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I'm looking for a short story about a town that had no doctors or pharmacies and sick people were taken to the town square. I believe there was a family passing through and the lady took sick. The idea was you’d stay in the square and people passing by would give some of their old medications that helped them with their own similar illness. The town did not have a pharmacy or a doctor, and you could not leave the square until you were no longer sick. It was in a collection of short stories published in the late 60s or early 70s.

  • This is debatable as science fiction. – FuzzyBoots Jul 15 '15 at 20:04
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    @SeanDuggan The speculation in this case is not physical, astronomical, or biological, but rather sociological. It's still SF. – user14111 Jul 15 '15 at 21:53
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    The story was published in the April 1958 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, which was then edited by Anthony Boucher. I'll trust him to know what is f/sf. I say this is at least as good a question for the site as the usual questions about "does Harry Potter wear boxers or briefs" and "how do they dispose of used, uh, kleenex on the Enterprise?" – user14111 Jul 15 '15 at 23:23
  • @user14111: Uncle. I concede that this could be considered science fiction. As the question initially appeared to me, it seemed less so. As much as anything, I was trying to gently indicate why their first vote (not from me) was a downvote. – FuzzyBoots Jul 16 '15 at 11:52
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    @SeanDuggan: Personally I go with the widest possible definition of sf/f, including all the borderline stuff. (Doesn't mean I like that stuff, that's a different question.) When I see a mundane-sounding story id question, I will ask "what's stfnal or fantastical about that", but only in the hope of eliciting more clues, not to question its appropriateness for the site. – user14111 Jul 16 '15 at 18:44
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I'm looking for a short story about a town that had no doctors or pharmacies and sick people were taken to the town square.

"The Wait" (aka "To Be Taken in a Strange Country") by Kit Reed, first published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, April 1958, available at the Internet Archive. The town (fictional of course) is Babylon, Georgia, which practices a (probably mythical) custom of ancient Babylonia, reported by Herodotus.

I believe there was a family passing through

Penetrating a windshield blotched with decalcomanias of every tourist attraction from Luray Caverns to Silver Springs, Miriam read the road sign.

"It's Babylon, Georgia, Momma. Can't we stop?"

"Sure, sweetie. Anything you want to do." The little, round, brindle woman took off her sunglasses. "After all, it's your trip."

"I know, Momma, I know. All I want is a popsicle, not the Grand Tour."

and the lady took sick.

"Momma, I've changed my mind. I don't want a popsicle. Let's get out of here, please. Momma?"

"If you don't mind, sweetie, I want a coke." Her mother dropped on a bench. "I don't feel so good. My head . . ."

The idea was you’d stay in the square and people passing by would give some of their old medications that helped them with their own similar illness. The town did not have a pharmacy or a doctor, and you could not leave the square until you were no longer sick.

Frightened but glad to be away from the smell of sickness, Miriam followed Herman Clark down a side street. "You can come home with me, honey," he said. "I've got a daughter just about your age, and you'll be well taken care of until that mother of yours gets well." Miriam smiled, reassured, used to following her elders. "Guess you're wondering about our little system," Clark said, hustling her into his car. "What with specialization and all, doctors got so they were knowin' so little, askin' so much, chargin' so much. Here in Babylon, we found we don't really need 'em. Practically everybody in this town has been sick one way or another, and what with the way women like to talk about their operations, we've learned a lot about treatment. We don't need doctors any more. We just benefit by other people's experience."

"Experience?" None of this was real, Miriam was sure, but Clark had the authoritative air of a long-time parent, and she knew parents were always right.

"Why, yes. If you had chicken pox, and were out where everybody in town could see you, pretty soon somebody'd come along who had had it. They'd tell you what you had, and tell you what they did to get rid of it. Wouldn't even have to pay a doctor to write the prescription. Why, I used Silas Lapham's old nerve tonic on my wife when she had her bad spell. She's fine now; didn't cost us a cent except for the tonic. This way, if you're sick, we put you in the town square, and you stay there until somebody happens by who's had your symptoms; they you just try his cure. Usually works fine. If not, somebody else'll be by. Course, we can't let any of the sick folks leave the square until they're well; don't want anybody else catchin' it."

The folks of Babylon, GA, have a similar treatment for 18-year-old girls, like the one ascribed by Herodotus to the ancient Babylonians:

"Momma, you have to go to this field, and sit there, and sit there until a man throws money in your lap. Then you have to go into the bushes and lie with a stranger!"

It was in a collection of short stories published in the late 60s or early 70s.

The anthology Apeman, Spaceman (Leon E. Stover and Harry Harrison, eds.) came out about the right time.

  • This is the one. And, yes, Apeman,Spaceman was the collection. Soon as I saw that part I remembered the book. Thank You. – wbez Jul 16 '15 at 14:11

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