Friday, December 25, 2015
Surgical Dilemma Part Three
For the moment, I was unemployed. However, my little book, “The Amazing Journey,” continued to be a hot seller, thanks to Annabelle and a thousand positive reviews. Sales passed 250,000 which made me number one among all books about surgery, number five on the nonfiction list and promised to put more than half a million bucks in my pocket.
Even though it looked like I would be financially secure, I was more than troubled by my recent disaster. I did call the hospital to speak with Art Shaw, the current Chief of Surgery.
“Take some time off while we investigate. You’re not officially suspended or anything, but it would be best for you to keep a low profile until we talk to all the parties involved. Just take a vacation for a few weeks. You deserve it anyway,” he advised.
I did my best to follow his recommendation.
I took the dogs for a couple of walks every day, began a sequel to “The Amazing Journey,” sorted through myriad offers to market it, make it into a movie or TV show, to interview me and everything else which one could possibly associate with a bestselling book.
And, like any older middle aged man going through a crisis I did the only logical thing possible. I bought myself a Corvette. Not a red one; no mine was black, a top of the line Z06. I considered a Lamborghini or Ferrari, but my practical side won out and I settled for “Black Beauty.”
And I thought about Lori, all the time. I knew she had survived the ordeal of the accident and the greater ordeal of surgery. My contacts in the ICU kept me in the loop, sending me daily updates on her condition. She was still on the vent, was being dialyzed regularly, was awake at times, but she was not completely out of the woods. The next ten to fourteen days would be most important.
I tried to visit her once. I made it through the hospital entrance, even past the fish tank in the lobby. But, when I pushed the button for the elevator, I felt my heart pound and sweat began to bead up on my forehead. The same contemptuous laughter that had chased me from the OR filled my head and I turned and quickly walked out.
Now I spent time driving around town in “Black Beauty.” That’s when I saw her. She was standing outside Saks, staring into her phone, probably waiting for Uber. It was my one time circulating nurse.
Alone on that corner she did not resemble any OR nurse I’d ever known. Wind blew through her long dark hair creating a tousled, sexy mess, her top was sleeveless with the top three buttons open which caused it to billow out with each gust. At the same time her dress clung to her, accenting every perfect curve.
Chivalry and lust forced me to pull over and render aid to this poor, suffering angel.
“You look like a lady in distress, Miss Vargus. May I offer you a lift?” I asked, my voice wavering a bit.
She gazed intently at my face and then into my eyes, looking like she was trying to remember if we had met previously and then she started to answer.
“I don’t think…” she began before I interrupted.
“Surely you can trust your favorite surgeon. I did manage to bring your Boss back from the abyss and save your skin in the process.”
She stared into my eyes and then smiled.
“Oh, Doctor…thank you. I need a lift home. My ride seems to be stuck in traffic.”
“Have no fear, dear lady. I am at your service; a gallant knight to do your bidding.”
She climbed into the front seat, bending forward just enough to give me an eyeful of her ample bosom.
“Home, driver. 1311 Elwood.”
I wasn’t sure where Elwood was, but between her directions and my navigation system I delivered her outside her apartment in just a few minutes.
“Thank you so much for the lift. I don’t know how much longer I would have waited,” she remarked as she hoisted herself out of the Corvette.
Then she added, “The Boss is away on business for a few days, which means my life is nothing but an empty bore. Would you like to come up for a cup of tea?”
Come up for a drink? A pickup line? Why not. I am certainly not doing anything important.
“Sure, as long as it’s a good black tea.”
“I’m on the sixteenth floor, number 1604. The Boss is across the hall in 1601,” she informed me.
I parked the ‘Vette” and met her in the lobby.
“You must do pretty well for yourself,” I commented as I we entered through double doors into a huge foyer and living room. The floors were all marble and exotic hardwood and there were floor to ceiling windows opposite the entry which looked out over the park below.
“The boss treats me well. His apartment is even bigger and fancier. “Now what am I supposed to do? Oh, yes, tea.”
She disappeared into the kitchen while I settled into a plush leather couch. She reappeared ten minutes later carrying a tray loaded with pastries, cheese and crackers, a large teapot and two cups. She had taken the opportunity to change into a sheer bathrobe which did a poor job of hiding her ample assets.
“Try one of the scones, they are simply to die for and the cheese is imported from Paris,” she said as she poured out the hot water.
