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Milk and Apples

Title: Milk and Apples


Char: John Hornblower


Rating G (Some medical grue)


Word Count 570














The leg was very small. It lay on the
floorboards of the back room.

It was not bleeding, it only oozed
sluggishly and did not stain the floorboards. The Tucker's dining
table was another matter. It could be cleaned with vinegar and sand.
It could be set out to beach in the sun too, it being summer. That
would help a lot. John Hornblower reminded himself to tell them how.
Not today of course. Today they would not remember. Today the world
had to realign itself around a one legged 12 year old boy.




The stump of living flesh was as neat
as could be expected. It had been quick. Wickedly easy. The boy was
thin. They had waited and hoped that it need not be. They had waited,
and fever had eaten his weight. And he had not come to man's muscle
yet. They had put the ropes on, gently, kindly. But they not needed
them at all. Richard Tucker had swooned at the first stroke of the
knife. Better so. Better by far . His father had stood at his head,
leaned over him, face on face, to comfort, to pray, to block his
vision. Better by far for his father not to remember the screams.




The boys mother had heard the sound of
the saw stop. She came in with a cup of milk.




“I brought you this, Sir,” She
handed it to John Hornblower. “I thought you must be-- thirsty.”
Her chin crumpled. He could see where the tears had been.




“Is he--”




“Resting now. Sleeping. Speak to him,
he may hear and remember.”




John Hornblower did not say: speak to
him, and if he dies at least you will have that for your own comfort.
He did not say anything more at all. He drank his milk He placed one
hand on Tucker's shoulder. Bowed briefly to his wife, and left. They
spared him barely a glance. That was well.




He walked home in the heavy dew of
morning, on his own two feet.




He let himself in the kitchen door. The
room was empty. Yellow sunlight crept up the wall. He was tired and
the sight of it made his eyes sting and blink.




His table was empty, but for a bowl
of crab-apples. The skins of them were speckled, yellow. They
were hard to get the teeth into, and they puckered the mouth with a
taste like clean. Mary had picked them for him, from the ground. She
had filled her apron pockets with them, for him, on a day when she
was surely busy with other things. For years that had been Horatio's
task.




And here Horatio was in the main room
of his mind now. John put Horatio away firmly when he treated
children. He could not-- somehow could not bear-- it was wiser not to
think of his own son then. But in any case, the stacked years of love
and care were there. They informed his work, his fears. And if the
mind was a house, Horatio was never further than the doorstep.




He needed sleep. He had been at the
Tuckers most of the night. But not yet. He took two apples and put
them in his pocket. He would sit outside. He went to get his letter
box.


Comments

( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
esmerelda_t
Mar. 12th, 2013 10:33 pm (UTC)
It's really easy to see Horatio in his father here, I especially liked the detail about the stained table.
eglantine_br
Mar. 13th, 2013 04:56 am (UTC)
There is a tavern at the Lexington-Concord Battlefield park, where they performed surgery after the battle. One of the men they saved was a redcoat soldier, who got scooped up somehow. He was delivered to the doctor who went ahead and took his leg off. The young man lived. Not sure what became of him after that. The surgeries were performed on the tavern kitchen table. It is still there.

I was thinking also of Nabby Adams. She was president John Adams' daughter. When her parents were old and retired in Braintree, she developed breast cancer. She had a mastectomy performed on their kitchen table-- while her parents sat in the other room. She survived too.

This story came out of me thinking about those tables, today for some reason.

I am glad you can see Horatio in his father. John Hornblower feels very real to me. And I think he has done a very good job as a single dad.
nodbear
Mar. 13th, 2013 05:20 am (UTC)
Esmerelda is right there is a good deal of John in Horatio

when I saw this was entitled Milk and apples and was an egalntine story i rejoiced - it would be - I knew - your unique ability to infuse natural objects with a spiritual and temporal maenning as well as descriibng the accurately.

it comes as i have been reflecting on our boys as anteros and I have long been calling them now in the chapter I Am currently writing which is about their backgrounds and childhoods.A number of them were wither boys whose fahter had died when they were young or who had distant and aloof parenting.

and as for tables - i got talking to a guide on HMS Victory lsat Summmer while amaraal was seeing around the ship and she was telling me that the children remember and draw when bcak at school the long tables in the orlop - which are painted red ...
eglantine_br
Mar. 13th, 2013 12:10 pm (UTC)
You know I always had a soft spot for doctors. I have have known many, and there are few that I don't like. It must have been so hard to know there was little they could do.

John H misses his son terribly.

When i was a kid we had a crab-apple tree in our backyard. It was an old tree then, has since died. But the apples were just as I described. Tiny, spotted, astringent. I was probably the only human that ate them. I am sure that deer and skunks liked them though, and yellow jackets did.

As for orlops, that red paint sure makes an impression. I remember touring a ship as a kid that was all red inside. I thought, at the time, that it might have been the Consitution. But was told by someone that that is not red inside. So i am not sure what I am thinking of-- The Beaver maybe? But she was not a fighting ship.

charliecochrane
Mar. 13th, 2013 01:58 pm (UTC)
That's a lovely little piece. Nice details.
eglantine_br
Mar. 14th, 2013 11:55 pm (UTC)
Thanks. How is your week going?
charliecochrane
Mar. 15th, 2013 01:14 pm (UTC)
Not too bad. It was freezing over here earlier this week (bitter east wind) but yesterday was gorgeous and the garden is looking a bit more springlike so that always adds to the mood. Howsabout you?
vespican
Mar. 17th, 2013 04:42 pm (UTC)
Finally got around to reading this. Another suburb piece! Always amazes me that people could undergo such invasive and catatrophic procedures without much in the way of anesthetics or pain killing drugs.

I'm sure doctors of the time, like the good John Hornblower did all they could to lessen the shock and pain.
Dave
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )