Flash fiction. Desi's doctor, by David Kotok. Image: the silhouette of a man gestures wildly with open arms over a pregnant woman lying at his feet. In the background, a large crowd standing near metal gates watches.

Desi's Doctor

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The metal gates rang like crazed gamelan under the fists of the mob. The chorus shouted and clapped. My clients were unsettled by the ruckus; the old man with a lump in his throat and the woman with a bloated tongue. They whispered, sharing doubts, and that I could not allow. I had to placate them, and the crowd, to rescue something from the day.  

I laced my biggest dog and tugged the gates open. The hinges swung aside and the dog flashed his eyes and snapped his jaws. The throng retreated 

The usual zealots, casting embryo eggs, were replaced by a muddle of shoppers from the market, with a scatter of the grinning poor and furtive middle classes. I placed a finger to my lips and they hushed to a hum of breath across the crackle of existence. 

‘Why are you here?’ I asked. 

A young woman stumbled forward, clutching a swollen belly under a loose smock.

‘She is Desi,’ someone shouted. She eats the fruit of the dead.’ 

‘What ails you, child?’ I asked. 

Fruit so sweet,’ the crowd echoed. ‘Sin so sour.’  

‘From the cemetery,’ she gasped. ‘Hendra’s last gift.’ 

‘And Hendra is dead?’ 

Desi nodded and groaned. 

‘Hendra the sorcerer,’ a man called. ‘He haunts us, as do you, shaman.  

Those at the back started yelling, a mix of insults towards magicians and false prophets. Fingers pointed at me. Anger was growing. 

I tethered the dog and, taking Desi by the shoulder, lowered her to the pavement. Once she was calm, I raised her blouse to expose the swelling. She looked ripe for birth, but when I felt for movement, there was none.

I rubbed toad oil onto her stomach and let it smoke, to a collective gasp. The fumes drifted into Desi’s face and roiled into a swirling cloud, forcing the watchers back. I slipped my hand through her navel into the swelling, chanted a few nonsense words and delved deeper, feeling for the dead infant but finding a rock-like mass. 

No knife, no blood,’ I said to the crowd. ‘Achintya’s fingers are gentle.’ 

The growth was bulky enough to make removal awkward. I sprinkled more oil, seasoned with gunpowder, which crackled and sparked in a curtain of fire, and pulled the lump free with a snap. Desi screamed as her belly flattened and a flame of gas escaped. I slipped gauze into the wound and covered her modesty as the fireworks dimmed. In my hands was a large mango stone with saw-like teeth. How shed swallowed such a seed was worthy of my own skills of extraction.  

‘See Hendra’s heart!’ I sang. ‘The flesh of the vengeful dead is not so sweet.’ 

The crowd dispersed, mumbling and praying. The dog sighed and lay in the dust as I carried the weeping girl into the kitchen to be stitched up.  

I beckoned my patients into the surgery, prodded the old man’s lump and yanked the woman’s tongue. 

David Kotok

David was enthused to write whilst living in the tropical metropolis of Jakarta, where 6 of his 9 published stories are based, including this tale of a shaman.


He now resides with his beautiful spouse in a converted Toll House overlooking the Tamar, where a ferry plies the centuries between Cornwall and Devon.


Between writing, he creates ceramic art, walks his dog and feeds the crows. 

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