I put my hand on her hip and spun her around, her robe coming undone as I pulled her down towards me.
“I’ll skip the scones for now, if that’s OK with you.”
“Why, of course, Doctor,” and she pressed her open mouth against mine.
It was two hours later when I finally had my cup of tea. I found a man’s bathrobe in her closet and was staring out her window when she tapped on my shoulder and handed me a cup of tea.
“Now, I think I’m ready for one of those special scones,” I decided.
We ate rich pastries and drank some fine tea and then I reached over and grabbed her around the waist.
“I’m ready for the main course now.”
It was six am when I finally left her apartment. We made plans for dinner.
The dogs will be mad at me. It will be past their dinner time.
I quickly fixed five bowls for my canine buddies and then went to the computer. First I made dinner reservations for the two of us at Angelo’s and then I tried to search out some information on my new love.
“Lillie Vargus,” I entered into Google. There were a lot of women with that name, but none were my Lillie Vargus.
I could not find anything on her.
Maybe I should be more trusting. Sure, great sex is something, but she works for Satan. No harm in checking her out. But, the sex was fantastic. Keep your thoughts above the belt.
“What’s the name of their company? I know I saw it on the dresser by her bed…Vixen Enterprises, that’s it.”
I went back to the computer and searched for Vixen Enterprises. The company’s web page popped up.
“International finance, shipping, industrial investment…”
Nothing unusual. What about their people?
“Stewart Young, CEO, graduated Wharton School of Business. Been with company twelve years…”
Just a boring company. No Lillie, no Satan, just a bunch of men in suits. I guess I shouldn’t be suspicious. Maybe this isn’t even the right company. I’ll try to bring it up at dinner tonight.
Dinner at Angelo’s was a great prelude to an even better night. Lillie was dressed in a little black dress. Her only adornments were sparkling diamond stud earrings and a large sapphire and diamond ring.
“Gifts from past admirers,” she explained.
“The Boss?” I wondered out loud.
“Oh, no, that’s not his style. I work for him and that’s it.”
“You know, I haven’t really met the Boss, at least not in a conscious state. So tell me, what’s Satan like?” I asked.
Her eyes sort of glazed over as she contemplated my question.
“Satan,” she began, but she stopped.
“Satan is misunderstood,” she began again. “Popular lore has it that Satan hates humanity, all of mankind. This is more than unfair. The Satan I know liberated Adam and Eve from servitude, slavery really. They were in paradise? I don’t believe it. They toiled for a God who kept them naked and ignorant. Satan had great foresight and freed then from oppression. Satan set them on the path which has led to the world of today. Men and women have unleashed all the power of their own intellect and ingenuity and have taken advantage of all the resources this Earth can offer.”
“Some would say exploited with no thought towards consequences,” I countered.
“This world was created for humanity. Why shouldn’t all mankind be allowed to exult in its abundance?”
“But what about death and disease, war and hunger and the evil which has been a part of human history almost since the beginning?” I added.
“Every great advance comes at a price; that is true. But do you think god really cares? He’s been angry ever since that first act of rebellion. A true god would have been proud to see his children growing up, leaving the nest.”
“What about you? Has Satan treated you well?”
“I’m here aren’t I? I have never seen Satan hurt another person without a proper reason or justification? Could god say the same?”
“I don’t know.”
The conversation had become more heated than I intended and I decided to change the subject.
“Is your fettucine to your liking?” I asked.
I suspected she was just as anxious to change the subject.
“Best I’ve had, ever. Can I have another glass of wine?”
We finished dinner with small talk about nothing and headed back to my place for an after dinner drink and more.
Later that night, as we lay in bed, I wondered out loud.
“What would it be like to have the power of Satan, to be the Boss?”
She sat up and faced me.
“Are you serious?”
“Probably not,” I answered. “Just speculating. I mean, as a surgeon, I’ve brought so many people back from the brink of death, including your Boss. I suppose this has given me a tiny taste of power. But the power Satan must have is enormous. I know he’s not God, but he was given the power to rein over the earth.”
She looked at me sort of funny.
“You know,” she finally replied. “It could be done. You could take the Boss’s place.”
“Really, though, I don’t think I want to be the purveyor of evil throughout the world.”
