Friday afternoon clinics at the Jericho Bush Nursing Clinic were usually dour affairs. Jericho population - less than a thousand. Average pace of life - usually not hectic. The postprandial somnolence resulting from the stomach filling burgers at the nearby cafe often led to a very sedate pace after lunch. A mole check here. A prescription there. Occasionally a patient would be a little more interesting than the usual punter. One afternoon I diagnosed heart failure in the local garage owner - Stan. He had a heart the size of a football. Normally his heart would be the size of a fist. I sent him off to the visiting physician who started him on medications and things slowly reverted back towards normal.
But on this particular afternoon nothing quite so dramatic. Sleepy clinic. Sedate prescriptions. Boring breast checks. Until Doris (not her real name) came in for a chat. As she sat there in her chair chatting away I struggled to stay concentrated on her story. “Must get a coffee before the next patient”, I thought to myself. I could hear the shuffle of papers and feet outside the door which pulled me back to reality as I wondered how many more patients there were to see before I could drive home.
Then, out of the corner of my eye I saw a flicker of movement. In the twinkling of an eye my brain took in that movement and computed what it had seen and my fight, fright and flight physiology took over. In no time flat I carefully but quickly moved upwards until I was standing on top of the chair that only moments before I had been sitting on. This was no easy feat because the chair was one of those archaic affairs with a spring on the base that allowed you to lean back in it. In order to maintain my precarious perch I had to stand on the chair whilst holding onto the bookcase behind the consulting desk. Quite quickly I decided that standing on the desk itself was a safer proposition and a transfer to the more stable confines of the desk was soon achieved.
In the mere seconds that it took me to accomplish such an acrobatic feat Doris’s eyes widened at an exponential rate so that by the time I was standing confidently in the middle of her patient notes her pupils resembled the appearance of two black holes. In my haste for self preservation I had omitted informing her the reason for my strange antics. As she stared at me slack-jawed I realised my error and quite calmly said to her , “ You might want to get up on your chair as well. I just saw a 6 foot long brown snake come in under the door.” She was surprisingly agile for a 60+ year old.
We stayed up on our perches until it was apparent that the snake had secreted itself in behind the vaccination fridge. We then made good our escape to the waiting room. Thence a debate ensued as to what should be done about the reptilian intruder. After a short discussion it was decreed that the snake should be dealt with by the local expert snake killer who was none other than the local garage owner. He who had been laid very low with heart failure was now well again and was called to deal with the intruder. In no time flat he appeared with his weapon of choice. A loosely coiled power extension lead. We re-entered the consultation room. The snake was wrapped around the fridge motor. Someone poked at it with a long stick and once annoyed enough it came galloping out (yes, I know it was not a horse but it was moving!) trying to escape. This is when Stan pounced. Flailing around his extension cord he beat the snake into submission. Victory was ours (well his really but we all felt we were part of it).
So is there a moral to the story? Maybe - don’t be a snake in the immediate vicinity of someone with an extension cord. I guess the other might be - Always do your best because you never know when you might pay it forward - to yourself. If I hadn’t picked up Stan’s heart failure then he certainly wouldn’t have been able to sort out that snake for us. I might still be cowering in the waiting room hoping that it was going to make it’s own way back out to the bush.