The Harmless Thoughts of a London Gynecologist

Vaginal walls—Delk looks for color, discharge, redundancy—manipulating the speculum to bring various portions of the walls to view, catching the cervix with tenaculum forceps (19 cm. Allis forceps, his personal favorite)—using the box lock to advantage—considering lacerations, deviations, eversions, erosions. He can take all the time he wants now.  He can see it in her eyes. They are the eyes of an animal who has just seen fire.

(It is 1942. It is late in the year and early in the day, and a fine autumn rain has begun to fall. Outside the building where he is working now, far in the distance it seems, there is a mixture of tongues to be heard, the uneasy French and Belgian, the crimped, tortured dialects of Russians and Poles. But it is difficult to be certain for the voices are low, and many of course, and now that the rain has begun to fall still harder he is aware of a locomotive as well, it seems very far away, the chuff-chuffing-chuff of a steam engine, the piddling grey sounds of an early morning rain, these voices, until one sound cannot be differentiated from any other—except, of course, for his radio.

(The radio in the other room is playing Mozart, “Die Entfhrung Aus Dem Serail.” The sonorities of bass, drum, cymbals, and triangle, how they mingle in graceless proportion! Otto Kothner is Pasha. Delk recognizes the speaking voice as that of Frosch, for it was Kothner who sang the jailer in “Die Fledermaus,” but the sharp-tongued soubrette and languishing heroine might be anyone, their voices Teutonic and thick, their thighs–he is sure–thick as well, and their alluring facial charms indistinguishable from stupor.

(Delk is dressed in civilian clothes, the uniform of the Sonderkommando, worn beneath a spotless white smock, for it is still early, the front of the smock still starched to the point of rigidity, and he is standing on a step stool, bent over the tiny body laid out on the polished table.

(There is little left of the Z and the S, “Zur Sektion: For Dissection,” marked with magisterial strokes by Dr. Mengele on the chest; little left of the chest cavity now that the sternum has been removed and the preliminary process dispensed with, and still less to indicate that the cadaver beneath him was once alive, except for the eyes, which are half open, and the brows about to pinch, as if there is a tune which she cannot get out of her little head.)

He explores the interior of the uterus with a sound. Crouching between her legs, his ear at her knee, his earlobe bushes the down missed by a morning razor as he turns his head in concentration, and says,  “Do you recall your last smear, Mrs. Mangrum?”

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