Boston was in its usual hustle and bustle as the sun rose over the harbor fog. The new subterranean railroad was nearing completion on Tremont Street and streetcars criss-crossed the city in ever-expanding webs. Vaudeville acts played on every stage and the censors hammered their rubber stamps smooth trying to keep the flood of salacious and immoral smut out of their fine city. The practice of Dr. Hephaestus Faucoeur was doing well these days, and his son Orion was due to take over next month, allowing the elder Faucoeur to slip into a relaxed retirement in the Carolinas after a long life of nothing but hard work and industry, away from the harsh winters and even harsher living in a city already weighed down by centuries of history.
The morning started out at its usual pace. Dr. Faucoeur rose from bed promptly at 6:00, washed up, said morning prayers and dressed. At 7:00 he took breakfast. At 7:30 he departed from home and made his way to his practice, and this morning at 8:00, he found himself knuckle-deep in a patient suffering from hysteria, his hand hand already cramping at his efforts in administering a pelvic massage to the afflicted young lady.
"Dr. Faucoeur, please, you are being most... indelicate."
"I beg your pardon, Miss Clermont. It shall not be more than a few more minutes. Tell me, do you feel any improvement in your condition?"
"No, I do not, Doctor."
"Hm. This is a most delicate procedure, and my old hands are perhaps not the best tool for the job. Perhaps I could call in my son, though he has only performed this procedure twice before. However, the two patients both did go out of their way to tell me that he has remarkable technique and gave them most wonderful relief from their symptoms. He is, after all, a superb pianist, and was even when he was small."
"Perhaps that would be the best for my delicate condition, for I imagine your young assistant to be more mindful of his fingernails than you are. Begging your pardon, Dr. Faucoeur."
"My apologies, Miss Clermont; I shall fetch him at once. This procedure calls for younger, more delicate hands than these gnarled old mitts."
Dr. Faucoeur wiped off his hand with a rag, took up his cane, and walked into the waiting room, where the younger Faucoeur was discussing either baseball or billing with a well-heeled visitor.
"Begging your pardon, but may I interject?" asked the elder Faucoeur to the stranger.
"Of course, of course, I was just about to take my leave," the man said as he gathered up his coat, hat and walking stick, and offered Dr. Faucoeur his seat.
"Orion, I need you at once. Miss Clermont is not responsive to my technique at..."
"Pelvic massage," he whispered, not quite knowing why he felt it was such an indelicate topic to discuss, even between two physicians. No matter how thick the beard lay on Orion's chin, he still caught himself thinking of him as his rosy-cheeked little boy.
"Ah, of course, you need my young hands to tend to the tender young womb of Miss Clermont. Very well, I shall be of assistance at once, if you would permit me a moment to take my leave and gather my faculties."
"Take what time you need, but do make haste."
"I shan't be long, father."
Hephaestus sat down and sighed as soon as Orion left for the washroom. He sniffed his hand and noticed that it still bore Miss Clermont's odor, and recalled that he really should have washed his hands before leaving the examination room. He had begun his practice just as that Austrian madman, Semmelweit or Semmelbrot or something like that, went on spouting about childbed fever and hand-washing. He never really bought his arguments, although many of his colleagues had. And what was all this fuss about? Little animalcules swimming and cavorting around in the air and in the body's fluids? Dr. Faucoeur shook his head and longed for the old times, when a properly-administered bloodletting would cure just about anything. Even his own son, whom he had mentored all throughout his medical training, had fallen prey to this foolishness about 'germs'.
Orion strode into the examination room, wiping his hands off with a clean towel. Miss Clermont was still on the table, legs in stirrups. She looked a bit disgusted.
"Miss Clermont, I am Dr. Faucoeur, err, Orion Faucoeur. I am told you suffer from hysteria, and my father recommends pelvic massage for this ailment. So, may I?"
Her disgust thawed slowly from her face.
"Do continue, Dr. Faucoeur. I hope the old man hasn't misdiagnosed me, or else I shall be very sore with him."
"No need to worry, Miss Clermont."
"Call me Artemis."
"Very well, Artemis. Moi, je m'appelle Orion."