بخش 42

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بخش 42

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Jules did everything with such good-humored affection, he so obviously cared for her, that Lucy got over her shame and embarrassment. He even had the medical textbook down off its shelf to show her a case like her own and the surgical procedure to correct it. She found herself quite interested.

“It’s a health thing too,” Jules said. “If you don’t get it corrected you’re going to have a hell of a lot of trouble later on with your whole plumbing system. The structure becomes progressively weaker unless it’s corrected by surgery. It’s a damn shame that old-fashioned prudery keeps a lot of doctors from properly diagnosing and correcting the situation, and a lot of women from complaining about it.” “Don’t talk about it, please don’t talk about it,” Lucy said.

He could see that she was still to some extent ashamed of her secret, embarrassed by her “ugly defect.” Though to his medically trained mind this seemed the height of silliness, he was sensitive enough to identify with her. It also put him on the right track to making her feel better.

“OK, I know your secret so now I’ll tell you mine,” he said. “You always ask me what I’m doing in this town, one of the youngest and most brilliant surgeons in the East.” He was mocking some newspaper reports about himself. “The truth is that I’m an abortionist, which in itself is not so bad, so is half the medical profession; but I got caught. I had a friend, a doctor named Kennedy, we interned together, and he’s a really straight guy but he said he’d help me. I understand Tom Hagen had told him if he ever needed help on anything the Corleone Family was indebted to him. So he spoke to Hagen. The next thing I know the charges were dropped, but the Medical Association and the Eastern establishment had me blacklisted. So the Corleone Family got me this job out here. I make a good living. I do a job that has to be done. These show girls are always getting knocked up and aborting them is the easiest thing in the world if they come to me right away. I curette ‘em like you scrape a frying pan. Freddie Corleone is a real terror. By my count he’s knocked up fifteen girls while I’ve been here. I’ve seriously considered giving him a father-to-son talk about s@x. Especially since I’ve had to treat him three times for clap and once for syphilis. Freddie is the original bareback rider.” Jules stopped talking. He had been deliberately indiscreet, something he never did, so that Lucy would know that other people, including someone she knew and feared a little like Freddie Corleone, also had shameful secrets.

“Think of it as a piece of elastic in your body that has lost its elasticity,” Jules said. “By cutting out a piece, you make it tighter, snappier.”

“I’ll think about it,” Lucy said, but she was sure she was going to go through with it, she trusted Jules absolutely. Then she thought of something else. “How much will it cost?”

Jules frowned. “I haven’t the facilities here for surgery like that and I’m not the expert at it. But I have a friend in Los Angeles who’s the best in the field and has facilities at the best hospital. In fact he tightens up all the movie stars, when those dames find out that getting their faces and breasts lifted isn’t the whole answer to making a man love them. He owes me a few favors so it won’t cost anything. I do his abortions for him. Listen, if it weren’t unethical I’d tell you the names of some of the movie s@x queens who have had the operation.” She was immediately curious. “Oh, come on, tell me,” she said. “Come on.” It would be a delicious piece of gossip and one of the things about Jules was that she could show her feminine love of gossip without him making fun of it.

“I’ll tell you if you have dinner with me and spend the night with me,” Jules said. “We have a lot of lost time to make up for because of your silliness.”

Lucy felt an overwhelming affection to him for being so kind and she was able to say, “You don’t have to sleep with me, you know you won’t enjoy it the way I am now.”

Jules burst out laughing. “You dope, you incredible dope. Didn’t you ever hear of any other way of making love, far more ancient, far more civilized. Are you really that innocent?”

“Oh that,” she said.

