Friday, September 24, 2010

#fridayflash: Skin Therapy

Congrats to all the #fridayflash crowd whose stories made the 50 Stories for Pakistan longlist. Mine didn't, so here 'tis - it's been a while!

Skin Therapy
Lily Mulholland

Dr Harold Kinsella, Harry to his friends, was a well respected plastic surgeon transplanted from America to London, where he’d earned a number of gongs in recognition of the pro bono work he did with burns victims. Internationally renowned for his skill with the surgical blade, Dr Kinsella was in hot demand, with a waiting list longer than a conga line in a retirement village.

Dr Kinsella’s dedication to the job earned him plaudits from his peers in the UK and around the world, although it had cost him his marriage and the company of his two lovely daughters. He saw them irregularly, what with his patient load and constant travel on the international lecture circuit.

Which was where he was returning from just now. A member of a high-profile panel at Plastic Surgery 2010, held in Toronto, Canada, he had held the audience in thrall with details of the latest advances in tissue engineering. The panel discussion had run smoothly until Randall Weiss started sticking the knife in. Despite their long-held rivalry that dated back to Stanford, Harry had been thrown when Randy questioned his surgical approach to challenging reconstructive cases.

Harry cringed at the memory of their heated and unprofessional argument, where they had both tarnished their reputations and left the other panel members embarrassed. Two of the world’s top plastic surgeons duelling over technique. Worse, the panel was one of only a handful open to the world’s medical and mainstream media.

He imagined the headlines; they weren’t going to be pretty. Harry knew he would have a ‘please explain’ from the British Association of Plastic Surgeons, which had funded the trip. The stewardess moved past as he groaned.

“Everything all right, sir?”

“Yes, fine, thank you. Actually, I could do with another whisky.”


She returned with his drink. Twelve-year, single highland malt whisky on ice. In a real glass. Harry enjoyed his frequent upgrades to First Class.

“Is there anything else, Dr Kinsella?”

“No, I’m fine.”

He watched her sashay across the aisle and stop to attend to a female passenger he hadn’t noticed during the previous three hours of the flight; he had been buried in a medical journal, trying to forget the humiliation. The woman was attractive, although he only looked at women the way a conservator sizes up a damaged canvas.

The angle of his seat afforded a reasonable view of the woman: late forties, sharp hairstyle, and a large diamond earring dangling from her visible earlobe. He noted the developing buccula beneath her chin, the creases that formed at the corners of her eyes as she chatted with the hostess, and the pigmentation spots on the skin beneath her cheekbones. That she had good bone structure was clear even in the artfully dimmed light of the cabin’s interior.

Harry thought about slipping his card into her pocket as they exited the plane. After his Canadian ordeal, he felt the need to cut away some ugliness and make something beautiful again.

(Image: Bestlin Plastics)


  1. Man this was so good, the 50 that made it must have been incredible.

    So many good lines, the notion of a plastic surgeon sticking a verbal knife into someone, the conga line in a retirement village & the curse of eyeing up a woman by her skin blemishes - fabulous

    Marc Nash

  2. I agree with Marc. This was really good. I think you captured the egos of these doctors. Entertaining.

  3. Had to look up buccula. He can't leave his work on the table, eh? What a fetish.

  4. I've always wondered how doctors, especially gynecologists, view women. LOL! I like your portrayal of their egos at the conference. word verification is demon.

  5. Good story! I'm guessing it's virtually impossible for plastic surgeons to simply look at people without sizing up their flaws. I'm guessing it's a very sad, lonely existence if they don't have their heads on straight. And he seems on who does wear his head a bit crooked...

  6. I too get the impression of a Massive ego. The title reinforces the impression. It's the cold, frightening edge to the word "clinical" - a gaze like a scalpel.

  7. There is so much said in that last line, his need to cut away ugliness. Pity he sees it in the woman across the aisle and not in himself. Clever write.

  8. Well I just loved this -- the egos on these dudes! I'm sorry yours isn't it in the antho, but it's mighty fine here. And mighty unique. Peace...

  9. Such an incredible character study. What a sense of ego and short-sightedness. Awesome.
    Adam B @revhappiness

  10. I love that last line. Reminds me slightly of Fight Club (no bad thing). Really sums up the whole experience for him.


I love reading comments so please do leave one! I would also appreciate your constructive criticism - life is a learning journey and I'm enjoying learning a lot about my writing.