Fantastic Metropolis: By the time your faithful reporter could activate his tape recorder, the much-lionized Dr. Thackery T. Lambshead and his longtime colleague and dear friend, Dr. Michael Cisco, were already involved in a heated discussion of Paratygmatic Asystoly.
Dr. Lambshead: With all due respect, Dr. Phlegmose is utterly at sea with this transpholic ergocrine theory. It’s a tall pile of flapdoodle, believe me. Paratygmatic Asystoly is a simple infarction of callipygian bacteria. It responds beautifully to a regimen of hot cocoa and protopsychedelia. I mean, really, Dr. Cisco, what does that say to you?
Dr. Cisco: Apart from everyone loves cocoa, it doesn’t say anything to me but coo-coo. How can bacteria be the vector when the renorotor spectribs routinely come back with middle-infected vagancy? Your so-called pathogenic asystoly expresses every serial protein rib exchange classically characteristic of congenital defect.
Dr. Lambshead: Are you speaking German, Michael? I once knew a German conglomerate verb that receded to the horizon line and fell asleep.
Dr. Cisco: In any language, at least what I’m saying would make sense. Why, I myself —
Dr. Lambshead: A congenital defect that manifests only after consumption of overcooked boa constrictor flesh? Is that what you propose?
Dr. Cisco: Enzymes is enzymes is enzymes. Plainly there’s some sort of thermorphed enzymatic trigger.
Dr. Lambshead: Do little fairies appear in the bloodstream and turn the platelets inside out? Is that it?
Fantastic Metropolis Gentlemen, gentlemen. Please sit down. My people at Fantastic Metropolis were hoping that Dr. Lambshead might consent to discuss the eighty-third edition of the Pocket Guide To Eccentric & Discredited Diseases.
Dr. Lambshead: What about it?
Dr. Cisco: Well, you’ve only just passed the editorial reins on to… you know, whozits and the other fellow.
Dr. Lambshead: VanderVere and Rogers. Something like that.
Dr. Cisco: And what do you think of what they call “the Guide’s new direction.”
Dr. Lambshead: Well, there certainly are a lot of illustrations this time. I’m not sure they’re what I’d call medical illustrations, but they’re certainly lurid. And there certainly are a lot of them.
Dr. Cisco: (under his breath) I really don’t understand all the nudity.
Dr. Lambshead: As for the content, I thought it rather skimpy. It’s roughly a quarter the size of the 2001 edition, and I can recite that one from memory.
Dr. Cisco: They wouldn’t take my abstract on anti-tanning. “409 pages is too long,” they said.
Fantastic Metropolis: By the way, what kind of sandwich was that again?
Dr. Lambshead: Crab salad. I brought it on myself, Michael. I told Vanderbert at the outset that the selection of material would be up to them. But I should never have signed that awful contract. I smelled a rat when that Robards kept talking about “going where the money is.”
Dr. Remnant: “Cash in before you old coots cash out,” was the phrase.
Dr. Lambshead: They seem to have ruthlessly excised all the research data to make space for wild anecdotes, as if the study of disease were some rare sexual perversity. What happened to the discussion of thoracic torque in relation to Ouroborean Lordosis?
Dr. Cisco: Cut.
Dr. Lambshead: And what about the sinew-spiral prehensile feces syndrome attendant on Pornstaller’s?
Dr. Cisco: “Wouldn’t connect with the youth market,” they said.
Dr. Lambshead: And how can an MD treat Internalized Tattooing without a dye ratio schematic and a chroma dial? Terrible omissions.
Dr. Cisco: What else was left out?
Dr. Lambshead: Don’t get me started. But I must say something about those absurd reminiscences.
Dr. Cisco: (hurt) I wrote one of those.
Dr. Lambshead: Oh, yours was completely accurate. You included an account of your hallucinations, but there’s no harm in that.
Dr. Cisco: I… what?!
Dr. Lambshead: I’m speaking of all the other essays. Look at this. It’s a travesty. The Kakaram head plant is well secured by Dr. Thomas’s papers, but the man has spent too much time too high in the Andes. I was never there! I cataloged his specimens, yes, but I never went there! Didn’t he keep a journal? Just handling those specimens was quite sufficiently gruesome. And here’s a spurious account by Dr. Xue-Chu Wang — a total fabrication. I never coexisted with myself at three different ages. Where does Dr. Schaller find these people? Would I do a thing like that? I ask you.
Dr. Cisco: At least they finally saw reason with regard to Dr. Edsel-Ivan’s thing. There’d be no end of explanations if that screed of scurl had seen the light — and I might add it took me three solid days on the Bell telephone to convince Roberta to pull it.
Dr. Lambshead: Rather! — Wait, I dismember — which one was that?
Dr. Cisco: The Moroccan Prosthetic Prostate.
