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Today Is Eddie's Birthday


1. The search for health is as old as man's history.

In Babylon it was a custom to show the sick in the street, so that passers-by could say how to treat the sick from the own experience. It was not allowed to pass the sick man in silence.

A papyrus was found dated from 1600 B.C. about surgery and the treatment of wounds. Then another papyrus was found with about 900 prescriptions, some of these prescriptions doctors use today. People learnt much from Egyptian manuscripts and from embalmed bodies. Examinations of some of these bodies showed many interesting facts. For example people of those times knew such disease as rheumatoid, arthritis, tuberculosis and appendicitis.

2. The early Egyptian mythology tells us a very interesting story. Horas, the God of Health in fight with Sett, the demon of evil lost an eye. The eye was restored to him by a miraculous means. The eye had a sign "R" which meant "Recipe". And the mythology says that the word "Recipe" written at the beginning of every prescription was taken from the sign of the eye of Horas.

3. The clinical medicine developed in Roman times. The name of Galen is widely known. Galen worked first as a surgeon at a school for gladiators. He went to Rome when he was thirty two years old and there he had much practice but he continued to experiment the living animals, especially apes and pigs.

The Roman army always had a well organized service of surgeons. The school for gladiators was an ideal school for training in surgery.

4. In the 18th century smallpox was one of the main causes of death. Young and old caught this disease. Children of poor parents died before they were five years old.

Edward Jenner was an English physician. He was born in England in 1749. Jenner studied medicine in London and in 1773 he returned to his native town. In those days the whole world was afraid of smallpox. Every fifth person in London had the marks of the disease on his face. Once a milkmaid said to Jenner "I shan't catch smallpox as I have already had cow-pox". Jenner asked the country people about cow-pox and found, that many men and women thought about it like that milkmaid. For more than 20 years Jenner studied cow-pox and experiment an animals.

In 1796 a young woman came to Jenner "What's the matter with you?" Jenner asked her. "Please have a look at my hand doctor"? answered the woman. "I have got a sore on it I think I have caught it from a sick cow". The doctor examined her hand. He passed of the pockmarks, then he cut the skin on the arm of an 8-year old boy and rubbed some cow-pox matter into his arm. The name of the boy was James Phipps.

That night Jenner slept little. Every day he visited the boy and several days later Jenner inoculated the boy with smallpox matter. Time passed, but the boys health did not suffer. He never conquest. The experiment was successful. The terrible disease was beaten.

Jenner called his new method "vaccination" from the Latin world "vacca", which means a cow. Jenner received many awards from all over the world. He built a house for James Phipps and planted roses there.

To his last days the "country doctor" lived simply vaccinating free of charge anyone, who came to him. He died of Berkeley in 1823. There is a monument in London, which shows Jenner vaccinating a child.

Nowadays most babies are vaccinated. The lymph is prepared in laboratories. The vaccine is effective for about seven years.



Among the “external” reasons causing diseases. Tibetan medicine singled out food in particular. According to Chjud-shi, food formed in the human organism a "nutritive juice" which develops in 7 subse­quent stages (including the state of the blood) in the course of 7 days. The task of Tibetan doctor was to "compress" this period as much as possible. The treatise says that some medicines can restore a sick organism to health in one day.

A Tibetan doctor had to retain in his memory information that takes up 22 500-page volumes of modern text. His senses —vision, hearing, smell, taste and touch —had tobe extremely fine. The-ancient medics used them instead of a modern diagnostic laboratory.

An experienced diagnostician, says the treatise, can differentiate between 400 different "hues" of pulse. The pulse is felt by the doctor on the radial arteries of the patient's arms with the second, third and fourth fingers of both hands. Each finger obtained information from one to six of the main human organs — the heart, liver, both kidneys, lungs and the gastro-intestinal tract.

The doctor became an expert when his theoretical knowledge and practical abilities blended in perfect synchronization. But this took decades to achieve even for "especially gifted" people.