“It doesn’t have to be evil, you know. You’re a surgeon. You help people every day, cure them of dread diseases, cut out their cancers, mend broken bodies. You could take Satan’s power and harness it for good.”
“How could such a thing be done? What would compel Satan to give up his power?”
“You would have to kill him.”
“You mean he has to die.”
“No. For his power to flow to you, you would have to be the arbiter of his death. You would have to be responsible for his demise.”
“I’ve been down this road once before, my dear Lillie. I had his life in my hands and I gave it back to him. Killing is not my style.”
“Well, I think it could be done in such a way that it isn’t really murder. I think if he is ill and you have the power to intervene and cure him, but you withhold the intervention or there is some sort of, what do you call it, complication, the result would be the same.”
Maybe it would be a good thing. Not intervening or having an unavoidable complication is definitely different from a deliberate act of murder. Or, is it?
“Well, such speculation makes for good philosophical discussion. However, the last time I saw your Boss he looked to be in peak health. I really did a great job on him, even if I do say so myself.”
Lillie didn’t answer right away. She appeared lost in thought.
“You know,” she finally replied, “he did have cancer, cancer of the pancreas. From what I know of this disease, even with a supposedly curative resection, it is notorious for recurring. You never know. The Boss could return from his trip with cancer racing through his body.”
Too much talk and not enough sex.
“My dear, I think that we should let the Boss and his cancer alone. If it is destined to race through his body, then so be it. But, while wait for cancer to race through his body, I wouldn’t mind racing through your body instead,” I remarked as I grabbed her around the waist and pulled her towards me.
The next morning, after Lillie had left I mulled over her proposal
You could have such power; you could do so much good and Lillie would be with you. You could live forever, be a sort of Surgery God. All the petty politics of the hospital would be meaningless. No more SCIP, no more battling soulless EMR’s. All your valuable time could be spent doing what you love best.
“I need to clear my head,” I said out loud.
I jumped in “Black Beauty” and headed out or town.
I’ll cruise some of the country roads.
About forty miles outside of the city, the suburbs give way to a jumble of forests and farmland. Fields filled with corn alternate with cow pastures. The roads twist and turn and the farther one goes the sparser are the homes.
I opened the sun roof and the throttle and raced up and down hills and around hairpin turns. I turned my music up as loud as I could stand, allowing Roger Daltry to serenade the countryside.
“…teenage wasteland, it’s only teenage waste land…they’re all wasted…”
I sang along, letting all thoughts of Satan, surgery, Lori and even Lillie fade away as I exalted in the warm rays of the sun, the wind and the Who.
“Ever since I was a young boy I played the silver ball…”
“Tommy” filled my ears as I raced along deserted roads. I was driving over a narrow bridge when I noticed the smell.
It was smoke, like burning oil and then I saw a black gray cloud wafting up from the bottom of a ravine. I slammed on the brakes and spun the car around and drove back to the ravine, stopping at the edge. Down at the bottom I saw smoke billowing out of a car which was wedged between two trees.
I grabbed the first aid kit from the trunk of my car as well as the Swiss Army knife I kept in the glove compartment. I felt like a Boy Scout, prepared for anything. I raced down the grass covered hill to the car, hitting 911 on my cell phone.
I don’t think I have time to find a spot with a signal. I hope that car doesn’t explode.
I reached the car and saw there were, or had been two passengers, an older woman and a young girl. The older woman was obviously gone as she had been nearly decapitated, but the girl, who looked to be about five was moving in the back seat, still strapped into a child’s car seat.
Hurry, hurry. My god, look at her face.
Indeed, her face was bloody and swollen and I heard gurgling noises as she tried to breath. I tried to open the door, but it was jammed. All the doors were jammed. The windshield was smashed and it looked like crawling through from the front seat was the only way to get to her.
Carefully, carefully, but with determination I jumped on the hood and began to slide myself through the open space where the windshield had been, going head first on my back. My clothes snagged on the shards of glass, which scraped and tore my skin. As I reached the girl the car suddenly settled and smoke began to pour out from the floor.
Don’t blow now. I’m almost there.
I managed to reach her and began to release her from the car seat. The seat belt latch was folded under the twisted wreckage. My pocket knife came in handy as I cut her free.
I made a quick survey of her, trying to discern any potential injuries as I cradled her in my left arm, doing my best to support her head and neck. She was still making gurgling noises and I could tell she was moving some air.
