I don’t like telling stories.
You should know that. My dad was the storyteller, God rest his soul,
but you’re going to just have to settle for me. There’s a ton of
other things that I’d rather do, believe me, and I can’t really
write, but I’ve decided to try to tell you this story the best I can.
My wife “encouraged” me to do it, to use a nice word. She’s a
special woman, but she’s a royal pain in the rear sometimes.
She thought, and maybe she was right, that telling people what happened
at Boston City Hospital when I was an intern there might help someone,
somewhere. I don’t mean to get all philosophical here, but one of my
old teachers used to say it’s some kind of a reflection. It’s hard
to explain in a sentence, but that’s what I believe.
Let me tell you, we walked around that place with people who couldn’t
be beat, not only as doctors, but as people. So to have seen some of
the things that happened to them, it still makes me feel pretty bad,
even today, after all these years. No joke. I mean, City was a hard
place to train even in a normal year. What we went through my intership
year, I wouldn’t wish on anybody. That’s why I’m going to tell
you the story, if you want to hear it. I know you might’ve read about
it in the newspapers or whatever, but you don’t know what really
happened or why. I was there.
That hospital changed my life. You know the saying about the worst of
times and the best of times? It was like that.
The other part of this is that my step-dad, Melvin Garrott, happened to
be the president of Academy Hospital at the time. Academy was a private
hospital, and it was supposed to be one of Boston City’s “sister”
hospitals. Well, it was, and it was right next door to us, but our
relationship was a lot hairier than that.
Mel and my mom got married when I was in my first year of medical
school, only three years after my dad died. Honest to God, throughout
medical school I hated Mel’s guts. Why? Well, I wouldn’t have told
you back then, but what it came down to was that he wasn’t my real
But I started to look at Mel a little different while I trained at City,
and things got more complicated from there, you’ll see if you stay
with me. And as hard as it was, in the end going through all that stuff
helped me understand my own life better. I’m not saying I understand
everything about what happened. I’m only giving you my part of the
story, because that’s all a man can do. But I do know a good piece of
it. And don’t expect me to start throwing fancy words at you that I
learned in medical school. I don’t have the time. Or the
I’m in another “place” in my life now, as some folks like to say,
but when you come right down to it, I’ll always just be Slater Barnes,
the kid from Farview, New Hampshire, who won the Willow Creek Memorial
Day Road Race when I was eleven. Ask my wife. If anything, the older I
get, the more “mountain” I get, if that makes any sense to you.
It’s like I’m going backwards.
In a way, you’re lucky that I’m even telling you as much as I am.
Don’t take that the wrong way, I don’t mean that to sound like I’m
high on myself. But I mean, a few years ago I wouldn’t have said even
this much. We’re New Englanders, and we don’t talk about anything
real personal, especially with people we don’t know. And I don’t
know you from a hole in the wall. No offense.
I figure I’d better get the story out there now, while I’m still in
the mood. That’s why I’m going to try and tell you what happened to
Boston City—and me along the way.
Still, I’ll have to push myself pretty hard to go into the details.
So, honest to God, don’t ask me too many questions.
Excerpted from "Days of the Giants" by RJ Petrella. Copyright © 2015 by RJ Petrella. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.