First-person POV, past tense, story from Dr. Jasper "Jazz" Railsback's viewpoint. In the first section, he medicates himself and goes into surgery. In section two, we see Jasper competing in arm wrestling at the Ontario Arm Wrestling Association's Arm Melter competition. Third, he testified in court about a ten-year old boy who suffered from "facial malformations" due to "placental abruption" and in fourth, he medicates himself again and spends the night with Penny and he talks with Penny about his hormonal problems and the meds he takes. Fifth, he goes to a motel room with a woman to have sex with her and he ends up meeting her son, Aaron, who has cystic fibrosis and he gives the boy an arm wrestling lesson, "Life is all technique," he tells Aaron. Then he is called to a "Code blue at the hospital." And, it's Penny's premature baby he has to operate on.
I'm not quite sure what to think about a theme for "Medium Tough." The main character has two distinct sides, God-like savior in the operating room and a desire to "demoralize my opponents," in arm wrestling. Also, physically, he has two distinct sides to his body "where the two halves of my body intersect." Jasper's alcoholic mother told him when he was a young boy and accidentally burned his hand that he was only "medium tough." We are all only "medium tough" as life slings issues and hardships at us and makes "its marks on" us.
The story includes many medical details and I would love to know how the Davidson, the author, knows so much about medicine and surgery. It lends a great deal of believability to the story especially necessary since it is written in first-person POV of Dr. Railsback.
"Medium Tough" was first published in Agni magazine and then in the 2014 issue of Best American Short Stories.
"Her hand fell on the baguette of flesh and bone that was my left thigh."
"Life is all technique."
"The world hasn't yet laid its marks on it."
Wikipedia page about Craig Davidson