Try not to make her injuries worse, be gentle, but be quick.
After an eternity, I had her out and I laid her on the flattest surface I could find, well away from the smoldering car. I felt for her pulse and was pleased to feel a strong radial and carotid. Her face was a mass of edematous eyes and cheeks, her jaw was deformed and there was blood in her mouth and nose. She seemed to be moving adequate air, but as I was assessing the situation, more blood started to pour from her mouth and the gurgling stopped. I tried to clear her airway without success.
Cricothyrotomy. Let’s go Swiss Army Knife.
I pulled open the pocketknife, did my best to feel the landmarks on her neck and started to cut.
My hand started to shake.
Come on, you can do this. You have to do this.
My hand shook even more. I kept cutting, finally poking the tip of the knife blade into her windpipe.
Blood poured out.
I tore open the first aid kit. There was some gauze which I used to wipe away some of the blood and I stuck the can opener blade on my knife into the airway and rotated it as I tried to prop open the airway. Blood was still oozing from the hole.
There must be something I can use to keep the hole from closing.
I found some gauze and tape, a bee sting kit, rubber gloves, a flexible splint and a few other odds and ends.
That might work.
I took the splint and cut it in two. Then I took some of the adhesive tape and began to wrap it around the splint to create a tube.
I hope it’s not too big.
As I began to put my makeshift endotracheal tube through the surgical airway, my hand began shaking again, this time so violently that the tube went flying and my knife which was keeping her airway open became dislodged, falling into the grass.
Blood poured into her neck and she stopped breathing.
“NO, NO, NOOO,” I screamed.
I found the pocket knife and made a futile effort to reestablish her airway, but blood kept pouring out. I was too slow.
She was gone.
I felt for a carotid pulse, but there was nothing. The poor girl lay lifeless.
I put my face into my hands and then looked up at the blue sky.
“WHY, WHY?” I screamed to an invisible god. “Why am I made to suffer?”
“Hello, Hello down there. Do you need some help?” an unseen voice called out.
“I did,” I replied weakly. “I did need help, but it’s pointless now.”
Two men came running down the hill.
“I tried to save her. I did my best, but I failed… again,” I mumbled as I walked away like a Zombie. “I’m sorry. So sorry. I did what I could, I really did.”
They stared at me as if I was crazy as I slowly walked up the hill.
“Wait…” one of them said, but I just kept on walking. I climbed into my car and sped away.
I might as well just quit for good. How can I do any sort of surgery ever again? Maybe Lillie is right. Take the power, use it for good. That may be my only hope.
But, it’s Satan? Could any human handle such power; wouldn’t the evil control me? What if I became a monster?
You don’t need to work. You’ve got plenty of money now.
But, I do need to work. It’s like breathing.
I was racing at breakneck speed through the back roads, up and over hills and through twists and turns. As I raced around one turn I suddenly was staring at a dump truck moving slowly along the road, heading straight towards me as I veered into his lane.
For a moment I raced straight at him. I heard his horn blaring, but I stepped on the gas. At the last moment he veered to the right and I turned away. I watched him through my rearview mirror as he stopped and jumped out of his truck and stared back at me as I sped away. As soon as he was out of sight I slowed down.
The decision was made.
I called Lillie.
“I’m ready,” I said as matter of factly as I could.
“Wise choice. You will be the most famous, respected and beloved surgeon on this planet,” she answered, although there was something in her tone that I found disconcerting.
“Are you happy with my decision, my dear?” I asked.
“Of course, it is what we both want.”
I thought for a moment and then I added, “What about you? Before you told that your life was bound to Satan’s. If I take his place, will you be OK?”
“I will then be bound to you, body and soul.”
Not such a bad prospect. But what about the Boss?
As if she had read my mind, Lillie began espousing her plan.
“The Boss called today. He is on his way home and he told me he is not feeling well. He said his stomach was hurting and he had a lot of nausea. He asked to have his doctor waiting for him. Can you be here by four? He’ll get to the office around that time.”
“Sure, I’m about an hour away and I’ll need to pick up my little black bag.”
“We’ve got plenty of medical supplies here. Just be here by four,” she sounded a little annoyed.
“Certainly,” I answered and then I hung up.
I’d almost forgotten about the car accident and the little girl and my failure. The sorrow and self pity I’d felt only a few minutes earlier gave way to a jumble of new feelings: excitement, elation, anticipation and hope.
