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It's a Choice from Gilbert Sappington's blog

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“Why do you do it?”


Gilbert picked up a towel to dry his hands. They were cold, almost numb from a thorough washing. “Do what, exactly?”


On a bench just behind him and beside an open door sat a dwarf. She was leaning against the wall, legs crossed one over the other, mouth twisted with the echo of a grimace. “Get your hands dirty. It’s a puzzle, and an unpleasant one for the crew."


Gilbert turned around, setting the damp cloth on a hook to dry. “Unpleasant,” he said nearly scoffing. “In what way?”


“You’re a dandy if I’ve ever seen one. Hair combed, fancy vest, shiny shoes; some pegged you for a noble the minute you stepped off the boat.” She shrugged and a loose strand of dark hair fell over her face. “Even if that ain’t true, you don’t smoke, you don’t drink-”


“I do,” he protested. “In reasonable quantities.”


“Bah! A simpering barmaid could drink you under the table. The point is, everything suggests you got a spine made of paper that’d crumple at the first sight of blood, and yet. . .” Her words slipped away into the stale air as her eyes wandered across the small room. He didn’t need to guess what drew them away. “I’ve watched you cut up bodies like you were carving dinner, seen you elbow deep in someone’s guts. You don’t think that’s even a little strange?”


“Probably,” he admitted.


Truthfully, he had never considered how others might evaluate his disposition within the context his profession. Medicine occasionally demanded uncomfortable procedures to answer certain questions. How did he die? What can her body tell us? Is there any danger to those still living? Can this tragedy serve a greater purpose? Questions that shouldn’t be ignored. Was it really so odd for him do as so many others had done before?


“But it is only natural for a surgeon to perform these duties, and I have when the situation calls for it.”


She shook her head and more locks of hair fell into a curtain over her eyes. A quick brush of her hand pushed them back into place. “It’s not what you do that has the rest on their toes, it’s you doing it.”


Gilbert considered her words as he untied his apron. It’s surface was mottled with stains, some so recent they were still red. A shadow sliced across it in the lamplight and a memory dragged itself from the fog of neglected history.


Honeycutt’s Fresh Flanks. Seven silver coins for a fat hog flank, forty for the whole hog. Five silver for a duck, plucked and drained. He’d never tasted duck before, and at the time wondered if it was anything like chicken. The very idea of tasting meat that wasn’t pulled off a fishing line or dumped out of salty nets was like a dream; pleasant to imagine, but it always seemed out of reach. He passed that shop every day, from home to the wharfs and back again, taunted by the fresh cuts hung on black hooks in the window, and discouraged by the massive silhouette of Nathaniel Honeycutt the Fourth.


To say the butcher and his massive cleaver frightened Gilbert would be an understatement. Watching him hack through flesh and bone with a single cleave, apron more brown than white, was a disturbing sight, especially on his impressionable mind. The rumors of other children did little to improve his opinion; that he snatched little boys and girls, chopped off their heads and feet and hands, let the blood drain from their bodies and dressed them up to look like a cut of pork. It wasn’t true, of course, but the nightmares of being served up on his own family table persisted well into adolescence.


Was that how they saw him? Were there rumors that “Doctor” Sappington collected the ill so he could cut them open in the name of science?


Gilbert finished folding his apron and set it on a counter crowded with vials, jars, and other glass containers. A thought lifted the corners of his mouth.“They’re not afraid of me, Hathryn, are they?”


The dwarf laughed. “Not under the light of day, but at night they’re a bunch of superstitious ninnies. Have to keep a candle going if they’ve heard a fine tale at the local tavern.”


He laughed with her, balancing himself against the counter with both palms. That he could inspire fear in a crew of rowdy sailors was quite the revelation. He was their Mr. Honeycutt.


“You, uh,” he ran a hand through his hair, “you know I’m not like that, Hathryn. I wouldn’t do anything untowards anyone barring the most extreme circumstances.”

Her smile faded, but didn’t quite disappear. “Gil, you’ve patched them up more than their own mothers. Hell, you’ve probably seen more of me than anyone who’s been in my bed. But no one knows you as anything more than a man in a bloody apron. Can’t help but fill in the blanks.”


Gilbert laughed again, but it came out as a rasp forced between his teeth. “I don’t suppose telling them the truth would change anything.”


"It would take more than words,” Hathryn agreed. “But it would be enough for me. Why did you choose this life, Gil?”


Someone had to carry a torch in the absence of light. It just so happened that his torch was a knife and sedatives. A splatter of blood, a few minutes dissecting a corpse; mere moments of discomfort. He looked at his apron, neat and folded, at the table carrying the outline of a man draped in linen.


“There never seems to be enough help when people need it most.”




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Iyeris of the Black Tide Supporter
Jun 4 '18
the picture on the bottom creeps me out, haha
Gilbert Sappington
Jun 4 '18
Understandable. A body prepared for dissection is never a pleasant sight.
Tialune
Jun 4 '18
Very well written. Loved it.
Gilbert Sappington
Jun 4 '18
Thank you!
Xivarra
Mar 30
In times of war or in times of peace, the healer has the bloodiest hands. Well-written!
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By Gilbert Sappington
Added Jun 3 '18

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