Chapter 16 Summary
In March, Cannery Row experiences a huge fishing boon. The canneries are operating at full capacity and hiring anyone who wants a job. Business is booming for Dora at the Bear Flag as well, but she has more than she can handle, especially since some of her girls are indisposed: Eva is away on vacation; Phyllis Mae suffered a broken leg in a fall at an amusement park; and Elsie, a good Catholic girl, is away on a religious pilgrimage. It is all a headache for the madam, who must deal with the newcomers as well as make sure her regular customers are taken care of.
The happiness over the bounty of work and money is tempered, however, by a massive influenza outbreak. Schools close down and there is not a single family on the Row who does not have a sick child, a sick parent, or both. In the early 1920s, influenza was especially dangerous for children, who, without the benefit of antibiotics, often developed mastoiditis, from which many died. The local doctors had more cases than they could handle, for, like Dora in her business, they had to tend to not only their regular cases of illness and injury but, daily, new flu cases as well.
Doctors are becoming harder and harder to come by, so Doc begins pitching in. Because he has helped so many people in other dire circumstances, his help is sought even though he is not a medical doctor. Doc assists as much as he is able, running from one home to the next, bringing food and blankets, taking temperatures, and examining people. If he sees that a case is deteriorating beyond his means of help, he phones a doctor.
After one long day and night, Doc bumps into Dora at Lee Chong's, where he has come for a bit of food and a couple of beers. She asks how people he has visited are faring. Doc confirms what she already knows. The situation is...
(The entire section is 504 words.)