A Christmas Carole
Dr. Eb Rouge sat at his desk sorting his mail and bills. His habit was to have an ongoing conversation with himself.
"Here is one from a bleeding children's home in Memphis pleading for charity."
With a satisfying measure of glee, he ripped the letter in half and threw it into the wastebasket.
Carole Blessing peeked into the office. She could see Dr. Rouge sitting at his desk throwing away pieces of mail. His prematurely white hair was long and curly in the back but the surface of his pate was sparsely populated with fine hair. No one said so to his face, but his staff thought he looked a bit like the wacky scientist from the movie "Back to the Future."
She could see he was riveted on his current activity.
She knocked softly but could not get his attention. She crept in and tapped his shoulder gently.
At this, Dr. Rouge reflexively jumped and mail spilled in various directions.
Carole was quickly distraught to the point of tears but blurted out her concern:
"I am so sorry, Dr. Rouge. I don't mean to disturb you, but it is after closing time and I need to ask you a question."
Both Carole and Dr. Rouge put in a long day, and she stayed to clean the office. He was unaware she was still there.
"Dr. Rouge, it will be Christmas tomorrow, and I have stayed and taken care of all the boarders for the last two years. I would like to have tomorrow morning off so I can prepare a big Christmas dinner for Uncle Jerome and Aunt Betty from California. I haven't seen them in 10 years. I would still be able to work in the afternoon. My son Jimmy could walk the dogs in the morning."
Just then, the clinic was filled with a high yipping sound. Eb stood up and traipsed to the center of the kennel and frowned.
"I'm sorry, Dr. Rouge," Carole said. "I brought Tiny T. in a few minutes ago from my car because he was lonely. I'll take him out again."
"Don't bother. Haven't you spent enough time with that little mutt? Our practice has spent a small fortune in the last six months trying to fix the unfixable."
Carole knew all too well. Tiny T. was a stray little black puppy that had been hit by a car. A splint had been placed on the leg until an owner could be found. The leg healed, but soon it was discovered that the radial nerve must have been hopelessly destroyed. Carole adopted Tiny T.
The dog stopped barking at the sight of Carole. His tail beat the cage joyously.
Dr. Eb turned and looked at Carole.
"Now Miss Carole," he drawled slowly, "my partner, along with my currently estranged wife and I, built this practice from nothing 20 years ago. We scratched, bled and worked it like dogs, including the caring of boarders over Christmas and Thanksgiving. We missed holiday dinners trying to keep this place afloat. Now, I understand your concern, but you are the only one currently trained both in the kennel and as an assistant. Your son Jimmy is just not up to giving the animals their medications. And he might let one of them loose outside. Our two other staff are part-time, and they frankly have disappointed me. Things are slow this time of year, and I might have to lay them off anyway. Carole, as you know this profession of ours is a 24/7 affair. It is just the way it is.
Carole was stunned, yet stoic.