Hippocrates was born in Greece. He was the son of a doctor. Hippocrates studied medicine and then went from town to town to town where he practised the art of medicine. It is know that he drove out the plague from Athens by lighting fires in the streets of the city .Bat we have his writings which are called “Hippocrate collection”. The collection consists of more then one hundred books. Some of Hippocratic thoughts are quite modern. The collection begins with the famous Oath.

Hippocrates was known as an excellent practitioners and a teachers of medicine.

This great physician taught his pupils to examine the patient very attentively and to gave him quick help. He created medicine on the basis of experience.

Hippocrates freed medicine from superstation. He hated the idea that a disease was the punishment of Gods.

Hippocrates paid much attention to diet, gymnastics, massage, sea-bathing in treatment. He knew the use of many drugs and was also a good surgeon.

Hippocrates set fractures and even trephined the skull.

Aristotle, the famous philosopher, called him “Hippocrates the Great”.

From the Hippocratic Oath:

“I will use treatment to hell the sick people but never to inquire them...”

“I will enter to help the sick and whatsoever I shell see or hear in the course of my profession I will never divulge. I will hold such thing in secret.”


Today Is Eddie's Birthday

He is 33. He wakes with a jolt, gasping for breath. His thick, black hair is matted with sweat. He blinks hard against the darkness, try­ing desperately to focus on his arm, his knuckles, anything to know that he is here, in the apartment over the bakery, and not back in the war, in the village, in the fire. That dream. Will it ever stop?

It is just before 4 A.M. No point in going back to sleep. He waits until his breathing subsides, then slowly rolls off the bed, trying not to wake his wife. He puts his right leg down first, out of habit, avoid­ing the inevitable stiffness of his left. Eddie begins every morning the same way. One step and one hobble.

In the bathroom, he checks his bloodshot eyes and splashes water on his face. It is always the same dream: Eddie wandering through the flames in the Philippines on his last night of war. The village huts are engulfed in fire, and there is a constant, high-pitched squealing noise. Something invisible hits Eddie's legs and he swats at it but misses, and then swats again and misses again. The flames grow more intense, roaring like an engine, and then Smitty appears, yelling for Eddie, yelling, "Come on! Come on!" Eddie tries to speak but when he opens his mouth, the high-pitched squeal emerges from his throat. Then something grabs his legs, pulling him under the muddy earth.

And then he wakes up. Sweating. Panting. Always the same. The worst part is not the sleeplessness. The worst part is the general darkness the dream leaves over him, a gray film that clouds the day. Even his happy moments feel encased, like holes jabbed in a hard sheet of ice.

He dresses quietly and goes down the stairs. The taxi is parked by the corner, its usual spot, and Eddie wipes the moisture from its windshield. He never speaks about the darkness to Marguerite. She strokes his hair and says, "What's wrong?" and he says, "Nothing, I'm just beat," and leaves it at that. How can he explain such sad­ness when she is supposed to make him happy? The truth is he can­not explain it himself. All he knows is that something stepped in front of him, blocking his way, until in time he gave up on things, he gave up studying engineering and he gave up on the idea of trav­eling. He sat down in his life. And there he remained.

This night, when Eddie returns from work, he parks the taxi by the corner. He comes slowly up the stairs. From his apartment, he hears music, a familiar song.

"You made me love you

I didn't want to do it,

I didn't want to do it. . . ."

He opens the door to see a cake on the table and a small white bag, tied with ribbon.

"Honey?" Marguerite yells from the bedroom. "Is that you?"

He lifts the white bag. Taffy. From the pier.

"Happy birthday to you... " Marguerite emerges, singing in her soft sweet voice. She looks beautiful, wearing the print dress Ed­die likes, her hair and lips done up. Eddie feels the need to inhale, as if undeserving of such a moment. He fights the darkness within him, "Leave me alone," he tells it. "Let me feel this the way I should feel it."

Marguerite finishes the song and kisses him on the lips.

"Want to fight me for the taffy?" she whispers.

He moves to kiss her again. Someone raps on the door.

"Eddie! Are you in there? Eddie?"

Mr. Nathanson, the baker, lives in the ground-level apartment behind the store. He has a telephone. When Eddie opens the door, he is standing in the doorway, wearing a bathrobe. He looks concerned.