“Oh that,” he mimicked her. “Nice girls don’t do that, manly men don’t do that. Even in the year 1948. Well, baby, I can take you to the house of a little old lady right here in Las Vegas who was the youngest madam of the most popular whorehouse in the wild west days, back in 1880, I think it was. She likes to talk about the old days. You know what she told me? That those gunslingers, those manly, virile, straight-shooting cowboys would always ask the girls for a ‘French,’ what we doctors call fellatio, what you call ‘oh that.‘ Did you ever think of doing ‘oh that’ with your beloved Sonny?” For the first time she truly surprised him. She turned on him with what he could think of only as a Mona Lisa smile (his scientific mind immediately darting off on a tangent, could this be the solving of that centuries-old mystery?) and said quietly, “I did everything with Sonny.” It was the first time she had ever admitted anything like that to anyone.

Two weeks later Jules Segal stood in the operating room of the Los Angeles hospital and watched his friend Dr. Frederick Kellner perform the specialty. Before Lucy was put under anesthesia, Jules leaned over and whispered, “I told him you were my special girl so he’s going to put in some real tight walls.” But the preliminary pill had already made her dopey and she didn’t laugh or smile. His teasing remark did take away some of the terror of the operation.

Dr. Kellner made his incision with the confidence of a pool shark making an easy shot. The technique of any operation to strengthen the pelvic floor required the accomplishment of two objectives. The musculofibrous pelvic sling had to be shortened so that the slack was taken up. And of course the vaginal opening, the weak spot itself in the pelvic floor, had to be brought forward, brought under the pubic arch and so relieved from the line of direct pressure above. Repairing the pelvic sling was called perincorrhaphy. Suturing the vaginal wall was called colporrhaphy.

Jules saw that Dr. Kellner was working carefully now, the big danger in the cutting was going too deep and hitting the rectum. It was a fairly uncomplicated case, Jules had studied all the X rays and tests. Nothing should go wrong except that in surgery something could always go wrong.

Kellner was working on the diaphragm sling, the T forceps held the vaginal flap, and exposing the ani muscle and the fasci which formed its sheath. Kellner’s gauze-covered fingers were pushing aside loose connective tissue. Jules kept his eyes on the vaginal wall for the appearance of the veins, the telltale danger signal of injuring the rectum. But old Kellner knew his stuff. He was building a new snatch as easily as a carpenter nails together two-by-four studs.

Kellner was trimming away the excess vaginal wall using the fastening-down stitch to close the “bite” taken out of the tissue of the redundant angle, insuring that no troublesome projections would form. Kellner was trying to insert three fingers into the narrowed opening of the lumen, then two. He just managed to get two fingers in, probing deeply and for a moment he looked up at Jules and his china-blue eyes over the gauze mask twinkled as though asking if that was narrow enough. Then he was busy again with his sutures.

It was all over. They wheeled Lucy out to the recovery room and Jules talked to Kellner. Kellner was cheerful, the best sign that everything had gone well. “No complications at all, my boy,” he told Jules. “Nothing growing in there, very simple case. She has wonderful body tone, unusual in these cases and now she’s in first-class shape for fun and games. I envy you, my boy. Of course you’ll have to wait a little while but then I guarantee you’ll like my work.” Jules laughed. “You’re a true Pygmalion, Doctor. Really, you were marvelous.”

Dr. Kellner grunted. “That’s all child’s play, like your abortions. If society would only be realistic, people like you and I, really talented people, could do important work and leave this stuff for the hacks. By the way, I’ll be sending you a girl next week, a very nice girl, they seem to be the ones who always get in trouble. That will make us all square for this job today.” Jules shook his hand. “Thanks, Doctor. Come out yourself sometime and I’ll see that you get all the courtesies of the house.”

Kellner gave him a wry smile. “I gamble every day, I don’t need your roulette wheels and crap tables. I knock heads with fate too often as it is. You’re going to waste out there, Jules. Another couple of years and you can forget about serious surgery. You won’t be up to it.” He turned away.

Jules knew it was not meant as a reproach but as a warning. Yet it took the heart out of him anyway. Since Lucy wouldn’t be out of the recovery room for at least twelve hours, he went out on the town and got drunk. Part of getting drunk was his feeling of relief that everything had worked out so well with Lucy.

