Saturday, April 26, 2014

Traveling Nurse

By Jane Corby, ©1965
Nurse Sharon Stone always craved adventure. J. Morton Bishop, a wealthy hypochondriac, liked traveling to unusual places. And he took Sharon along as his nurse-companion. But when Bishop no longer needed her, would she be able to give up her exciting new way of life? Did she love Doctor Mike Baylis enough to return to Plainsville as a small town doctor’s wife?
“The only thing that mattered was the expression of the intense, preoccupied man standing before her, looking at her as a person. It was an unusual experience—one she valued because it happened so seldom. Like J. Morton Bishop, there were many men who looked at her and saw someone who wore clothes well and was, they often said, beautiful. Or, like Dr. Maurice Hamilton, men saw her as an efficient nurse. But only rarely did a man give her credit for intelligence and pride and character.”
“I’ll take it for granted you are a great lover and most girls swoon with delight when you make a pass at them.”
“I’ve been sure from the minute I saw you that you’re everything I want in a wife: red-gold hair, green eyes, a perfect figure …”
J. Morton Bishop is “a hard-hitting businessman who had successfully out-maneuvered all competitors in the hardware price war which had just been concluded,” and we’re not talking computers. He’s also a hypochondriac, and so has decided that he needs to be attended by a nurse at all times. Enter Sharon Stone—nurse, not actress—who decides she would like the job.
There’s just one hitch—her boyfriend, Dr. Mike Baylis. He’s been telling Sharon that they cannot marry for several years, until he’s finished his training. But now that Sharon’s been offered a glamorous job, he’s decided to take a job as a GP in upstate New York right away. “If she stayed on this glamour job, she would be spoiled for the simpler but more satisfying way of life he wanted,” Mike feels, so the only answer is for her to refuse the job with Bishop and marry him right away. “Can you deny that you’re trying to live like a duchess, without the title?” he shouts at her. It’s hard to see how a few months in luxurious hotels will ruin her forever, but such are the absurdities of a jealous male. Sharon, however, ignores his objections; “she could not let him go on assuming she would meekly follow whatever course he decided upon.”
And so off Bishop and entourage—which includes his son Luke, secretary Barney Armstrong, and now Sharon—for New Orleans, Yucatan, Denver, and San Francisco, where Bishop meets with a slick doctor in very swank offices who charges outrageous sums of money—$250!—in cash for consultations. Dr. Mellon refuses to allow Sharon to accompany her patient during the exam, and gives Bishop a $150 bottle of unnamed pills to take three times a day. When Sharon asks the pharmacist what’s in the pills, she’s told, “It wouldn’t do for me to give out the information. Professional ethics, you know.” Strange ethics that don’t allow a patient to know what medication they’re being given, but Sharon just nods and apologizes: “Of course. I shouldn’t have asked.”
Dr. Mellon doesn’t stop with the pills; he’s also pressing Bishop to enter his sanitarium for a month to regain his “precarious” health. In her alarm and conviction that Bishop is being swindled, Sharon calls Mike, who flies out and investigates, soon discovering that the pills Bishop has been taking are placebos. He also spends a day at the library and learns that Dr. Mellon has been investigated for tax fraud. So Sharon marches into Dr. Mellon’s office and demands that he tell Bishop that he is perfectly well, or she will call the IRS about his cash operation and the AMA about his sugar pills. Needless to say, the very next day, Bishop gets a call informing him that he’s completely healthy!
Back in New York a week later, there’s a big article in the paper about Dr. Mellon’s recent bust for fraud. It appears that the timing was a happy coincidence, but Sharon now takes credit for having “cured” Bishop of hypochondria and gives notice, returning to her pedestrian nursing job in the hospital. Now it’s just a matter of time before she agrees to go to Plainsville (and I have to wonder if the town name was deliberately chosen as a foil to the glitz of Mr. Bishop’s lifestyle) as Mike’s wife. Which comes as quite a letdown for a number of reasons. The issues of whether her fling with luxury has spoiled her, and of Mike’s presumption in trying to tell her what she should or shouldn’t do in her working life, are left completely unresolved. I wasn’t much of a fan of the domineering Dr. Baylis, and I wasn’t thrilled that Sharon, in the end, actually does meekly follow whatever course he decided upon, living up to Mike’s suggestion, early in the book, that “you’d better get this nonsense about traveling out of your system. As the wife of a doctor who is trying to build a place for himself in some community, you won’t have time for such nonsense.” In my opinion, it’s her choices after she gets home that are nonsense, but even without this perfunctory and unsatisfying ending, Traveling Nurse doesn’t have much to offer.

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