A Moe Minsky Tale
Written By Al Geto


    Where in the hell do you go when there's no place left to go? I mean you are flat-out rejected, the dream of your life as good as down the drain, the one thing gone you had your heart set on since you were a kid standing in the middle of the blood-stained gutter, the horse crumpled up and dying, the wagon driver lying nearby like a broken pretzel, the car smashed, the whole neighborhood stumbling down the front stoops of their stucco houses to gape at the awful scene, women fainting, men swearing, and some nut hollering, "Kill the horse! Kill the horse!"

   Half a dozen people had called the police, the ambulance, the fire truck. The doctor had raced out of his house. Paula Kaplowski, taking advantage of her big chance as a cub reporter on the Brooklyn Eagle made notes on back of an envelope that she later could hardly read, spelling Dr. Menocky's name as "Dr. Maniac" When she called it in later she featured the boy who stood at the doctor's elbow the entire time the doc was stanching the flow of blood and relieved him of the soaked bandages. The paper ran it as a separate, small item under the caption "Medic Displaces Dogs," because according to the reporter the kid, ten year old Aaron Goldfarb, had said, "Doctors are a man's best friend."

   Aaron's parents attributed their son's obsession to become a doctor to his presence at that accident, but Aaron assured them that he wanted to be a subway conductor so he could keep the doors shut and allow his mother a comfortable ride. But they knew their Boy Scout, and were not surprised when he achieved his First Aid merit badge, with special commendation. Indeed, he loved to pore over Dr. Menocky's books, and at fourteen helped save a boy's life on a camping trip by applying a tourniquet. That's when they began to call him "Doc," and the nickname stuck. His room was a mess of gadgets, pinups stuck on the wall, a blowup of a photo of Jack Dempsey in the ring, clothing dumped on the floor, and a perennially unmade bed. He would also forget to change his socks. As though his room wasn't overstuffed already, for his sixteenth birthday his father complied with his request and bought him a replica of the human skeleton with the provision that he would change his habits. He tried but failed and hung his underwear on the skeleton.

   Through high school he showed a natural proclivity for anything related to science, spent hours in the chemistry lab creating his own experiments and would have achieved an "A" in the course, as he did in all the rest, except that he blew up the lab table. In the annual state essay contest he won third prize for his composition defending Darwin's theory of evolution as outlined in the Scopes so-called "monkey trial" of a few years before, concluding his paper with the words, "Whatever a scientist does he cannot afford to monkey around with the truth." As Valedictorian he chose to speak on the subject "My Country 'tis of Thee." His grandparents had arrived from a Polish village with what they wore on their backs. "And where they couldn't even read, I go to the best schools in the world. That's great. And," he concluded, "any teacher in this school can come for treatment at my office for free!" The assembly laughed, applauded, whistled, and yelled, "Hey, Doc!" Then he added, "But not until I get my degree. That's eight more years! But that's okay, teachers, I'll probably be doing geriatrics."

   He had no problem with where he wanted to go to college, choosing to be away from home, picking one of the best of the nation's top-ranked institutions. He wanted to experience a new place, meet people other than the usual crowd of cynical New Yorkers. He selected a university in Virginia, not so far from home, and from where he could get to see his parents. In addition, his best friend and tennis partner, Alan, had squeaked by to gain admission there as well, although his grades were on the edge. They planned to room together.

   "Hey, Doc, we're in!" Alan cried when they received news of their acceptances. "You, me, and Hitler!"

   "Hitler? What the hell are you talking about?"

   "His party got the second most votes for the German parliament. It was on the radio."

   "Oh, yeah? He's nothing but an anti-Semitic jerk. That shmuck. He won't last a year. And you can bet your father's moustache on it. I mean — what are we talking about? Are we gonna apply for the room at the dorms together? We better do it today before they fill up."

   "Yeah, okay," Alan agreed. They went upstairs to Aaron's room to fill out the forms and mail them off.

   Aaron found it hard leaving the city and its theatres and symphonies which he attended with casual girl friends, doling out his allowance for tickets, borrowing his father's car afterwards for some heavy necking in the back seat. He never came closer than that. He wouldn't take the chance of getting anyone pregnant. He had his eye on the prize. By the end of his second year at college, he had already chosen the two greatest medical schools in the country to which he would apply, had spoken to his professors about it, was assured he had selected the very finest. He shared all his plans with Amy with whom he had fallen in love, having met her at the hospital where he had taken a summer job as part of his hands-on education. She was a nurse's aide in training for her RN, a girl with a soft, round figure and tawny skin, and a delectable sense of humor.