The next morning when he went to the hospital to visit her he was surprised to find two men at her bedside and flowers all over the room. Lucy was propped up on pillows, her face radiant. Jules was surprised because Lucy had broken with her family and had told him not to notify them unless something went wrong. Of course Freddie Corleone knew she was in the hospital for a minor operation; that had been necessary so that they both could get time off, and Freddie had told Jules that the hotel would pick up all the bills for Lucy.

Lucy was introducing them and one of the men Jules recognized instantly. The famous Johnny Fontane. The other was a big, muscular, snotty-looking Italian guy whose name was Nino Valenti. They both shook hands with Jules and then paid no further attention to him. They were kidding Lucy, talking about the old neighborhood in New York, about people and events Jules had no way of sharing. So he said to Lucy, “I’ll drop by later, I have to see Dr. Kellner anyway.” But Johnny Fontane was turning the charm on him. “Hey, buddy, we have to leave ourselves, you keep Lucy company. Take good care of her, Doc.” Jules noticed a peculiar hoarseness in Johnny Fontane’s voice and remembered suddenly that the man hadn’t sung in public for over a year now, that he had won the Academy Award for his acting. Could the man’s voice have changed so late in life and the papers keeping it a secret, everybody keeping it a secret? Jules loved inside gossip and kept listening to Fontane’s voice in an attempt to diagnose the trouble. It could be simple strain, or too much booze and cigarettes or even too much women. The voice had an ugly timbre to it, he could never be called the sweet crooner anymore.

“You sound like you have a cold,” Jules said to Johnny Fontane.

Fontane said politely, “Just strain, I tried to sing last night. I guess I just can’t accept the fact that my voice changed, getting old you know.” He gave Jules a what-the-hell grin.

Jules said casually, “Didn’t you get a doctor to look at it? Maybe it’s something that can be fixed.”

Fontane was not so charming now. He gave Jules a long cool look. “That’s the first thing I did nearly two years ago. Best specialists. My own doctor who’s supposed to be the top guy out here in California. They told me to get a lot of rest. Nothing wrong, just getting older. A man’s voice changes when he gets older.” Fontane ignored him after that, paying attention to Lucy, charming her as he charmed all women. Jules kept listening to the voice. There had to be a growth on those vocal cords. But then why the hell hadn’t the specialists spotted it? Was it malignant and inoperable? Then there was other stuff.

He interrupted Fontane to ask, “When was the last time you got examined by a specialist?”

Fontane was obviously irritated but trying to be polite for Lucy’s sake.,. About eighteen months ago.” he said.

“Does your own doctor take a look once in a while?” Jules asked.

“Sure he does,” Johnny Fontane said irritably. “He gives me a codeine spray and checks me out. He told me it’s just my voice aging, that all the drinking and smoking and other stuff. Maybe you know more than he does?”

Jules asked, “What’s his name?”

Fontane said with just a faint flicker of pride, “Tucker, Dr. James Tucker. What do you think of him?”

The name was familiar, linked to famous movie stars, female, and to an expensive health farm.

“He’s a sharp dresser,” Jules said with a grin.

Fontane was angry now. “You think you’re a better doctor than he is?”

Jules laughed. “Are you a better singer than Carmen Lombardo?” He was surprised to see Nino Valenti break up in laughter, banging his head on his chair. The joke hadn’t been that good. Then on the wings of those guffaws he caught the smell of bourbon and knew that even this early in the morning Mr. Valenti, whoever the hell he was, was at least half drunk.

Fontane was grinning at his friend. “Hey, you’re supposed to be laughing at my jokes, not his.” Meanwhile Lucy stretched out her hand to Jules and drew him to her bedside.

“He looks like a bum but he’s a brilliant surgeon,” Lucy told them. “If he says he’s better than Dr. Tucker then he’s better than Dr. Tucker. You listen to him, Johnny.”