"Eddie," he says. "Come down. There's a phone call. I think something happened to your father."



It suddenly made sense to Eddie, why the woman looked familiar. He had seen a photograph, somewhere in the back of the repair shop, among the old manuals and paperwork from the park's initial ownership.

"The old entrance . . ." Eddie said.

She nodded in satisfaction. The original Ruby Pier en­trance had been something of a landmark, a giant arching structure based on a historic French temple, with fluted columns and a coved dome at the top. Just beneath that dome, under which all patrons would pass, was the painted face of a beautiful woman. This woman. Ruby.

"But that thing was destroyed a long time ago," Eddie said. "There was a big . . ."

He paused.

"Fire," the old woman said. "Yes. A very big fire." She dropped her chin, and her eyes looked down through her spectacles, as if she were reading from her lap.

"It was Independence Day, the Fourth of July—a holi­day. Emile loved holidays. 'Good for business,' he'd say. If Independence Day went well, the entire summer might go well. So Emile arranged for fireworks. He brought in a marching band. He even hired extra workers, roustabouts mostly, just for that weekend.

"But something happened the night before the celebration. It was hot, even after the sun went down, and a few of the roustabouts chose to sleep outside, behind the work sheds. They lit a fire in a metal barrel to roast their food.

"As the night went on, there was drinking and carous­ing. The workers got ahold of some of the smaller fire­works. They set them off. The wind blew. The sparks flew. Everything in those days was made of lathe and tar. . . ."

She shook her head. "The rest happened quickly. The fire spread to the midway and the food stalls and on to the animal cages. The roustabouts ran off. By the time someone came to our home to wake us, Ruby Pier was in flames. From our window we saw the horrible orange blaze. We heard the horses' hooves and the steamer engines of the fire compa­nies. People were in the street.

"I begged Emile not to go, but that was fruitless. Of course he would go. He would go to the raging fire and he would try to salvage his years of work and he would lose himself in anger and fear and when the entrance caught fire, the entrance with my name and my picture, he lost all sense of where he was, too. He was trying to throw buckets of water when a column collapsed upon him."

She put her fingers together and raised them to her lips. "In the course of one night, our lives were changed forever. Risk taker that he was, Emile had acquired only mini­mal insurance on the pier. He lost his fortune. His splendid gift to me was gone.

"In desperation, he sold the charred grounds to a businessman from Pennsylvania for far less than it was worth. That businessman kept the name, Ruby Pier, and in time, he reopened the park. But it was not ours anymore.

"Emile's spirit was as broken as his body. It took three years before he could walk on his own. We moved away, to a place outside the city, a small flat, where our lives were spent modestly, me tending to my wounded husband and silently nurturing a single wish."

She stopped.

"What wish?" Eddie said.

"That he had never built that place."


THE OLD WOMAN sat in silence. Eddie studied the vast jade sky. He thought about how many times he had wished this same thing, that whoever had built Ruby Pier had done something else with his money.

"I'm sorry about your husband," Eddie said, mostly because he didn't know what else to say.

The old woman smiled. "Thank you, dear. But we lived many years beyond those flames. We raised three children. Emile was sickly, in and out of the hospital. He left me a widow in my fifties. You see this face, these wrinkles?" She turned her cheeks upward. "I earned every one of them."

Eddie frowned. "I don't understand. Did we ever . . . meet? Did you ever come to the pier?"

"No," she said. "I never wanted to see the pier again. My children went there, and their children and theirs. But not me. My idea of heaven was as far from the ocean as pos­sible, back in that busy diner, when my days were simple, when Emile was courting me."

Eddie rubbed his temples. When he breathed, mist emerged.

"So why am I here?" he said. "I mean, your story, the fire, it all happened before I was born."

"Things that happen before you are born still affect you," she said. "And people who come before your time af­fect you as well.

"We move through places every day that would never have been if not for those who came before us. Our workplaces, where we spend so much time—we often think they began with our arrival. That's not true."

She tapped her fingertips together. "If not for Emile, I would have no husband. If not for our marriage, there would be no pier. If there'd been no pier, you would not have ended up working there."

Eddie scratched his head. "So you're here to tell me about work?"