   "My desert flower," he called her. She ploughed her fingers through the thick ringlets of his black hair. It became increasingly difficult for him to keep his distance enough to fulfill his pledge, and there were nights when she was willing to help him break it. "We have time, we have time," he told her, fighting his own need. His studies, luckily, used up his hours and energy, and by the time he was about to graduate with honors, he had succeeded in his promise to himself. His devotion to his work was paying off handsomely. As president of the Science Society and earning a degree summa cum laude, he attained one of the top scores in the entire country and again had been chosen to deliver a graduation address.

   The night after graduation, back home, he took the car, called for Amy, and they sped up to Connecticut to their seafood haven, The Plage, and as they strolled the beach afterwards, flecks of diamonds in the sky, a scythe of yellow behind thin, drifting clouds, Amy asked, "And what are your plans, Doc?"

   "He looked surprised. Don't you know?"

   "Tell me."

   "I'm going to one or the other of my choices of med school - the two best in the U.S.A. I expect the okays on admission any day."

   "And then?"

   "Then I'll have to choose my specialty. Both schools are doing terrific work in brain surgery, cancer research, psychiatry..."


   "If I'm going to become the kind of doctor I've always wanted to be, there's no other way. What I'm planning to do is go up there as soon as possible, long before the term begins. I'm going to find a place where you can come anytime..."


"It's going to be one helluva demand. I mean, you know what they put you through in med school."

   "And us?"

   "'Us' is just gonna have to wait, honey. There's no one else but you, you know that."

   On the way home, neither of them said a word.

   He had spoken to his father about his idea of leaving for medical school a good month before he was due in order to set himself up, become acquainted with places like the libraries and other facilities. His friend Alan,whose grades did not match Aaron's, having applied to a number of lesser schools telephoned him nervously every day to find out if he had received an acceptance yet. "I sent out ten of 'em," Alan told him. "So far I got one 'yes' and one 'no' from some second rate joints out west."

   "I'm still waiting," Aaron said.

   "Yours'll come with offers for scholarships, Doc. Holy mackerel, I wish I was in your shoes with your record. Well, I can always go into my old man's business. Or the army. Hitler became the Fury of Germany or something yesterday."

   "You know who's going to stop Hitler?"

   "Yes, Russians?"

   "They're not much better than he is. I'll tell you who. The Germans. Beethoven, Bach, Kant, Einstein, Thomas Mann. You think in a country that produced those men they're going to let that insane weasel take over?"

   Ten days later Aaron had begun to grow alarmed at not having received any communications, a feeling unlike any he had ever experienced, when on returning from the shoemakers he and the mailman arrived at the door at the same moment.

   "Hey, Doc, somethin' for you here." He handed him a number of envelopes.

   "Thanks, Mr. Amber," he said, smiling, grabbing them. He leaped into the house and threw all but one of the letters onto the foyer table then ran to his room as his mother came in just in time to see him disappear up the stairs, the envelope in his hands. She glanced at the letters on the foyer table, examined them, and glanced up the staircase.

   "Aaron?" she called. She waited a moment and looked at the letters again and looked up the stairway. "Aaron!" she cried. She dropped the letters and ran up.

   A few hours later, after his father came home, the three of them sat around the dinner table, Aaron's plate untouched, talking it over quietly.

   "The medical schools have conferences among themselves," his father patiently suggested. "Dividing the best applicants so that just a few schools don't get the cream of the crop. "You'll be admitted by your alternate choice. Since they were both first choices anyway, it doesn't matter which one."

   Aaron rose from the table. "They were my only choices," he said. "There aren't any other choices for me. Excuse me. I'm going to take a walk."

   The second envelope arrived in the morning mail, another rejection explaining that their roster for the year had been filled. It took his father a week of intense search through devious channels he commanded in the business community and by reaching out to highly placed friends before he could obtain the information he was seeking.

   "If he can wait another year, maybe I can do something for him," one of the friends with inner circle connections told Aaron's father in a call that shook Mr. Goldfarb to his roots. "In the meanwhile," his friend confided, "I know people at the University of Glasgow. Is Aaron interested? It's a prime medical school. Many of the top-ranked students who've been refused admission here because they're Jews are applying to Scotland. Let me know as soon as you can."

-Al Geto

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Copyright August 3, 2000-

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