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Voices From the Workshops: Greta Papageorgiu

December 8, 2011 | Dawn | Comments (0)

Bethune: Doctor Under Fire  by Greta Papageorgiu


Before Wikipedia was misinforming the masses…if you had a project you, had to go to the library.  

I know it’s bad to procrastinate.  Okay fine, I’ve waited until the day before my 5-page project on Norman Bethune: Chinese hero, Canadian Unknown is due, but I’m here right now, at the reference library, early in the morning , and I’m going to write all day. 

617.5- that’s where the handy Dewey Decimal System said that I would find all the books about Norm that I needed. 614, 615, 616 a gapping hole, 618- the whole section is empty. Maybe I wrote down the wrong number. (Checks her notebook.  She looks around and spots someone at the other end of the library. Her face drops). Oh my God. Katie McClusky is sitting at the other end of the floor with all the books about Norman Bethune: all of them. She has them neatly stacked in piles three books high.  I’m trying to smile and look friendly as a go over although neither of us really likes each other. “Hi”, I say.  And then I can’t help it, the truth bursts out of me: “I really need these books”. Katie smiles her brown-nosing smile, “I’d love to be able to lend you some, but you see I’ve got a system going on here for my fact-cross-referencing and so I have to have access to all the books while I do this.”  “So how long’s that going to take?” She looks up at me,    “All day”, and turns back to her book.

This bitch was not going to help me out.

My options were limited.  I only had 24 more hours and Mr. Spratt never grants extensions…  Periodicals? No, she had them.  Wait until she goes to the bathroom and steal them?  I doubt she has bodily functions.  If only I had come 15 minutes earlier, I would be the one holding Bethune: doctor of the people (realizing) in my hands.  It dawned on me: you might not be able to judge a book by its cover, but you can cover up what you don’t know with its title. I repeated the title back to myself: Norman Bethune: doctor of the people.  It clicked!  Of course! Norman Bethune was a “doctor” of the “people”. I wrote it down. Bethune- Colon-China.  Bethune lived in “China”. This is too easy. I just went around turning the titles into perfectly composed sentences.  They were all true, after all. He was a man who lived a life of “passion” and “conviction”.  He lived in Montreal. He had a lot of character and conviction. Norman Bethune was a: doctor under fire.  I quickly wrote down all the other titles while Megan tutted with annoyance.  “Have you no shame?”, she asked. “At least I’ll get in on time”. I told her and slammed down my notebook and headed out of the library.

I’ll have you know that writing with very few facts can be surprisingly easy.  I just let my imagination fill in a few gaps and managed to come up with 5 pages (of 16 point font), Times New Roman and a lot of footnotes.  And I got it in on time.


This monologue is reprinted with permission from the author. It was performed at the Toronto Reference Library as part of David Young's Writer-in-Residence workshop program, on November 30, 2011.


Playwright David Young will be blogging in this space from October - November, 2011 as Toronto Reference Library's Playwright-in-Residence.