The good Dr. Schulze--and he probably was, despite some psychosomatic hyperbole--reconstructs his first practice ""so the realities of those portrayed here will continue a little longer, and also mine."" His office is behind a drugstore in the South Texas town of Schulenberg around the beginning of World War II, among the tidy Bohemian and German ""prairie people,"" the shamelessly filthy ""timber people,"" and the knife-happy Mexicans and Negroes. Serving up generous doses of Medicine, he chronicles cases in recreated dialect and philosophizes in redundant staccato clauses. He reiterates that ""strange idea, feeling, that people. . . choose their symptoms. Choose the illness that best tells their inner, unknown self-fears. Have the disease tell it on the surface""; he pursues a pesonification of death--""a presence had joined my life, would always be near. This is my enemy. . . . And yet my life--for all the rest of my life. He's here. Always my enemy""; he compares his dream of starting a hospital to a just-removed, eleven-year-old calcified foetus--""Will I. . . keep it forever inside, safely unborn until it is a dead weight, a tombstone?"" He does start the hospital, whose image enlivens a private life without family or personal friends, but his pen is not as mighty as his scalpel: the doctor's prose tries the tolerance even of the patient.