"No, dear," Ruby answered, her voice softening. "I'm here to tell you why your father died."


THE PHONE CALL was from Eddie's mother. His father had collapsed that afternoon, on the east end of the boardwalk near the Junior Rocket Ride. He had a raging fever.

"Eddie, I'm afraid," his mother said, her voice shaking. She told him of a night, earlier in the week, when his father had come home at dawn, soaking wet. His clothes were full of sand. He was missing a shoe. She said he smelled like the ocean. Eddie bet he smelled like liquor, too.

"He was coughing," his mother explained. "It just got worse. We should have called a doctor right away. . . ." She drifted in her words. He'd gone to work that day, she said, sick as he was, with his tool belt and his ball peen hammer—same as always—but that night he'd refused to eat and in bed he'd hacked and wheezed and sweated through his un­dershirt. The next day was worse. And now, this afternoon, he'd collapsed.

"The doctor said it's pneumonia. Oh, I should have done something. I should have done something. . . ."

"What were you supposed to do?" Eddie asked. He was mad that she took this on herself. It was his father's drunken fault.

Through the phone, he heard her crying.


EDDIE'S FATHER USED to say he'd spent so many years by the ocean, he breathed seawater. Now, away from that ocean, in the confines of a hospital bed, his body began to wither like a beached fish. Complications developed. Congestion built in his chest. His condition went from fair to stable and from stable to serious. Friends went from saying, "He'll be home in a day," to "He'll be home in a week." In his father's absence, Eddie helped out at the pier, working evenings after his taxi job, greasing the tracks, checking the brake pads, testing the levers, even repairing broken ride parts in the shop.

What he really was doing was protecting his father's job. The owners acknowledged his efforts, then paid him half of what his father earned. He gave the money to his mother, who went to the hospital every day and slept there most nights. Eddie and Marguerite cleaned her apartment and shopped for her food.

When Eddie was a teenager, if he ever complained or seemed bored with the pier, his father would snap, "What? This ain't good enough for you?" And later, when he'd suggested Eddie take a job there after high school, Eddie almost laughed, and his father again said, "What? This ain't good enough for you?" And before Eddie went to war, when he'd talked of marrying Marguerite and becoming an engineer, his father said, "What? This ain't good enough for you?"

And now, despite all that, here he was, at the pier, do­ing his father's labor.

Finally, one night, at his mother's urging, Eddie visited the hospital. He entered the room slowly. His father, who for years had refused to speak to Eddie, now lacked the strength to even try. He watched his son with heavy-lidded eyes. Eddie, after struggling to find even one sentence to say, did the only thing he could think of to do: He held up his hands and showed his father his grease-stained fingertips.

"Don't sweat it, kid," the other maintenance workers told him. "Your old man will pull through. He's the tough­est son of a gun we've ever seen."


PARENTS RARELY LET go of their children, so children let go of them. They move on. They move away. The moments that used to define them—a mother's approval, a father's nod—are covered by moments of their own accomplish­ments. It is not until much later, as the skin sags and the heart weakens, that children understand; their stories, and all their accomplishments, sit atop the stories of their mothers and fathers, stones upon stones, beneath the wa­ters of their lives.

When the news came that his father had died—"slipped away," a nurse told him, as if he had gone out for milk—Eddie felt the emptiest kind of anger, the kind that circles in its cage. Like most workingmen's sons, Eddie had envisioned for his father a heroic death to counter the commonness of his life. There was nothing heroic about a drunken stupor by the beach.

The next day, he went to his parents' apartment, en­tered their bedroom, and opened all the drawers, as if he might find a piece of his father inside. He rifled through coins, a tie pin, a small bottle of apple brandy, rubber bands, electric bills, pens, and a cigarette lighter with a mermaid on the side. Finally, he found a deck of playing cards. He put it in his pocket.

THE FUNERAL WAS small and brief. In the weeks that followed, Eddie's mother lived in a daze. She spoke to her husband as if he were still there. She yelled at him to turn down the radio. She cooked enough food for two. She fluffed pillows on both sides of the bed, even though only one side had been slept in.

