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Morning at the Asclepia I

Jack Aubrey stared out at Boston Harbor from his window at the Asclepia hospital. He heard his door open behind him; and in a reflection in the glass, he saw Stephen Maturin. “Stephen, how are you this morning?” Jack cried as he turned, but his voice died in his throat as he saw his friend clearly. That Maturin was unshaven was not unusual, nor that his clothes were wrinkled and obviously unwashed. But his lean face was strikingly downcast and somber to the point of despair. “You look damnably hipped, Stephen. Are you ill?”

“No, Jack, but,” Stephen held up a scorched, disreputable-looking object in his hand. “This was once as neat a physical bob as ever has been. I have had it for almost more years than I can count, until it has become as much a part of myself as …” Stephen held up his other hand, empty. “You may call it foolish and sentimental, Jack, but I feel I should go out to the garden and scratch out a hole and give it a proper burial. Would you come with me, brother?”

“No, Stephen, I cannot. You know that I give no countenance to wiggish inhumations.”

© 2005 Bruce Trinque