Once upon a time, in the days when a sense of entitlement had value, a privileged baby boy was born. Because his parents were of a certain class, and were a certain color, and had money, the world was wide open to this boy, and he did not need to work very hard or become very smart in order to attain his goals.

After high school, the boy decided that he wanted to become a doctor, so he went to college, where he performed acceptably, and to medical school, from which he graduated in the bottom ten percent of his class. And because he attended one of the few medical schools with a Department of Anesthesiology, he became an anesthetic specialist; and because of his name, his class, and his face, he became the Head of Anesthesiology at a large hospital on the West coast.

He was not a good anesthesiologist. In those days, the science was still new: patients were given ether and sodium pentothal; good anesthesiologists killed one of of every thousand patients with anesthesia alone, and this was an acceptable risk. In this field, against these numbers, this doctor was worse.

“You don’t understand,” he would say, each time, after the review board had rendered a decision, and then he would explain. “The surgeon nicked an artery, and the patient lost a lot of blood, so of course the ratio of sodium pentothal was too high!”

Or he would say, “They didn’t tell me the patient was missing a leg, so it is understandable that I overdosed!”

Or he would whine, “It was all Joseph’s fault!” Joseph was the pharmaceutical purchasing representative for the hospital. “Joseph kept buying the wrong things, and then those things killed the patients!”

But no one gave credence to his claims.

After several years, when he had killed enough people, he was let go from the hospital. Because it was known in the medical community that he was not very good at his job, he was unable to find any work at any other hospitals.

So the man became an anesthesiologist at a large veterinary clinic, where animals were the only things he could accidentally murder at an inordinately high rate.

One day, the King of Foxes came calling at the veterinary clinic. He lay his scepter across the front desk, and adjusted his crown. “I seem to have fallen and broken my leg rather badly,” he said. “It hurts like the very dickens, and I have been assured that you provide the best care. Fix my leg, and everyone here shall be rewarded beyond their wildest dreams. Fail to fix my leg, and my skulk of foxes shall tear you to pieces.”

None of the doctors could stop staring at the anesthesiologist. As everyone knows, a wild animal with a broken leg must be put under general anesthesia in order to undergo surgery.

“For God’s sake, don’t mess this up,” said the Head Surgeon to the anesthesiologist.

Oh, how the anesthesiologist did sweat. As the doctors took x-rays, he ran into his office and read all about the unique biology of Vulpes Vulpes, the red fox. As the nurses shaved the leg, he carefully noted the King’s weight to the ounce, and began running complicated equations to determine the precise dosage of the anesthesia. As the King of Foxes spoke with his loved ones, he carefully measured the animal’s mouth and sternum.

The doctors all scrubbed in, and the anesthesiologist put the King of Foxes under.

After surgery, the entire operating room waited with bated breath. The surgery had gone well. The leg was pinned and casted. The patient was still alive, but there are many things that an anesthesiologist can do horribly wrong that will leave a patient alive. No one wanted the King of Foxes to be a vegetable, or even slightly brain damaged.

At last, the fox shook his head, muttered, and opened his eyes. He looked down at his cast and flexed his foot. The nurses scrambled to help him sit up.

“Thank you,” said the Fox King, when he had regained his faculties.

Everyone in the hospital breathed an enormous sigh of relief.

“Take them apart,” said the healed King of Foxes, and his skulk set upon the surgeons and nurses in a flurry of fangs and claws. They yanked the receptionist’s arm from its socket, and broke her neck. They burrowed into the Head Surgeon’s soft underbelly with sharp little teeth. And then they tore out the anesthesiologist’s throat, silencing a scream and leaving him gurgling to drown in his own blood.

As we all know, all foxes are liars; and the King of Foxes doubly so.

Illustration by the lovely and talented Bill Latham.

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