Thursday the Earth opened up and swallowed everything. Dr. Madquest looked around. Aside from an old sheepdog barking in the distance, as far as he could tell, he was the only one and only thing left on this Earth.

“The only thing I requested from you was to open yourself, so I could properly examine you! Now, look what you have done—nothing left!” Dr. Madquest admonished the Earth.

Everything had been swallowed: his wife of 24 years, his six children, and his beloved neighbor Bruce. Of course, all of his worldly possessions were gone, too.

“I will never be able to replace Bruce,” he sighed. “What a nice neighbor, so helpful, so big and so strong…”

He decided that he had no choice but to start all over again. He gathered himself up and started to walk. More than likely he wouldn’t be able to find his documents proving that he had finished medical school. The walls of his office where his medical degree had been displayed in a handsome, gold-plated frame had completely disappeared. Now was the time to think about a career change. Perhaps he could try his hands on becoming a hunter-gatherer, if in fact there was anything left to hunt or gather. Or perhaps the old sheepdog was in need of medical help. But what did he know about the health problems of dogs? His mind was abuzz.

Then after he had walked for a long time, hours turned into days and days had translated into quite a distance away from his home, he came upon a hill. He had never seen this hill before, most likely because he had never been one for traveling around the countryside. All his time had been devoted to expand his practice and care for his family. His only joy in life, aside from healing sick people, had been to spend time with his neighbor Bruce. What a good friend he had been and how he missed him so. It was Sunday now and he felt hungry and tired. He sat down to rest, surveying the valley that opened up in front of him. The old sheepdog, looking for a kindly soul, sat next to him, wagging his tail.

Something looked very familiar. There was a town and he saw people milling around in the streets. Apparently, the earth had not swallowed up this area, Mr. Madquest surmised. Maybe he could ask for help, rest and even get a nourishing meal. His spirits soared as he quickly made his way to the town. But as soon as he entered the town, he realized something strange; that was his very own town.

Using his deductive powers of reasoning, he figured that the Earth had swallowed up the place and then must have spit it out in this new location. The area, he realized, was actually not a great improvement over the previous one, adding nothing to the property value. But Dr. Madquest didn’t mind. Walking rapidly, he quickly found his house.

“Honey, I’m home!” he shouted happily as he tried to open his door. But it was locked and he didn’t have the key. After pounding on the door for some time it finally opened up and Bruce appeared.

“Sorry,” Bruce said, sleepily massaging his eyes. “It’s Sunday. The office is closed today. Unless it is an emergency, I won’t see any patients today.”

Dr. Madquest was stunned. “Bruce, my dear friend, it’s me, Dr. Madquest, your neighbor…and friend.” He swallowed the last words because his dear wife of 24 years showed up, hugging Bruce from behind.

“What is it, sweetheart?” she asked Bruce. “Vagrants again?”

“No, it’s just your former husband,” Bruce replied. “Just toss him something to eat and maybe a change of clothes. He looks pretty rough.”

“I thought we were friends…very good friends,” Dr. Madquest cried out. “As a matter of fact—very, very good friends…extremely good…”

“You made the earth swallow us up!” his wife shouted angrily. “Now go away, you’ve done enough damage!”

“But the Earth was sick. I just wanted to help because I swore the Hippocratic Oath and…”

“We don’t need your kind anymore!” Bruce yelled. “Children, chase him away!”

With horror, Dr. Madquest watched as his own six children began to pelt him with raw eggs, tomatoes, and other vegetables and fruits in various stages of decay. Completely devastated and humiliated, he ran away. Even the old sheepdog had abandoned him, as he saw him wagging his tail begging for a soup bone.

“I have a medical degree!” Dr. Madquest shouted from a safe distance. “And I’ll promise you, I will use it!”

But he received nothing but raucous laughter in return. “What medical degree?” his wife asked sarcastically.

“It’s displayed in a very handsome, gold-plated frame right on the wall of my office! And believe me, I won’t hesitate to use it and make the Earth open up once again!”

Now everyone began to laugh, including his six children, their faces mockingly distorted with hateful smirks. “No, we don’t see any degrees with your name on the walls!” they shouted triumphantly. “There are only documents displaying the name of Dr. Bruce!”

His shoulders hunched over, defeated and overwhelmed, Dr. Madquest made it back up the hill again. Apparently, they had scratched his name out from the documents and replaced it with Bruce’s. There was not much he could do. He munched on a carrot he had gathered from the debris around him after having been assaulted by his very own six children.

Perhaps, he thought, he would be better off thinking about a change of careers. Judging by the variety of food items he already had picked up, he realized he was no slouch when it came to gathering. With a little more experience, maybe he could do well as a hunter also.