The nurse came in and told them they would have to leave. The resident was going to do some work on Lucy and needed privacy. Jules was amused to see Lucy turn her head away so when Johnny Fontane and Nino Valenti kissed her they would hit her cheek instead of her mouth, but they seemed to expect it. She let Jules kiss her on the mouth and whispered, “Come back this afternoon, please?” He nodded.

Out in the corridor, Valenti asked him, “What was the operation for? Anything serious?”

Jules shook his head. “Just a little female plumbing. Absolutely routine, please believe me. I’m more concerned than you are, I hope to marry the girl.”

They were looking at him appraisingly so he asked, “How did you find out she was in the hospital?”

“Freddie called us and asked us to look in,” Fontane said. “We all grew up in the same neighborhood. Lucy was maid of honor when Freddie’s sister got married.”

“Oh,” Jules said. He didn’t let on that he knew the whole story, perhaps because they were so cagey about protecting Lucy and her affair with Sonny.

As they walked down the corridor, Jules said to Fontane, “I have visiting doctor’s privileges here, why don’t you let me have a look at your throat?”

Fontane shook his head. “I’m in a hurry.”

Nino Valenti said, “That’s a million-dollar throat, he can’t have cheap doctors looking down it.” Jules saw Valenti was grinning at him, obviously on his side.

Jules said cheerfully, “I’m no cheap doctor. I was the brightest young surgeon and diagnostician on the East Coast until they got me on an abortion rap.”

As he had known it would, that made them take him seriously. By admitting his crime he inspired belief in his claim of high competence. Valenti recovered first. “If Johnny can’t use you, I got a girl friend I want you to look at, not at her throat though.” Fontane said to him nervously, “How long will you take?”

“Ten minutes,” Jules said. It was a lie but he believed in telling lies to people. Truth telling and medicine just didn’t go together except in dire emergencies, if then.

“OK,” Fontane said. His voice was darker, hoarser, with fright.

Jules recruited a nurse and a consulting room. It didn’t have everything he needed but there was enough. In less than ten minutes he knew there was a growth on the vocal cords, that was easy. Tucker, that incompetent sartorial son of a bit@h of a Hollywood phony, should have been able to spot it. Christ, maybe the guy didn’t even have a license and if he did it should be taken away from him. Jules didn’t pay any attention to the two men now. He picked up the phone and asked for the throat man at the hospital to come down. Then he swung around and said to Nino Valenti, “I think it might be a long wait for you, you’d better leave.” Fontane stared at him in utter disbelief. “You son of a bit@h, you think you’re going to keep me here? You think you’re going to fu@k around with my throat?”

Jules, with more pleasure than he would have thought possible, gave it to him straight between the eyes. “You can do whatever you like,” he said. “You’ve got a growth of some sort on your vocal cords, in your larynx. If you stay here the next few hours, we can nail it down, whether it’s malignant or nonmalignant. We can make a decision for surgery or treatment. I can give you the whole story. I can give you the name of a top specialist in America and we can have him out here on the plane tonight, with your money that is, and if I think it necessary. But you can walk out of here and see your quack buddy or sweat while you decide to see another doctor, or get referred to somebody incompetent. Then if it’s malignant and gets big enough they’ll cut out your whole larynx or you’ll die. Or you can just sweat. Stick here with me and we can get it all squared away in a few hours. You got anything more important to do?” Valenti said, “Let’s stick around, Johnny, what the hell. I’ll go down the hall and call the studio. I won’t tell them anything, just that we’re held up. Then I’ll come back here and keep you company.”

It proved to be a very long afternoon but a rewarding one. The diagnosis of the staff throat man was perfectly sound as far as Jules could see after the X rays and swab analysis. Halfway through, Johnny Fontane, his mouth soaked with iodine, retching over the roll of gauze stuck in his mouth, tried to quit. Nino Valenti grabbed him by the shoulders and slammed him back into a chair. When it was all over Jules grinned at Fontane and said, “Warts.” Fontane didn’t grasp it. Jules said again. “Just some warts. We’ll slice them right off like skin off baloney. In a few months you’ll be OK.”

