The strange tale of VURM the Guinea Pig

Concept Warning! Shaggy Dog Story or Cautionary Tale? You decide in


The Strange Tale

of Vurm the Guinea Pig*


Did I ever tell you the story of Vurm the Guinea Pig?

This is 20 years or so ago I’m talking about – back in the days when some people used to call me “Chemical Boy“, whilst others knew me mainly as, “the Defendant“. With my medical training, an encyclopedic knowledge of psychotropic substances and a taste for chemically altering my consciousness, I easily played the role of local shaman in my patch of the Drug Jungle.

Meanwhile, as I led my innocent Bohemian existence, Vurm the guinea pig, who belonged to a friend of mine, sat in his hutch on the lawn and ate grass. That was pretty much it. In truth his mortal existence was non-eventful, the only unusual thing about him was his name. Yes, perhaps that was the problem; for with a name like that, his was sure to be an extraordinary Fate, and indeed after his demise things got pretty weird.


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For Vurm the Guinea Pig had been whimsically named after the town’s longest serving “dodgy doctor” by some of his grateful patients.

Yes, Dr Vurm was a local Institution in his own right, a Brisbane Icon like the Working Girls of Brunswick street, or “Greasy” Harry’s Cafe up on Petrie Terrace.

With his bow-tie and braces he could have played the “drunken, small-town Doctor” in a B-grade Western. A cynical, sodden old sot with the remnants of a classical education hanging off him like a pauper’s rags, he made his living as a human script writing machine with a lucrative side-line in medical certificates.

All the “Doctor-Shopping” Set, the depressed and the desperate,the pill dependant and the down and outs, the drunks and druggies and prostitutes et. al. all loved Dr Vurm because he was the only script-writing doctor who didn’t judge you or ask you to manufacture a story.

Many of these doctors usually made you go thru a charade designed to maintain their sense of self esteem. The Hippocratic Hypocrites always wrote that prescription in the End, but first you had to play their games and be prepared to undergo a little ritual humiliation.

The worst of the “dodgy doctors” specialised in sexually preying on their female clients’ addictions. “Dirty Doug” for example, was so notorious amongst the “Doctor -Shopping Community”that it was standard practise for the girls to bring a “boyfriend” to sit in the waiting room while they saw him. (Of course there also evolved a class of clients who preyed on predatory doctors, such being the Wheel of Life.)

the Doktor will see you now

the Doktor will see you now

But not good old Vurm. You just walked in and sat down. “Card” he’d snap, not looking up.

You’d pass your health care card over and he’d mutter “What pills?” and you’d read out your shopping list.

I loved his waiting room. An obscure doorway in a rundown old building revealed a narrow, steep set of ancient wooden steps. Climbing to the top you entered the Doctor’s waiting room. There was no receptionist. There were half a dozen old wooden school chairs and a huge, empty fish-tank.

It had been many years since there’d been a fish in that tank, now there was only gravel and a faded piece of coral. But if the waiting room was too depressing, you could go out out thru the French Doors out onto the old wooden verandah, with its surprising secret view of the back of the hallowed  “Gabba” cricket ground.

It was strangely peaceful out there on the Docktors verandah, (despite the constant growl of traffic below,) with its delicately wrought, hundred year old cast iron railings and the Docktors “hanging gardens” ;Well cared for ferns and bromelids and the like cascaded in lush profusion from pots and hanging baskets. The effect was occasionally somewhat marred by a washing-line of the Doktors stained white singlets or something similar drying in the breeze, but still there was an old-world charm to the greenery.

Alas, some of his lowlife clients took to stealing his plants, so he painstakingly painted his name, “Property of Dr. Vurm” in white paint on the side of every pot. Of course that just made things worse because then they had “collectors status” and everyone wanted a genuine souvenir “Dr Vurm” pot plant.

Despite his shabby exterior he was actually a wealthy slumlord and had a big ring of keys he carried with him everywhere. Apparently he ran a number of ancient boarding houses in the area, and he drove around in the evenings, in his old Holden with an ancient Alsatian dog, collecting rent. “If there’s a building that’s old and shabby in Wolloongabba”, I was told, “if it’s run down and the paints peeling, then Dr Vurm owns it.”

