Lissa Evans

Gus and his mate Mark: A short story by Lissa Evans

[Illustrated by Carolyn Gowdy]

‘I’ve just seen a wen,’ said Gus, returning from the toilets.

‘A what?’

‘A wen. It’s a benign thing, I can’t remember the proper name for it. It looked like a button mushroom growing out of this bloke’s head. Really hard not to stare.’

‘A wen,’ repeated Mark, broodingly. ‘I’ve never even heard of it. How come you know about it and I don’t?’ He mentally added ‘wen’ to his personal 40-volume encyclopedia of medical ignorance.

‘I dunno, I heard it somewhere. Maybe you only know the clinical term.’

‘Unlikely. I’m going to look it up.’ Mark took out his phone and exited the snug; there wasn’t much of a signal in the pub, which was one of the reasons why they went there. Gus resumed reading the chapter on diastolic murmurs in his cardiology textbook. Although he had certainly read it before — after all, someone must have highlighted all those important bits — almost nothing had stayed with him. And yet once his memory had seemed limitless. At Cheadle sixth-form college, he’d been known as BrainMan — also as Total Recall, Deadly Facteria and (by the head teacher, reverently, to anyone visiting the college) ‘Gus, who has a place to study medicine’.

The local freesheet had published a photo of him grinning self-consciously in the college car park, accompanied by the headline ‘GUS SO YOU KNOW, HE’S GOING TO BE A DOCTOR!’ and his grandmother had framed the piece, having first blown it up to A3 on the library photocopier; the vast magnification had disintegrated the outline of his head, so that he looked like a Hubble photograph of one of Jupiter’s less symmetrical moons.

He’d thought, starting at medical school, that he might find London intimidatingly large and the other students patronising in their metropolitan sophistication, and both those things had turned out to be true.

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