‘Shot of Short’ #20: The Doctor Takes a Walk by Tony O’Neill

Title: The Doctor Takes a Walk by Tony O’Neill
Date Read: 08 February 2008
Available Online?: YES (as one of the stories posted by Harper Perennial on their website Fifty-Two Stories, which promises a new (or classic) short story from their collection, posted every week throughout 2009)

Briefly: An aged retired doctor struggles with long-term drug addiction and an isolated life, made worse by the separation from his family.

Afterthoughts: This is hugely powerful stuff from O’ Neill with a story that’s both sad and shocking at the same time. Here’s a man who by all intents and purposes should be an upstanding member of the community (retired or not), but who is instead struggling among the dregs of society, with a deeply ingrained drug dependency. O’Neill ‘paints’ the woeful life of the doctor incredibly well and to do so in such a short story is, in my opinion, nothing short of genius. Amazing!

Notable Quote: “The last time he had so much as spoken to his daughter she told him that he should have nothing to do with either of them. He imagines her clearly though, a laughing little girl with dark hair and large round eyes, dancing over a suburban lawn in a light summer dress. . . . Every year he sends a present and every year he hears nothing. He has never attempted a more overt form of contact. He is too old, and in a way he likes things the way they are, even though it makes him feel sick late at night sometimes. Human interaction is a messy business and this relationship with a five-year-old girl he has never seen has proved to be one of the most lasting of his life. The Doctor is an old man, and by junkie standards he is practically a walking miracle.”

Rating: ★★★★☆

*Story read as part of my 100 Shots of Short reading challenge.

About Rob

Rob, a self-confessed bibliophile, is without any hope of rehabilitation. He gets unnaturally excited over anything book-shaped, and if book sniffing were a crime then he would have been locked up years ago (which wouldn't bother him in the slightest provided his cell was lined with books).