Valenti let out a yell but Fontane was still frowning. “How about singing afterward, how will it affect my singing?”

Jules shrugged. “On that there’s no guarantee. But since you can’t sing now what’s the difference?”

Fontane looked at him with distaste. “Kid, you don’t know what the hell you’re talking about. You act like you’re giving me good news when what you’re telling me is maybe I won’t sing anymore. Is that right, maybe I won’t sing anymore?” Finally Jules was disgusted. He’d operated as a real doctor and it had been a pleasure. He had done this bastard a real favor and he was acting as if he’d been done dirt. Jules said coldly, “Listen, Mr. Fontane, I’m a doctor of medicine and you can call me Doctor, not kid. And I did give you very good news. When I brought you down here I was certain that you had a malignant growth in your larynx which would entail cutting out your whole voice box. Or which could kill you. I was worried that I might have to tell you that you were a dead man. And I was so delighted when I could say the word ‘warts.’ Because your singing gave me so much pleasure, helped me seduce girls when I was younger and you’re a real artist. But also you’re a very spoiled guy. Do you think because you’re Johnny Fontane you can’t get cancer? Or a brain tumor that’s inoperable. Or a failure of the heart? Do you think you’re never going to die? Well, it’s not all sweet music and if you want to see real trouble take a walk through this hospital and you’ll sing a love song about warts. So just stop the crap and get on with what you have to do. Your Adolphe Menjou medical man can get you the proper surgeon but if he tries to get into the operating room I suggest you have him arrested for attempted murder.” Jules started to walk out of the room when Valenti said, “Attaboy, Doc, that’s telling him.”

Jules whirled around and said, “Do you always get looped before noontime?”

Valenti said, “Sure,” and grinned at him and with such good humor that Jules said more gently than he had meant to, “You have to figure you’ll be dead in five years if you keep that up.”

Valenti was lumbering up to him with little dancing steps. He threw his arms around Jules, his breath stank of bourbon. He was laughing very hard. “Five years?” he asked still laughing. “Is it going to take that long?”

A month after her operation Lucy Mancini sat beside the Vegas hotel pool, one hand holding a cocktail, the other hand stroking Jules’ head, which lay in her lap.

“You don’t have to build up your courage,” Jules said teasingly. “I have champagne waiting in our suite.”

“Are you sure it’s OK so soon?” Lucy asked.

“I’m the doctor,” Jules said. “Tonight’s the big night. Do you realize I’ll be the first surgeon in medical history who tried out the results of his ‘medical first’ operation? You know, the Before and After. I’m going to enjoy writing it up for the journals. Let’s see, ‘while the Before was distinctly pleasurable for psychological reasons and the sophistication of the surgeon-instructor, the post-operative coitus was extremely rewarding strictly for its neurological”–he stopped talking because Lucy had yanked on his hair hard enough for him to yell with pain.

She smiled down at him. “If you’re not satisfied tonight I can really say it’s your fault,” she said.

“I guarantee my work. I planned it even though I just let old Kellner do the manual labor,” Jules said. “Now let’s just rest up, we have a long night of research ahead.”

When they went up to their suite–they were living together now–Lucy found a surprise waiting: a gourmet supper and next to her champagne glass, a jeweler’s box with a huge diamond engagement ring inside it.

“That shows you how much confidence I have in my work,” Jules said. “Now let’s see you earn it.”

He was very tender, very gentle with her. She was a little scary at first, her flesh jumping away from his touch but then, reassured, she felt her body building up to a passion she had never known, and when they were done the first time and Jules whispered; “I do good work,” she whispered back, “Oh, yes, you do; yes, you do.” And they both laughed to each other as they started making love again.

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