I will be a surgeon again. I will have the respect I’ve deserved all these years. No more review boards, no more mindless documentation, no more…
My thoughts vanished as I approached town. I’ll make a quick stop at home first. It was only half past two. I had plenty of time to clean myself up. I drove past the elementary school on my way home. The children were in the yard, playing, running, laughing, doing all the things little children should do. My thoughts wandered back to another little girl, a girl lying dead, a girl I had killed.
I’ve killed a helpless little girl and I almost killed Lori. I’m getting good at this sort of thing. Disposing of the Boss will be easy.
I turned on the TV as I took a shower. There was an old movie playing, “Mr. Skeffington,” with Claude Rains and Bette Davis. It was a story about a good, patient man and his vain, cruel wife. I changed into my black scrubs, had a bite to eat and watched the end of the movie. Job, the Claude Rains character, is found sitting on a park bench, a broken man at the hands of Nazi Germany. He is brought to his former home, where his ex-wife, Fanni, played by Bette Davis, lives. She has become worn and has lost her once legendary beauty to disease. In a heartwarming scene the two are reconciled while their former roles are reversed, Fanni will now care for the broken Job.
Stupid old movie. Time to go.
As I started Black Beauty I felt the same sense of exhilaration, along with a touch of apprehension I usually felt before a big complex surgery. I began to consider all the possibilities and pitfalls.
Don’t worry about all that. I’m sure Lillie has taken care of everything. You just have to be there and the deed will be done. And you’re not really killing him. Just not treating him. It’s not the same thing.
As I drove away I thought about all the times I had put my faith in others. How many times, as a resident, did I ask an intern or junior resident to draw blood or follow up on an X-Ray, only to learn later that the task was never done, leaving me to explain why to my superiors. Or, even, now the multitude of missed or neglected orders on my patients which may have led to complications if I hadn’t been so compulsive and checked on every little detail. I guess the point was that other people are often unreliable and tend to disappoint.
Should I have such confidence in Lillie? Or is she like all those interns and residents. She seems very efficient, maybe that’s why I love her so, why I am willing to go along with this deed. No, it’s more than that. It’s a second chance, a new start for me and for humanity. A chance to free the world from evil, perhaps forever.
Lillie, my dear Lillie, you have been wonderful. Now we will take a big step together and take Satan’s power and together the two of us will bring so much good into this forlorn world.
I pulled up in front of their office building and headed up to the fortieth floor. The big glass double doors at the entrance opened automatically and Lillie me ushered me into the inner office. Huge floor to ceiling windows looked out over the city, filling the room with sunlight.
“Let me get the curtains,” Lillie remarked. She hit a button and the blinds closed and the lights automatically came on.
At one end of the room was the Boss. He was on an exam table, an IV running into his arm, breathing was labored, he looked yellow again and there was dried blood around his mouth.
This all looks very familiar. Didn’t I just go through this a few weeks ago? I just saw him and he looked completely recovered, more healthy than me. How could Satan go from vigorous good health to the brink of death so quickly? What is going on?
As I was thinking The Boss turned his head and vomited, filling a basin with dark blood. His labored breathing mixed with the monotony of the monitors and an occasional groan.
“He certainly is at death’s door. Ironic, isn’t it? Satan, the villain who brought Death into the world will get a taste of his own horror,” I observed. “But, my dear Lillie, how is it that his power will be transferred to me. If I just watch him die, how will I take his place?”
“Well,” she explained, “it’s not as easy as all that. If you want to assume The Boss’s place, you’ve got to be a little proactive.”
“What do you mean, proactive?”
“It means you must have a hand, even if it’s a miniscule hand, in his demise. He’s dying anyway, just give him a little push.”
But what about merely withholding potential lifesaving treatment? That is what she had told me. I don’t like the rules changing in the middle of the game.
As she said these words, the Boss vomited another bucket of blood and his breathing became even more irregular and raspy.
“If you want his power you had better hurry. He doesn’t look long for this world. Just look around you. There is a tray full of anesthetic agents, a table full of surgical instruments, a variety of endoscopes and lots of other meds. Surely, you can do something. Perhaps, you are planning to do an endoscopy, which would require some sedation. Just give him some of the Propofol which is already drawn up and sitting on that tray. Maybe, you give a bit too much for his weakened condition and he arrests. You were trying to help him, but he just had a “complication,” just a miscalculation on your part.”