Dr. Lambshead: Hm! Quite! Quite!
Dr. Cisco: What about Dr. Pollack’s entry?
Dr. Lambshead: Oh yes. I forgot about that one.
Dr. Cisco: Was she hallucinating as well?
Dr. Lambshead: I fail to understand why Rachel would reveal details of our private lives.
Dr. Cisco: (smirking) I can’t for the life of me imagine what could have motivated Dr. Pollack to cause you such embarrassment. It’s a deep enigma, Thackery.
Dr. Lambshead: All women are enigmas.
Dr. Cisco: After Dr. Pollack comes Dr. Bishop.
Dr. Lambshead: Queenie Bishop. Remember her? Tiny woman? Head like a sparrow? Used to run the hemostat black market in Rangoon? Her niece is carrying on with her research program.
Dr. Cisco: Ah. That’s heartwarming.
Dr. Lambshead: Not if you’ve seen the research.
Dr. Cisco: And after Dr. Bishop comes Dr. Chapman.
Dr. Lambshead: That man tries my patience. This business about his eidetic memory. It’s farcical. The man has no memory at all! Have you ever gone into a grocery with him? He never knows which cart is his!
Dr. Cisco: Perhaps the most outrageous essay of the lot is Dr. Calder’s.
Dr. Lambshead: That steaming heap of psychosexual horse patootie, I won’t even dignify with a comment.
Dr. Cisco: No comment at all?
Dr. Lambshead: None.
Dr. Cisco: Dr. Wexler?
Dr. Lambshead: Never speak that name to me again, Dr. Cisco. You know I have serious hypertension. I can’t afford to get angry.
Dr. Cisco: Speaking of which, have you read the reviews of the new edition?
Dr. Lambshead: Only the British ones. Their tone disturbs me. Has there been any intelligent commentary on your side of the pond?
Dr. Cisco: No, but a number of pundits have embarrassed themselves grievously. But of all the quacking rout who presume to criticize our genius work, I am particularly struck — and I must say this — by those who, in what I can only characterize as the most benighted denial imaginable, attempt to discredit the Guide in its entirety out of hand. Their criticism is so frankly incompetent that many dismiss the Guide without a single medical argument.
Dr. Lambshead: As I understand it — not that I’ve been paying much attention — some of these self-proclaimed critics aren’t even bloody doctors. It’s damned galling, is what it is.
Dr. Cisco: Well, it’s not merely that they’re unqualified. That’s bad enough. What’s worse is that many seem to have the idea that the Guide is some sort of preposterous fantasy or — I don’t know — a prank. What does one make of such people?
Dr. Lambshead: Do you recall Dr. Kimpira Tiramisu’s work with critics?
Dr. Cisco: What, you mean her work on cynicesura vitrolico?
Dr. Lambshead: Vitrolico? Your mind’s going. I was referring to specious rhadamanthemia — most likely “special group.”
Dr. Cisco: I’ll say it’s special, considering the long odds on such an extensive prenomial vector infection.
Dr. Lambshead: Oh, and vitrolico is more probable? Bulls’ pizzles!
Dr. Cisco: You’re the one who brought up Tiramisu in the first place! Did she work on rhadamanthemia? No! She worked on vitrolico!
Fantastic Metropolis: Doctors, if I might —
Dr. Lambshead: Tortescue! It was Tortescue who worked with vitrolico, you clown!
Dr. Cisco: A clown, am I? At least I can tell the difference between rhadamanthemia and what is obviously a widespread outbreak of anti-Quixotism.
Fantastic Metropolis: Doctors, please!
Dr. Lambshead: Another anti-disease. What a surprise. You’d diagnose the common cold as anti-dry-nose and then proclaim yourself the king of —
Dr. Cisco: Now that’s just typical. The medical establishment is blind as a cave fish whenever they question your findings, but just let someone else put something on the table without your blessed imprimatur stamped all over it, and it’s an auto-da-fé!
Dr. Lambshead: Interventionist!
Dr. Cisco: Inquisitor!
Dr. Lambshead: Lesion!
Dr. Cisco: Pus belch!
Fantastic Metropolis: Your faithful reporter regrets that the protocols of the interview —
Dr. Lambshead: Quackissimus!
Dr. Cisco: Dilettante!
Fantastic Metropolis: — have — watch it! — dissolved amid the sounds of breaking furniture. I will attempt —
(At this juncture, the reporter was compelled, due to the mountingly heated nature of the disagreement between these two Hippocratesian titans, swiftly and by means of certain measures intended to render his departure the more clandestine, absconded from the chamber. Consultation between the two physicians was not, we are given to understand, considerably further extended beyond this point.)
Copyright © 2004 by Michael Cisco and Stepan Chapman. Dr. Thackery T. Lambshead is © 2004 by Jeff VanderMeer and Mark Roberts.