To Which They Replied, 'Is That All?'

By Gould, John | The Christian Science Monitor, March 17, 2000 | Go to article overview

To Which They Replied, 'Is That All?'


Gould, John, The Christian Science Monitor


One morning in the very long ago our legendary village sage and general practitioner, A.W. Plummer, MD, was riding his status gig out to Webster Corner, a matter of about three miles, and he passed a farm home that immediately took his notice. The house was on fire. He accordingly directed his dilatory nag into the driveway, stopped by the house's front door, and reaching with his whip he thumped the handle end briskly on the portal. At this a lady opened the door, looked out, and said, "Well, what do you want?"

Dr. Plummer, always a gentleman, then said, "I have come to tell you your house is on fire."

To which the lady said, "Is that all?"

And Dr. Plummer said, "At the moment, that seems to be all. Giddy- yap, Nellie."

When Dr. Plummer became a legal nonagenarian, he gradually reduced his practice and became a full-time philosopher at whose feet I profited, I think, by mastering the gentle art of logical positivism. That's a science now lost when people no longer mean what they say or say what they mean. For several years I was on call to drive Doc in his car up to the state legislature where he loved to attend hearings, no matter what they concerned. On one of my choicest days, he told the lawmakers about Tobias Goddard, who stood for two hours arguing with a milestone about the distance to Lewiston.

So it's not surprising that Doc Plummer came to mind the other evening when we were served some uncooked green beans here at our comprehensive home for senior living. I'm told that for institutional cookery they hold a pot of green beans one minute over the intense heat of a yellow-eye bean. I do not know if this is true and can offer it only as a presumption.

When the young woman who comes about the tables arrived to inquire if everything was all right, I blurted out bravely, "The green beans weren't cooked." At this, the young woman assumed a posture of delighted frustration and said, "Of course the green beans are cooked; everything we serve here is prepared to the most discriminating desires." I felt just terrible to be made a liar in front of all these nice folks who'd just pushed their uncooked green beans aside. But then the young woman said, "Is that all?" and I thought of Dr. Plummer, dear man.

When I was a schoolboy my trail buddy was Eddie Skillin, a compatible lad who, over our wasted youth, hiked with me the length and breadth of Maine in search of fantasies. And one day we ventured into the town of Pownal where, in passing, we found Miss Mardelle Launt high on the top of her daddy's dooryard pile of firewood.

Miss Mardelle came to our school and she was pretty. So Eddie and I paused to chat, and we asked her about the weather up there, and if the hens were laying, and other abstruse things that occupy the minds of fifth- graders. …

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