Can power be worth such a price? But, he’s dying anyway. His death should not be in vain. His evil power could be transformed into so much that is good.
I walked around him. Lillie shadowed my steps, staying against the curtain, but exhorting me onward with each step.
“Yes, yes, take the syringe, inject it into his IV. We will have our life together and the world will be free from “The Boss.”
As I picked up the syringe a jumble of thoughts filled my head.
I will have my life as a surgeon back.
Lillie will be with me forever.
Evil will be vanquished.
“Go ahead, free us, free me.” I heard Lillie’s voice in the background.
It’s always her voice.
The Boss has never spoken evil to me. I’ve never seen him commit a malevolent act.
Then my thoughts jumped to a totally different subject.
Mr. Skeffington? Job and Fanni? An odd thing to think about at this time… Job?
That was the most bizarre thing to pop into my head at such a moment. Carlos Anais had been a patient of mine when I was Chief Resident. He was only thirty, had been losing weight, had severe abdominal pain with signs of peritonitis and he was HIV positive. All the consultants on the case agreed he needed surgery although no one had a clue about the underlying cause. Most thought he had some sort of malignancy, others considered dead bowel.
My preop diagnosis was much different. I diagnosed intraperitoneal atypical mycobacterium. I even went so far as to document this unusual conclusion in the chart. Sure enough, that was what I found. I couldn’t do anything to cure him, but I became a legend.
Why should I recall a patient from almost thirty years ago, at this moment? One thing is clear, when Carlos Anais’ name popped into my head, all my muddled thoughts crystallized. Lillie, the Boss, evil, it all became very clear.
I stared at the white milky fluid in the syringe and stuck the needle into the Boss’s IV and began to inject it. I heard Lillie take a deep breath. But, before any of it reached his arm I ripped the IV out, wheeled around and pushed my darling Lillie as hard as I could.
She reeled backwards, between the curtains, smashed through the window and plummeted towards the street below. I ran to the window and looked out just in time to see two black winged creatures swoop down out of nowhere and catch her. Then I watched as three black winged monsters flew away. A loud screeching noise filled my head until they were out of site.
“Doctor,” I heard a raspy voice call. It was the Boss.
I went to his side and held his hand. I started to call 911, but he put his hand up and pushed my cell phone away.
“How did you know?” he asked, his voice barely audible.
How did I know? Good question. Was it logic which managed to poke its head through my own lust for power? Good overcoming evil? Divine intervention? A dangerous wager against evil?
“Lucky guess,” I finally answered.
“Please, doctor, what is your name?” he asked, reaching up and grabbing my scrub top.
“Zachary. Zachary Morse.”
“You are a smart doctor, Zachary Morse. You have freed me and saved yourself from a millennium of torment. Now, please, let me go,” he whispered.
“But we can save you.’
“You already have, you already have. Now, it’s my time for rest.”
He mouthed some inaudible words and gave a faint smile and then he passed away.
I left that place quickly.
I went home and waited, walked the dogs, drove my car and wrote this story. I expected to hear a knock on my door one day. Perhaps the police, the FBI, a priest or a black demon, but so far I have been left in peace.
The hospital finally finished its investigation. I was given a slap on the wrist. The panel agreed that I had called for help appropriately when I realized I would be unable to complete Lori’s operation. There was some questioning of my decision to be her surgeon because of our relationship, but technically no rules were broken. I was to undergo a complete physical exam including neurological testing and I was to be proctored for my next five surgeries. I wasn’t concerned. My hands would be steadier than ever.
After another week I finally dug up the courage to go to the hospital and visit Lori. I saw her sitting up in bed, extubated, eating, starting on the first few steps with Physical Therapy which would lead to complete recovery.
“I’m sorry,” I whispered. “I should have saved you.
“From what I’ve been told, you did,” she answered.
I held her and we didn’t say anything for a while. Finally, after a few minutes she spoke again.
“You know, while I was so out of it I had the most bizarre dream. I dreamt that Satan was an evil woman and she was trying to entice you to join her and that you were tempted and almost did her evil bidding. It was just at the last moment that you came to your senses and escaped. Isn’t that strange?
“Yes, very strange; impossible,” I answered.