"There you are, Stephen." Cried Jack, filling the door. "I believe you wished a word, when I was at leisure."
"And are you at leisure, brother?" Asked Stephen, a gleam in his usually implacable pale eyes.
"That I am." Jack settled himself in a chair drawn up to the table. "What are you about?" He glanced suspiciously at the table, upon which were two small lumpish objects, covered by a cloth.
"Ah, you have noticed my specimens, I find," said Stephen "a most unusual discovery."
"Specimens!" cried Jack, edging back. "Surely you don't mean dead things, Stephen? Not on the table?" He looked at his old friend imploringly.
"Heavens no, my dear, be comforted," Stephen's eyes twinkled in a way that made Jack uncomfortable indeed. "These are only pieces of dead things."
"Lord, look at the time!" Jack stood up, making an awkward, crabwise movement toward the door "It was lovely speaking with you Stephen but I must be off now, a ship to run, you know."
"Fie Captain Aubrey, shame! You will not allow yourself to be missish, for all love! Tis a simple anatomy lesson I am offering you, you who have no difficulty drawing blood in battle."
"Hush now. I have spent years with you and your 'hoist the forrard gimcrack! Belay the nattering scrabbity!' I have sat through your dinners and ate your weevily tack. And I say to you now, you will indulge me in this." Stephen's voice was firm. Jack cleared his throat awkwardly.
"Now Jack, you will remember when last we anchored at Valparaiso, I purchased some fine primate cadavers from a young naturalist there?"
"Apes." Nodded Jack.
"Just so. There were two males. The naturalist had observed them their entire adult lives. One had fathered many children and one; try as he might, remained sterile. But why?" Jack closed his eyes.
"Well," declared Stephen, triumphantly removing the cloth. "The mystery is solved!"
Jack peeked now, cautiously. On the table were two small boards, each with a withered object pinned in place upon it. Heartened by the absence of blood, Jack moved a step closer.
Stephen beamed, "Here you see the reproductive organs of the adult males."
Jack looked aghast.
"You will observe the scrota, neatly bisected; and the pizzle, similarly fashioned."
"I shall be ill, Stephen." Jack turned, pressing his head against the door.
"Now here is the question. Which is which? Which reproductive organ belonged to which ape?"
"I don't know"
"Just look, Jack. A simple look will tell you."
Jack gathered himself and with a sigh, peered again at the objects. He shook his head. "I cannot say."
"But if you were forced to pick, which one would you choose?"
"I haven't a clue Stephen," snapped Jack, his patience almost gone. "There is no difference between them."
"Ah!" cried Stephen, his face alight with glee. "There I have you! It is you who are dished." Stephen creaked his wheezing laugh, slapping his hand on the table. "There is difference, a Vas Deferens!"
© 2005 Vanessa Brown