you're the one that could bring him out of his shell looked at you, and for him, that's unusual."
Excerpted from LOVE NOTHING ALIVE by JACK BIRGE. Copyright © 2013 Dr. Jack Birge. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
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