Billy-Doc was Ripov's greatest buddy if ever there was one. Billy-Doc and Ripov had poked fun at each other since kindergarten. At that very tender age where boys can't resist crushing an ant between thumb and forefinger, Billy whispered to Ripov from his desk these prophetic words: "Say
yes and I'll be your G.P. for as long as you live." To which Ripov nodded [quoteright]gleefully. "OK," Billy exulted, "gimme your fist and close your eyes." Believing Ripov to be Jesus Christ's kid brother, Billy tried to nail his buddy's hand to the lower side of his desk. "Shshsh, don't look," Billy hissed, "I need concentration." But Ripov disobeyed and his blind faith vanishing as if by magic, he yelled at the sight of all that thick ketchup gushing from his palm. Ripov, who had passed out, spent the rest of the afternoon at the school infirmary while Billy got locked up in the restroom to mull over his deed. In the dark, a firefly suddenly appeared which Billy took for the Holy Ghost and thus Billy repented: "The blood is nothing, that little Ripov fainted is less than nothing, but oh Jesus, do forgive me. I shan't ever again pretend little Ripov was your kid brother. Mea culpa, mea culpa.
From that day on Billy-Doc - for Billy eventually became an MD - vowed never to mix science with religion.
Billy-Doe and Ripov, now grownups, had only one thing in common, their unshatterable friendship, the former having established himself as a respectable G.P. and the latter respecting the tenets of life's ecopsychotic system.
A health freak, Ripov went to Billy-Doc at least once a month. Billy-Doc, aware of Ripov's financial status, never charged a penny for his consultations. He extended his generosity by administering Ripov sample drugs the pharmaceutical labs would send him. As a result, Ripov's medicine-chest was jam-packed with drugs and ointments of all hues and ingredients. There were blue pills for the blues, red tablets for anemia, eucalyptus cough drops, mouth sprays in seven flavors, pep-ups and sex-ups and a load of vitamins and other chemical goodies which Ripov ... never touched. This, of course, Billy-Doc didn't know. When Christmas time came, Ripov, who had an artistic vein and also made exquisite cakes, rewarded his friend with two of his own creations: a huge framed collage for Billy-Doc's country house and a triple-decked gateau topped with a marzipan (!) figurine of the Child Jesus. If Ripov could certainly not pass for the Lord's kid brother, his right hand still bore the stigma Billy had inflicted upon him back in kindergarten. The incident was obviously deeply imbedded in Ripov's subconscious-so sprach Zara-Freud-stra.
With the years, Ripov's talent paid off and he rubbed shoulders with Vasarely and Roy Lichtenstein. But fame did not corrupt him and he continued to present Billy-Doc with his yearly gifts, now accompanied by a colorful note which read:
"Your ever grateful friend; Ripov."Billy-Doc kept checking Ripov's health regularly as in the past, and in spite of his friend's good fortune, he still insisted on giving him free sample drugs-by the bagfuls.
It was a puzzle to Billy-Doc why Ripov should express such gratitude. Billy-Doc, you see, never realized that the collages which had built Ripov's reputation originated in the multicolored goodies he'd been showering his patient with since he'd started his practice.
Part of Ripov's secret consisted in ... crushed tablets mingled with various cough mixtures and ointments.
Not once did Ripov have to spend a cent to buy paint.
As for the triple-decked Christmas cake, it was a high-powered piece of culinary maestria full of the vita-proteins concocted by our pharmacological wizards.
No wonder then that good 'ole Billy-Doc lived to be a hundred years and some.
Who ever said that art, science and religion were incompatible?
Parisian Albert Russo was born in Zaire and has lived in New York, Italy, Germany, Belgium, and Switzerland. He supports himself by writing, teaching, and translating.
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