Gardner Flookz flunked out of medical school, then law school, but not before he picked up enough understanding to swagger his way through both worlds. A medical malpractice claims adjuster, he works the streets of Remembrance Acres, a small town in the near-future, populated by ambulance chasers, profiteers, space cadets, wizards, vampires, slumming gods, and down-on-their luck superheroes. They knew how to take advantage of a good flunkee.
FROM “THE WELL”
Mother Hubbard got drunk for the first and only time in her life during a convention for hospital administrators held in the Arlington Arms, the poshest hotel in Remembrance Acres. She was to be the keynote speaker, and perhaps she was having an attack of nerves. Credo was only six years old at the time, and she lost track of him for a moment, just a moment, she thought, but she couldn’t be sure, unaccustomed as she was to alcohol. Through her haze of giddiness and disorientation, a frantic commotion began to register, people talking about a little boy who had fallen into the pool. She raced outside, fearing the worst.
They pulled Credo out of the water. He wasn’t breathing. They resuscitated him. No one knew how long he’d been without oxygen.
Mother Hubbard rode with Credo in the ambulance to Preservation General. Half of the convention guests, the finest hospital administrators in the country, followed in their own cars. They poured into the ER waiting room and crowded around Mother Hubbard to offer their prayers. They stood by, prepared to offer the most professional of condolences, if came to that, just as they were prepared, among themselves, to Monday morning quarterback the performance of the staff.
The Staff, and Mother Hubbard herself, could not have been under greater scrutiny than when caring for her only child.
After 45 minutes, the head of the ER, Doc Popei Nobopeere came out and announced that Credo would live, that he would be just fine.
Mother Hubbard gave her key note speech right there in the ER, that day, “It is times like this that you realize how deeply you depend on the healthcare system, how doctors and nurses keep a vigil over those who are most dear to us, how we expect them to be there for us when the need arises.
“Healthcare is like a well. Every one of us will be thirsty at some time and will need to partake of that well. We must all protect this Well, and we must all share its waters. Sometimes the Well is threatened. If it isn’t funded properly, the Well goes dry. The Well may be raided by overzealous prosecutors who take advantage of laws on the books written to serve a political purpose, and who don’t understand the intricacies of healthcare economics, or healthcare ecology. The Well may be threatened by greedy providers who try to take advantage of a thirsty population. The Well may be threatened by third party payors who game the system and profiteer off the needs of their insureds. The Well may be threatened by an unfair and unpredictable tort system in which complex medical questions are decided by lay people, where wealth is redistributed through a process that is socialistic in its intent, but uses legal fictions adorned with the language of guilt and blame. The Well may be threatened by ideologues who think they can solve a complex problem with simple fix like capitalism or socialism. The Well may be threatened by politicians who promise miracle cures like the snake oil salesmen of old. The Well may be threatened by too much soulless science, or too much trust in God, ignoring the way God gave humanity inquiring minds and put us in a harsh world that demands their use. The Well may be threatened by those who would hoard and miser its waters. And the well may be threatened when we take for granted that it will always be there.
“There are so many forces that threaten our Well. It will run dry if we fail to guard it. That is the responsibility which all of us must bear. To make certain, that in times of need, the Well will be open to all who need it— to everyone.”
The applause might have been thunderous, but Mother Hubbard silenced them all with a gesture, reminding them that this was, after all, a hospital.
(with some slight revisions)
Imaginative social satire in the tradition of Johnathan Swift, Remembrance Acres is a canny insider’s view of the healthcare industry, a story cycle examining the important legal issues—medical malpractice, informed consent, privacy, insurance and reimbursement, high-tech contracting, involuntary commitment, work-force reduction, management fads, fraud and abuse, and death and dying.
From Ritual Burning:
All of the town’s old timers claim to have been present at the wedding of Judge Butterfield’s daughter and Kid Flicker. A heightened social status came from being identified as an authentic wedding attendee. Many tried to bluff their way through, though pretenders, once discovered, were ostracized. The Kid himself told different versions of his wedding stories. The night of the wedding, he had been plastered, and he couldn’t separate his own memories from anecdotes people fed him over the years. My old high school science teacher took credit for bringing the bride and the groom together, and saving the world at the same time.
From The Private Life:
Congress passed a new law designed to protect health information from surreptitious telepathic interception. To implement the law, the government promulgated five thousand pages of regulations, all of them written in the impenetrable style of the Federal Register, great linguistic Gordian knots of prose that used meticulously defined terms that incorporated long strings of other meticulously defined terms, draconian single sentences that respired dragon-like in forest devouring breadth.
From The Petition:
I hate these dream peeper cases. They fall into the same category of exercise as trying to figure out whether you really have free will. Or whether the world is made of actual material or just ideas about material. Or whether dreams give you a glimpse into a higher reality or just a glimpse at your own frustrations expressed in code. You’re never going to get a definite answer in this lifetime, but there’s too much riding on the outcome to stop asking the question. Like those other questions in this category, there’s a lot of different answers come from a lot of different people who have widely diverging opinions. Many experts swear that there really are low level telepaths who can voyeuristically peer into the dreams of others. But there are equally well credentialed experts who claim that all the reported cases of dream peepers were caused by the power of suggestion. After all, most people would rather blame a mysterious outside agency than face up to the weird stuff playing in their own minds. Did the phenomena previously go unreported because the victims were embarrassed? Or they feared no one would believe their stories? Or was the first reported case a delusion that replicated itself among the credulous?
From How Immortality Killed Perpetual Man:
Wearing his hospital robe like a cape, he slouched in his geri-chair and lifted his glass. “Here’s to Perpetual Man. I christened myself with that name in a fit of fate-defying hubris. Back in the 1920’s, it seemed so dramatic, so appropriately descriptive. I took the name as a dual reference to my perceived indestructibility, and to the perpetual motional like process that powered my bodily functions. In recent years, I entertained thought about changing the old name. But it is too late for that now. Perpetual Man will be my name until I am gone; a name full of stirring connotations, acquired grandeur, and now, irony.”
From The DreaMage:
Dot Ringo was Remembrance Acres’ premier med mal plaintiff attorney, a thoroughly formidable opponent. Ringo used to say that law was a kind of magic. In the style of a true witch, she could transmute any misfortune into a fortune. At this point in her career, she had ceased to care about money, for she had made enough money to bankroll the mortgage on Heaven. She only cared about winning, for its own sake. She pursued every case as if it were an animal head trophy to be placed upon her wall. She picked her clients very carefully. Usually, she evaluated a claim by looking at damages first, preferring serious injuries, like brain damaged babies, comatose married wage earners, and deaths. She liked deaths. Nightmares were not her usual forte. But she had uncanny instincts. Somehow Ringo had smelled blood.