Ward – Part 1


Winston J. Holmes woke to the scent of the ocean.  His eyes fluttered open and caught the fleeting face of a stern, yet many years from matronly nurse who had set down his silver breakfast tray and threw open the curtains thus allowing a glimpse of the first rays of the sun rising above the horizon.  He watched the sea, dark, blue and still as a flock of gulls flew past headed toward Culley Bluff where they circled year round above the fish plant. A ship’s whistle in the distance announced its departure from port and with it, hopes to return laden with fish to be unloaded. Also returning would be men who would work as quickly as possible in hopes of becoming blind drunk before they were ushered out by the first mate at midnight. Cod were running.  If you lost a days work you lost more than one could afford.

A wet gurgle followed by a sorrowful groan was emitted across the stark white room.  Winston ignored the pained noises and shuffling sounds at first trying with all his heart to soak up as much of the burgeoning day possible through such a tiny window.  Another moan was emitted from behind the yellowed curtain drawn around the bed followed by a small crashing sound and more muffled noises.  Now dully distracted, he reached to the side table and rang the small silver bell until the nurse returned,. She sported a look of forced concern as a starched white napkin quickly dabbed her prim little mouth. He pointed toward his mysterious roommate and returned to  voyeuristic exercises, pondering a bit of toast and egg that sat steaming before him, beckoning his attentions.  The sunrise slid from red to orange to yellow as the noises behind the curtain began to subside.

“I’m sorry about the noise Mister Holmes” the nurse spoke unseen through the curtain “he is in quite a bit of pain”.

“Not at all Nurse.  I understand.  He was a survivor from that shipwreck the other day?” Winston asked, sympathy forced into his bleary eyes and quiet tone, journalistic ways and means never on vacation.

She walked his way, looking toward the door, back to the curtain, then lowered herself to his ear as she re-adjusted the pillow.  The nurse pretending to search the side table drawer for nothing in particular. “The ONLY survivor Mister Holmes and if you were to see him, you may think that perhaps he would have been better off not surviving…” she raised an eyebrow as she whispered, pursed her lips, nodded knowingly, eyebrows raised, then exited the room. Her perfume, a faint wisp of eau of lilac, stayed longer than she and he inhaled it as one would the first floral fragrance of spring. Turning to his tray, he began to eat, ravished following a long night of medicinal sleep.

He listened for her footsteps to recede down the quiet marbled hallway and after a few bites of toast and a large sip of orange juice, he slid himself into a sitting position at the edge of the bed.  He was, one who knew him would say, not at all unwell.  A feigned illness the evening before was utilized to escape an overzealous woman.  Her husband was under investigation for fraudulent use of investors money and his fortuitous dinner with the mans spouse went beyond the pale.  She seemed not concerned that her husband was a mere hour away by train.  Evidence gathered, he fell “ill” and attempted to leave.  The wealthy heiress sent him for recuperation at the local hospital when her personal doctor, well bribed, suggested it was possibly due to food poisoning.  Three sheets to the wind as the locals said, he decided that a clean bed, free food and attentive young nurses was a superior end of the week to dodging the heavy end of a cane upon waking in Mrs. Bensons chambers.

He stood and carefully, quietly, walked across the cold marble floor to the curtained bed of the seaman.  Perhaps another story awaited his pen beyond the yellow sheet?  A tray containing a glass and metal syringe sat on the table beside, likely containing the sedatives that quieted the noises minutes earlier.  He carefully moved it aside and reached for the curtains edge, ever thoughtful to listen for sounds from the hallway. Slowly, quietly, he pulled it aside and peered upon an absolute mess of a man, eyes fixed on his from behind bloodied bandages. He looked downward as a fetid odour of fish and gore wafted toward his face then threw shut the curtain and stepped backward in horror.  He only had a brief a quick glimpse at the vacant bedding where legs should have been before a hand reached toward his, scratching his skin with unkempt nails. Winston rushed back to his bed and rapidly cooling, untouched breakfast.

Lunch of Doom. A true story. Starring me.

The man in the black shirt nibbled at his sandwich as he read his digital copy of Colonel Sun. He was engrossed in the Fleming-like writing and distracted by the beautifully and somewhat archaic descriptive text. He leaned forward to touch the right hand side of the Kobo screen, briefly forgetting that tuna, even drained, made bread as flaccid as a drunken eighty year old at a bingo hall. 

The page turned with a digital flourish.  The sprouted wheat germ bread flopped downward, spilling its fishy, lemony contents onto the table.  The man in the black shirt stared, dropped the bread on the plate before him and paused in thought a few moments deciding what to do. He grasped a fork.

“It’s not a public space, its a boardroom” he thought. “It’s not filthy like a clinic or doctors office, it’s just a table, likely whiped clean last night” he continued in his mind.

He proceeded to collect all of the tuna with fingertips and drop it back onto the patiently waiting bread. The fork was used to evenly redistribute the fish and the sandwich was thus reconstructed. He wiped the tabletop off and stared at the now “clean” surface.

“It looks too clean” he thought, fingers drumming on the edge of the plate.

“People sneeze during board meetings, cough, touch themselves, go to the bathroom and don’t wash. People are filthy. People touch the table after doing these things and it looks this clean afterwards…” He stewed.

The man in the black shirt dumped his sandwich in the garbage and stole someones frozen Lean Cuisine that has been in the freezer for two months.

The End