“Did you hear what happened to ole Doc Webster?” I asked the old man sitting on the bench next to me. Before he could reply, Mayor Tom Winger came tearing through the town square in his new, 1976 Chevy Impala convertible, steadily beeping his horn. Behind the mayor’s car, Sheriff Brewer followed in his patrol car with the all the lights on and the siren at full volume. The next four cars had boys and girls from the college, waving their beer cans at everyone gathered around the town square.
Maypole, Mississippi is easy to miss. We have a stop light, McCoy’s hardware store, a bank, and Frank’s feed store. Lucy’s Bluebird cafe is across the street from Murphy’s filling station. The Dew Drop Inn Bar is next to the filling station. On the corner of Maple and Main Street, is Doc Webster’s two-story, white, house. His office is downstairs and he lives upstairs.
“No, I’m new in town. Just who is this doctor, and what happened?” the old man asked.
“The good, old, lucky doctor won the lottery. Everyone in town loves him. Let me tell you why. No one ever received a bill from him. Doc did not have a nurse or anyone to make a bill. When times were tough, the doctor accepted eggs, boots and sometimes, just a ‘Thank You’ as payment when that was all his patients could afford. When the economy was better, no one ever forgot to pay what they owed him and more. The doctor delivered just about every youngster in this town. In some instances, he delivered a couple of generations in some families. Doc Webster delighted in attending weddings where he had delivered the bride and groom.
“When Pastor Bob’s fifteen-year-old daughter got pregnant, the good doctor arranged for her baby to be adopted in Tupelo. The doctor announced to everyone he was sending the Pastor’s daughter to fat camp for a few months. Everyone agreed she was looking a bit chunky. The pastor, his family, and the church were spared a lot of embarrassment.
“When old man Cutler died of acute alcoholism, Doc Webster listed cause of death as ‘natural causes’ on his death certificate, so his wife could collect on a small insurance policy. The Phillips boy was away at college when he wrecked his car. They had to cut open that little car to get him out. The big city doctors wanted to amputate his crushed leg. Mr. and Mrs. Phillips brought their son back to Maypole. Doctor Webster said, ‘Now hold on, before anyone does any amputating, let me see what I can do.’
“It took him darn near a year, but Doc saved that boy’s leg,” I told the old man.
I looked down the street and saw most folks were going into Lucy’s Blue Bird cafe. The old man and I walked down the street, and just as we got to the Blue Bird, the doctor turned the corner and went in, just in front of us. It seemed like the whole town turned out. There wasn’t a single available seat in the cafe. When the crowd spotted the doctor, the applause and whooping and hollering was ear-splitting.
Lucy stood on a chair and called out several times, “Ya’ll quiet down!” After a few moments, the crowd was silent. Someone yelled out, “Hey, doc! What are you going to do with all that money?”
The doctor looked around the room, cleared his throat, looked down at the floor and said, “I’m going to do something I’ve wanted to do all my life—go to medical school.”
Art Lefkowitz is a retired computer tech, who does his best writing on rainy days and after midnight on sleepless nights. He has had short stories published in Foliate Oak Magazine and Dead Mule of Southern Literature.