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Jason Fishel, MS4, Family Medicine

The Pimp gazed at the pale, wriggling mass held to his chest in the steel grip of a running back with historical fumbling problems and raised an eyebrow.

“So what are the layers of the abdominal wall then?” he asked the baby. The baby did not know, and so he cried, which improved our assessment of his wellness at birth, but not our assessment of his intelligence. The Pimp handed the baby boy to his likewise wailing mother, and turned in my direction next. I looked to my left, then to my right. Seeing nobody else, I turned on a sheepish smile. Who, me?

“He’s just a baby!” The Pimp proclaimed. “He doesn’t know the answer! It’s OK, baby. That’s why we have medical students. Help the baby out, please, Student Doctor Fishel. Layers of the abdominal wall.”

I didn’t know the answer. “I don’t know, sir!” I said.

He patted the young mother on her shoulder with a surprising tenderness and chuckled from deep within his voluminous belly. “Your baby boy is talented! He knows as much as this medical student! Call us in a few years and we’ll get him right into med school.”

This was one of The Pimp’s favorite tricks. He was called The Pimp because of his unrivalled talent in pimping. Pimping is medical student jargon for the Socratic method of teaching. Teacher asks, student answers. In many circles, this is considered a not only legitimate but highly effective style of education. This is not the case in the medical school circles, because medical students hate to be wrong, and are whiny turds. I hate to be wrong. I am a whiny turd. The Pimp is The Pimp. This is the way.

It was widely rumored that The Pimp pimped babies at their own births not only to humiliate students such as myself, but also because answering his question correctly was the only way for a baby to raise his or her Apgar score from a 9 to a perfect 10. The Apgar is a standardized way for assessing the health of a baby immediately after birth, and it was true that I had never seen a baby score 10 out of 10.

The Pimp and I walked into another birthing room, and were immediately greeted by, in addition to the usual sights, smells, and sounds from whose detailed description I will spare you, the unmistakable strains of “China Cat Sunflower” by none other than the Grateful Dead. The young mother had a thin, bony face framed in miles of flowing brown dreadlocks. The father, clutching her hand, was the spitting image of the whitewashed Roman Catholic Jesus Christ. It was not unusual for mothers to choose their own sort of birthing soundtrack, though, in my limited experience, this seemed to be an eclectic choice by an eclectic mother. I had heard that The Pimp sometimes pimped students about what music was playing, and I hoped to dazzle him this way, but no question came. No doubt he saved each specific class of questioning for the students who knew the least about the subject at hand. Thus, knowing virtually nothing about obstetrics, I would never have the privilege of answering a music question.

The Pimp and I launched into action: his action, delivering the baby, my action, finding a relatively dark and sheltered part of the birthing room to hide in. Some of the birthing rooms, like the one in which we currently stood, had more than 4 walls. I preferred these as they held more corners in which medical students might wedge themselves.

After several minutes comfortably dissociated from reality, it occurred to me that I could once again hear the sound of crying. The Pimp gazed at a pale, wriggling mass held against his chest and raised an eyebrow.

“So what dose of oxytocin should we give to mommy to stop her from bleeding then?” The Pimp cooed at the newborn in his arms. I did not know this answer either. The high pitched cries of the infant stopped at once. The weeping parents quieted as well, concerned about the significance of this.

Quietly, just barely audible: “Can you tell me how much saline is running right now? I’m just a baby, and I can’t see well yet.” The Pimp’s eyes widened. He passed the speaking baby to her mother. At first he stood still and said nothing, but then cleared his throat. He nodded to the nurse, who made a few scribbles in the baby’s chart. I stood on my tip-toes to better see the small print from across the room, but it was unmistakable – “5 minute Apgar: 10/10”. The Pimp turned to the new family.

“And what is your daughter’s name?” he asked.

“That’s our girl,” the proud parents blubbered. “Our China Cat Sunflower!”

China Cat Sunflower proceeded to launch into a sophisticated explanation of oxytocin biochemistry, dosage, and clinical monitoring for uterine contraction as I watched, less dumbfounded at the speaking baby than pissed off at her relative competence. Who did this little show-off think she was?

“Correct!” The Pimp said. “All of it! Correct!” He walked quickly out of the room without saying another word. Since I was not sure what to do, I reverted to my default mode of action, which was standing there saying and doing nothing.

“Ahem. She’s, uh, cute,” I tried after a few minutes of uncomfortable silence. Nobody heard me. The Pimp bustled back into the room a few moments later.

“Ms. Sunflower,” The Pimp said, “I just got off the phone with the dean, and we have both decided that it would be a great honor if you would join our medical school class.”

The next day, I found myself carrying Student Doctor Sunflower from room to room swaddled in a white coat as we rounded on all of the patients who were still in the hospital after having their babies. Postpartum complications, pain management, history and physical exam after surgery – she knew it all. The Pimp could not stump her. As I stood around looking at the ceiling, she answered every question in a dainty whisper from somewhere down at the level of my sternum. As the day drew to a close, The Pimp smiled for the first time since I had met him. Perhaps Socrates had found his Plato.

“Strong work, Student Doctor Sunflower!” He bellowed. “Fishel, you could learn from your classmate here!” He marched out of the maternity ward, leaving me with China Cat Sunflower in my arms. I carried her back to her hospital room to spend the rest of the day with her family, set her down in a bassinet full of blankets, and changed her diaper since she had pooped during rounds. At first I planned to just leave her without a word and go home to lick my wounds. I would study the questions that had been asked today to beat her, though those particular questions would inevitably never be asked of the two of us again, thereby dashing any hope I had of appearing intelligent. I stopped, though, as I looked at the sweet young family and the little wunderkind.

“How did you get all the answers right today?” I asked. I had to know. I was trying desperately not to sound like a whiny little turd, and realized I had failed when Mr. Sunflower involuntarily wrinkled his nose in disgust. Student Doctor Sunflower let out an adorable yawn and a tiny squeal.

“Some people are just born to be doctors,” she sighed, and went to sleep with a smile on her tiny face.

She was right, of course. I imagined an impossibly rotund baby that would one day be The Pimp springing forth from the womb fifty years ago and immediately berating me, the medical student who had failed to catch his placenta in a small white bucket.

“Can you even describe the placental circulation?” Baby Pimp asked incredulously.

I did not study that night when I got home from the hospital. Instead, I cracked a beer, went out on the porch, and watched moths dance around the streetlights.

What was I born to be? I wondered.