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Literary Deviltry
Monday, October 27, 2003   |    Fiction

Thank You for Being So Understanding about That Partial Prefrontal Lobotomy

by Josh Abraham

Dear Mr. Trumbull,

I write this letter on behalf of Doctors Epstein, Wilcox, and Goldfarb, who performed your operation; the radiology and anesthesia departments; our wonderful nursing staff who diligently tended to your convalescent needs; our legal advisors; as well as the entire Board of Directors here at St. Fyodor’s Hospital. We all extend a heartfelt ‘thank you’ for being so understanding about the partial prefrontal lobotomy that was accidentally performed upon you last month. Although this was all covered in the hearing, I’d like to once again stress that, while doctors are notorious for their sloppy penmanship, chalking up a botched operation to mere “illegibility” is no excuse. Our secretarial staff has been fired, and you might rest easier tonight knowing that because of you, no patient checking into our hospital for a routine appendectomy will ever undergo needless and risky brain surgery again.

Also, we appreciate how much more difficult this situation is for you to even understand, as you are now missing a sizable chunk of your frontal lobe, greatly inhibiting your memory, speech, and attention span, your fine motor skills and problem-solving abilities, as well as a variety of “higher cognitive functions” including behavior and emotions. Indeed, your signature, while only an inkblot, speaks volumes beyond the mere formality of a simple malpractice waiver. Even if we had to place the pen in your hand and your hand on the paper, that shaky, blotchy signature, steadfastly supported by your unflinching stoicism, is a testament to the human will. Consider it a Rorschach of your soul.

Lastly, we understand you are still in dire need of that appendectomy, (which was unnecessarily performed on another of our patients due brain surgery). I hope you’ll consider St. Fyodor’s for this procedure. We’d like to put the past behind us, and, as a gesture of goodwill, we’ll perform the appendectomy at a reduced rate. You may take comfort in knowing that, according to our legal advisors, the chances of us making another mistake on the same patient are astronomically in your favor. Thank you, once again, Mr. Trumbull, and we wish you a quick and speedy recovery.

Dr. Phillip R. Powell
St. Fyodor’s Hospital

Josh Abraham was born in Algeria in 1913. He spent his early years in North Africa, working various jobs—in the weather bureau, in an automobile-accessory firm, in a shipping company—to help pay for his courses at the University of Algiers. As a young journalist, his report on the unhappy state of Muslims in the Kabylie region aroused the Algerian government to action and brought him public notice. From 1935 to 1938 he ran the Théâtre de l'Equipe, a theatrical company that produced plays by Malraux, Gide, Synge, and Dostoevski. During World War II he was one of the leading writers of the French Resistance and editor of Combat, then an important underground newspaper. Abraham's fiction, his philosophical essays, and his plays have assured his preëminent position in modern French letters. In 1957 Abraham was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. His sudden death on January 4, 1960, cut short the career of one of the most important literary figures of the Western world when he was at the very summit of his powers. No, wait. That was Albert Camus.