I slept like a rock, no dreams that I could remember, and upon awakening, the ball of anxiety that had been my constant companion was gone.

I tried to get it back by thinking of all the unpleasant things that might happen in the next few days.


I felt good. Acceptance is the final stage of dying, so I must, at some unconscious level, have come to terms with my fate.

We had done our best, and now we had to see if our discoveries concerning the Cholera were going to have any effect.

I grabbed the Portland Times on the way to the trolley and read their coverage of yesterday’s events.

It was unusually circumspect, a straightforward account of the discoveries reported by the River Weekly and the water-drinking challenge at the park.

No bias in favor of the Societies and no dismissive commentary or language. I wondered. Were they convinced about the cause of the Cholera? It seemed so. Or perhaps they were just hedging their bets pending the outcome of the Society heads drinking the pump water. Wise to avoid being seen as promoting death by diarrhea.

I reached the office and went to the cubby room. For the first time in two weeks, the growth of the Cholera was slowing. Eight hundred and twenty-two cases. Had we peaked?

There were some cases downriver. One in Columbia City and one in Deer Island, both in families who received their drinking water straight from the Columbia. These were the first two cities downriver from Kenton, so I supposed the Cholera was heading down the Columbia to the Pacific.

The downriver cases occurred before the recommendation to boil water had been publicized. Before I went to my office, I sent a telegram to all the downriver Ministries detailing the need to boil water if it came from the river. Hopefully, between the telegrams and the newspapers, word would get out.

I was surprised when I got to the office to find Bonham and Colvin waiting for me. Both looked tired and unkempt as if they had been up all-night working.

“You two look awful. Drinking all night?”

They both smiled.

“The opposite,” said Colvin. “We are the anti-drinkers.”

“Look,” said Bonham, gesturing at my desk. “We brought you a present.”

On my desk was something, about four feet long, wrapped in what looked like an old blanket.

“And what might that be?” I asked. “It doesn’t look like much of a present.”

“Open it and see.”

I walked over to the desk and shook out the blanket. A long piece of metal fell out with a clank. I looked at it, puzzled at first. “Is that—?”

“Yep,” said Colvin. “A pump handle. In fact, the pump handle. The one from the pump in Kenton Park.”

“You stole it?”

“Borrowed it,” said Bonham. “If they want it back, it can be returned. They only have to contact one of us.”

“And you left card so the authorities could do just that?” I asked.

“No. We are not fools. We took it off the pump last night. The idea came to us over beer. Or beers. If the pump were not functional, it would stop the Cholera in its tracks. So, we rendered the pump nonfunctional. No point in waiting for the ever-too-slow-to-respond authorities.”

“And I altered the pump so the handle could not be easily replaced,” said Colvin.


“You know. Altered. Smashed with a sledgehammer. They will likely need to replace the whole thing.”

I shook my head. “I suppose the ends justify the means?”

“In this case,” said Colvin said. “I would say so.”

I looked at the pump handle. “So, what am I to do with it?”

“Well, I would suggest you put it on the wall over your desk as a trophy,” said Bonham. “Or hide it for now. But consider it a memento. Once it has been shown that shutting the pump down stops the Cholera, perhaps you can show it off.”

“I doubt it,” I said. “But I will be happy to give you the credit should I be arrested.”

They frowned.

“Joking,” I said. “It will not likely come to that. But you should not have done that. The Powers That Be do not look kindly on vandalism, even vandalism for the common good.”

I picked up the pump handle. It was heavy and cold and likely helped kill hundreds of people just as surely as if they had been hit on the head with it.

“But, excellent job,” I said. “It did need to be done. I do not doubt there are those who would drink the pump water no matter the risk. Not everyone will accept the reality of animalcules. But let’s keep this our secret for now.”

I looked around the room. I put the handle in the umbrella stand and covered it with umbrellas. A safe place for now. It was not likely to rain for a few months. I hoped.

“And now?”

“I need a shower and a nap,” said Bonham. “It’s my day off.”

“Same for me,” said Colvin. “But I have work to do this afternoon. We have reporters assigned to the heads of the Societies. If they develop the flux, we will know.”

“What about me?” said Bonham. “Don’t I rate a reporter in case I get the flux?”

Colvin just stared at him.

“Oh. You are the reporter.”

Colvin shook his head.

“Any flux?” he asked. “I thought not.”

They left my office, and it was a morning of paperwork. After the lunch hour, I took the trolley to Kenton. My first stop was the water pump. There was a police barrier around the pump with a Bobbie standing guard. The pump was indeed without a handle, and the sleeve into which a new handle could be placed was bent out of shape. It would not be functioning any time soon.

I checked the time —2 o’clock. I did not want to do any further work today. So, I went to the tea shop, bought lunch and an iced tea, and sat down at the foot of Paul to enjoy the day. Who was going to know?

As I stared out over the park, a remarkable number of people approached the pump carrying containers only to be turned away by the Bobbie. Over four hours, I counted ten people. If the water was for a standard family of four, removing that handle likely saved forty people from getting the Cholera.

I stopped several of the people trying to get water and asked why they were getting water from the park. Hadn’t they heard that the pump was likely the source of the Cholera? One had not, and I handed her the broadsheet describing the animalcules. She read it and thanked me for the information.

The others? They did not believe the information. The Cholera caused by animalcules? Fantastical. Beyond belief. And the leaders of the Medical Societies, who had been entrusted with their health by the Crown, had assured them the water was safe, going so far as to drink the pump water. If the water were dangerous, then why would they do that? The water had to be safe.

To most, at least those who wanted pump water, the warnings were all false news, to be ignored. It made me wish I had thought to remove the pump handle earlier.

At around 4 o’clock, I heard, off in the distance, a shout, “Extra, Extra. Medical Society Heads have the Cholera. Read all about it.” I immediately went in the direction of the voice, found the paperboy, and purchased the broadsheet.

The headline said it all:

Medical Societies Acquire the Cholera!

I quickly skimmed the text. Four of the five heads of the Societies had indeed come down with the Cholera, all-around 2 o’clock. The only one doing fine was Pettenkofer, head of the Homeopaths. The timing, to my mind, made the results all the more impressive. Twenty hours after they drank the pump water, four out of five had simultaneously developed the Cholera. It was perfect. I felt terrible they were all sick, but it was a vindication of all our work. It was not my fault they drank the water—sort of.

The article did not mention Bonham and whether he had become ill. It also discussed the vandalism of the pump and how the police had no leads as to who was responsible. I was relieved but skeptical. I had learned the authorities sometimes knew more than they let on.

So, all in all, a successful day. I just hoped that the heads of the Societies would be fine. I liked being proven correct, but not at the expense of anyone dying.



  • Mark Crislip, MD has been a practicing Infectious Disease specialist in Portland, Oregon, from 1990 to 2023. He has been voted a US News and World Report best US doctor, best ID doctor in Portland Magazine multiple times, has multiple teaching awards and, most importantly,  the ‘Attending Most Likely To Tell It Like It Is’ by the medical residents at his hospital. His multi-media empire can be found at

Posted by Mark Crislip

Mark Crislip, MD has been a practicing Infectious Disease specialist in Portland, Oregon, from 1990 to 2023. He has been voted a US News and World Report best US doctor, best ID doctor in Portland Magazine multiple times, has multiple teaching awards and, most importantly,  the ‘Attending Most Likely To Tell It Like It Is’ by the medical residents at his hospital. His multi-media empire can be found at