Yes he was a classic skinflint and miser of the old school. Hiding his wealth he drove only a battered old EH Holden and parked it on the street outside with the windows wound down. The big, friendly Alsatian slept in the back seat. Every two hours the Doktor would waddle down the narrow stairs and put more coins in the parking meter. Or if he trusted you, he’d sometimes send a patient down with the change to do it.

poppy snake reduced

The Doktor came to like me, mainly I suspect because I’d had a classic education too and he could pontificate to me at length on obscure subjects, like the Plymouth Brethren or the politics of Pythagoras.

Of course such discussions interfered with the machine like efficiency of our sessions, but as an aspiring writer and observer of humanity I felt the extra time spent was well worth the effort for human raw material thus obtained..


Alas all good things come to an end, and in time the good doctor’s fame grew too great.

The breaking point came when not only a Guinea Pig was named after him, but also a local group of Heavy Metal pill-heads who thought it would be funny to name their new band, “Doctor Vurm”.

O Sure, I smiled when I first saw the posters bearing the good Doktor’s name, garishly decorated with burning snakes and screaming skulls, but really it was just bad for business having them plastered all over town. Feeling in the waiting room ran high that these people had taken a private joke too far and ruined things for everyone. Sniffing a story, the local Murdoch rag ran one of their periodic prurient “exposes” about deadbeat doctors with filthy offices and waiting rooms full of junkies.

As it happened, I was making one of my own rare visits to the Good Doktor to restock on the very day the story was published and I approached the “surgery’ with some trepidation. No names had been published but it was clear who was in their sights.

poppy snake reduced

Indeed, inside the office the Doktor was a mess. The pressure was clearly getting to him.

The media frenzy had stirred the torpid Health Department into reluctant activity and the doctor had recieved upsetting phone calls from their functionaries.

“They wouldn’t be doing this to me”, he asserted, if I’d joined the Masons. Bastards!”

His ashtray was overflowing with cigarette butts and empty morphine phials, while he with sleeves rolled up and bow tie off was shakily trying to whitewash the walls of his office between patients. He’d taken his coat off so you could see his old-fashioned braces and the sweat soaking the back of his shirt. He was a pitiable sight and I felt genuinely sorry for him as mumbled about Masonic Conspiracies, but business was business, so I led him back to the desk and the topic at hand..

But his hand was shaking so much I had to fill out the script for him. I felt worried about his morale so I provided an opening for his favourite topic; “interfering Bureaucrats”.

The result was a classic fire and brimstone denunciation of Bureaucracy as blight, nay a cancer spreading its tendrils throughout human society since the time of the Sumerians, even the Gilgamesh Administration was apparently riddled with bureaucrats. As an impromptu performance it was outstanding (imagine Gregory Peck doing a drunken Captain Queeg, weaving across the deck) and I wish I’d taped it, but already some stringy-haired, gravel voiced pill-hag was scratching and whining at the door. Peering through the gap I could see they were indeed backing up out there in the waiting room. The Doctor’s spirits seemed to have lifted with his Jeremiad, so, my work done, I left him to his white-washing, overflowing ashtray and anxious patients.


Perhaps they were “panic buying” and stocking up before the Doc’s doors were closed for good, I mused. Like crows they could sense when the end was near and now they were gathering.

In fact the Doktor survived this brief inquisition. He changed location and cut his clientele down to oldtimers and hung on. But from that time on the Health Dept. kept tightening the screws on him. His ability and willingness to write scripts slowly diminished over time, his customers drifted away or died and one day I realised he wasn’t there anymore and no-one knew what happened to him..


Anyways, naming the guinea pig after the Good Doktor Vurm was my friends private tribute to the man who’d kept away so many sleepless nights. But now Vurm lay in a shoe box on the kitchen table as we held an impromptu wake.

What happened next may shock some of my readers and even I had my doubts about the whole thing but..


To be Continued Next Week..




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The Late Reverend Hellfire usually manages to produce a sermon by sunset.

A practising Performance Poet, President of the Kurilpa Poets and an Ordained Minister of the Church of Spiritual Humanism AND the Church of the Universe.

He is as welcome as a jolly jester

in a dull kings court.



~ by reverendhellfire on May 11, 2014.

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