He sat slouched in the chair, his soiled straw hat with the brim raised high above his ears, rode low over his eyes. So low that it rested on his narrow, tanned, pointed nose But. His long, lanky legs stretched stiffly ahead of him, like narrow blue stovepipes. His hands were clasped together on his black belted waistline. When he spoke, the tone of his voice was sonorous, and low, as if he were talking to himself.
There was not enough room in the Medico’s office for the farmer to sit across the desk from him. Instead, the Medico turned his chair towards the farmer, who was sitting almost in front of him, their feet almost touching each other. The medico could not see Aristotele’s face because of the hat’s brim hiding it almost to under the chin.
“What is this you are telling me? You have an animal by the name of Doña Marie? Why did you name the pet after your wife? You have taken her to another veterinarian?” The Medico Veterinario’s face was turning a deep violet red. “I have looked after all of your animals for close to ten years. Are you not happy with my work?
As if carved in stone Aristoteles remained as he was on the chair since he had sat on it. In his low monotonous voice, he repeated himself. “Doña Marie is my wife.” He stopped there. The medico nodded until he realized that Aristoteles could not see him.
“I know your wife is Doña Marie. I haven’t been looking after her for ten years. I don’t attend to people.”
Like a snake slowly uncoiling itself, Aristoteles drew in his long legs, moved his hands first to raise his cowboy hat, then to his knees, pushing on them to raise his long, thin torso to a standing position. He now towered over the Medico. His arms swung over the desk, as he leaned on his hands. He stared down at the professional in front of him. With a quiet firmness, he said to the Medico:
“You have been our veterinarian for most of ten years. I have seen you perform operations and miracles on my animals. My neighbors, too. You know my wife, Doña Marie. You know she has not been well for some time now.” He stared down at the Medico until he saw him nod. “She has been suffering from fevers. She is so hot. Then she is cold. She shivers violently. She does not eat. She does not rise from her bed. I look after the house, the barn, the children. We go to a Medico. Our Medico. He give us something. She gets better. Not for long. The fevers come back. The muscle pain. The weakness. Our Medico sends us to another. We have been to La Paz. We have been to Guadalajara. Damn it. We have been to Mexico City. Every time, it goes away, or seems to, then again. I comes back again. It is never over. You know she is in poor health. She does not eat well, doesn’t sleep well, is in pain.”
The Medico nodded, muttering, “Why are you telling me this?”
“We have been to many doctors. Specialists. Each one gives us medicine, or a diet, or some exercise. The fevers, the stomach pains. They come back. They always come back. When their remedy doesn’t work, they send us to a friend of theirs. On we go. Pay, pay, pay. She is in much pain. I believe you can sure her. I know it.”
“I am not a doctor.”
“My wife says you always know what is the matter with our animals with your examinations, tests. You know. And, you know what to do. She and I think the same about you. We both feel you could make her well.”
He straightened his tall torso, crossing his arms, waiting for the Medico Veterinario to consent. The long silence. Neither man stirred, each knowing that the first to speak would decide the question.
“Doña Marie is suffering from Brucellosis. It is an animal disease which humans can catch. The treatment is simple. An antibiotic which I cannot prescribe. You, your wife, your children and your animals will all have to be treated, even if you do not have symptoms. Because, because the bacteria is around your place. Everything, every piece of cloth, every wall and ceiling and floor will have to be scrubbed with a strong soap. Inside your car, everywhere. It could take two months before we are certain to have conquered the bacteria.”
Doña Marie dances about the house.