Walter Jacobs was a doctor. He was not a good doctor, but a doctor nonetheless. He killed as many patients as he saved, but he meant well and he did what he could. He loved to make house-calls and while he mostly tried to stay mostly sober, people knew if you wanted his best work, it was best to get to the good doctor early in the day. “I love alcohol and alcohol loves me!” was a confession he often made to his priest. He knew drink was bad for him, knew it was rotting his insides and destroying his liver, but take away a man’s hope and you also take away his cares. Walter had little hope.
A man with nothing to lose, no longer cares when he loses.
He lived in the small town of Lima in the state of Ohio. Walter doctored for many miles in any direction. He had hundreds of patients, and he liked to see as many as he could, as often as he could. He worked nearly every day, and generally from sunup to sundown. Three days a week he had office days, but the rest of the time he was generally driving his carriage from farmstead to farmstead. As has already been noted, Walter had a problem with alcohol, but drink was not his only vice. He often dipped into the various medicines he kept in his bag for pain. Morphine, heroine tablets, or, on occasion, God’s own medicine: opium. Sometimes he overdid it, and slept the better part of the day in the back of his carriage. His horse generally knew the way home, and this was a good thing, because there were few things the doctor hated more than waking up in an area of Ohio unknown to him.
The horse was a gelding named King Pius. This was a joke shared between doctor and horse. In the company of others, Walter would refer to the horse as, “Your Highness,” or “My King.” While Walter considered himself a Catholic, he was not exactly a devote one, so he enjoyed his small blasphemies. The horse had no religion, but it did know his name. King Pius was a smart horse, and unlike his master, King Pius loved being alive. The horse lived for activity, an occasional apple as a treat, and for his nightly rubdown. It was a simple life, but one the horse found fulfilling (not that he was given any other choices).
“Some days I’m sorry I had your balls taken, Your Highness.” The doctor laughed at this, like it was a joke worth telling. “But you’re not missing anything. Trust me, I still have mine, and they are near worthless.” The horse was the doctor’s only real confidant. He told this animal his every thought, every secret, and even his fears. He confided in his horse in a manner he could not bring himself to do with any other, not even his priest.
Walter was a fastidious man. Once a week he trimmed his beard and moustache, and once a month he visited the barber to have his hair cut and his neck shaved. He was not a vain man, but he believed in a neat appearance, and did his best to keep himself presentable. This included wearing only suits. He dressed mostly utilitarian, and eschewed any sort of pretentious finery. Walter wanted the world to see him as an educated and accomplished professional, but he did not want to be presumptuous or as though he were putting on airs.
There was little happiness in Walter’s life. He took some small satisfaction from his work, and caring of his horse, but little else brought him joy. His drugs and booze allowed him to mimic one who had some pleasures in life, but he knew this was a poor semblance of happiness. Walter was without legacy.
“King Pius, someday I will be held accountable for my sins,” he said, as he took a swig of whiskey, “but today is not that day. Thank you, for offering absolution!”