One night, Eddie saw her stacking dishes on the countertop.

"Let me help you," he said.

"No, no," his mother answered, "your father will put them away."

Eddie put a hand on her shoulder.

"Ma," he said, softly. "Dad's gone."

"Gone where?"

The next day, Eddie went to the dispatcher and told him he was quitting. Two weeks later, he and Marguerite moved back into the building where Eddie had grown up, Beachwood Avenue—apartment 6B—where the hallways were narrow and the kitchen window viewed the carousel and where Eddie had accepted a job that would let him keep an eye on his mother, a position he had been groomed for summer after summer: a maintenance man at Ruby Pier. Eddie never said this—not to his wife, not to his mother, not to anyone—but he cursed his father for dying and for trapping him in the very life he'd been trying to es­cape; a life that, as he heard the old man laughing from the grave, apparently now was good enough for him.



Today Is Eddie's Birthday

He is 37. His breakfast is getting cold.

"You see any salt?" Eddie asks Noel.

Noel, chewing a mouthful of sausage, slides out from the booth, leans across another table, and grabs a salt shaker.

"Here, "he mumbles. "Happy birthday."

Eddie shakes it hard. "How tough is it to keep salt on the table?"

"What are you, the manager?" Noel says.

Eddie shrugs. The morning is already hot and thick with humid­ity. This is their routine: breakfast, once a week, Saturday mornings, before the park gets crazy. Noel works in the dry cleaning business. Ed­die helped him get the contract for Ruby Pier's maintenance uniforms.

"What'dya think of this good-lookin' guy?" Noel says. He has a copy of Life magazine open to a photo of a young political candi­date. "How can this guy run for president? He's a kid!"

Eddie shrugs. "He's about our age."

"No foolin'?" Noel says. He lifts an eyebrow. "I thought you had to be older to be president."

"We are older, "Eddie mumbles.

Noel closes the magazine. His voice drops. "Hey. You hear what happened at Brighton?"

Eddie nods. He sips his coffee. He'd heard. An amusement park A gondola ride. Something snapped. A mother and her son fell 60 feet to their death.

"You know anybody up there?"Noel asks.

Eddie puts his tongue between his teeth. Every now and then he hears these stories, an accident at a park somewhere, and he shud­ders as if a wasp just flew by his ear. Not a day passes that he doesn 't worry about it happening here, at Ruby Pier, under his watch.

"Nuh-uh," he says. "I don't know no one in Brighton."

He fixes his eyes out the window, as a crowd of beachgoers emerges from the train station. They carry towels, umbrellas, wicker baskets with sandwiches wrapped in paper. Some even have the newest thing: foldable chairs, made from lightweight aluminum.

An old man walks past in a panama hat, smoking a cigar.

"Lookit that guy, "Eddie says. "I promise you, he'll drop that cigar on the boardwalk."

"Yeah?" Noel says. "So?"

"It falls in the cracks, then it starts to burn. You can smell it. The chemical they put on the wood. It starts smoking right away. Yesterday I grabbed a kid, couldn't have been more than four years old, about to put a cigar butt in his mouth."

Noel makes a face. "And?"

Eddie turns aside. "And nothing. People should be more careful, that's all."

Noel shovels a forkful of sausage into bis mouth. "You're a bar­rel of laughs. You always this much fun on your birthday?"

Eddie doesn't answer. The old darkness has taken a seat along­side him. He is used to it by now, making room for it the way you make room for a commuter on a crowded bus.

He thinks about the maintenance load today. Broken mirror in the Fun House. New fenders for the bumper cars. Glue, he reminds himself, gotta order more glue. He thinks about those poor people in Brighton. He wonders who's in charge up there.

"What time you finish today?" Noel asks.

Eddie exhales. "It's gonna be busy. Summer. Saturday. You know."

Noel lifts an eyebrow. "We can make the track by six."

Eddie thinks about Marguerite. He always thinks about Mar­guerite when Noel mentions the horse track.

"Come on. It's your birthday," Noel says.

Eddie pokes a fork at his eggs, now too cold to bother with.

'"All right," he says.


Date: 2014-12-22; view: 1296

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