Squeamish Tuesday

Squeamish Tuesday: a Teaser Tuesday that is not for the squeamish, because it contains stinky things and injuries.

The set up: Spirits from the Vasty Deep is an historical (1851) and this section is newly-added. Olivia has taken a position as assistant to Mr. Oakleigh, an obsessive naturalist who has asked her to tackle some preserved specimens for cataloguing:

I was not generally squeamish, which had served me well thus far as Mr. Oakleigh's assistant, but some of these specimens had been pickled haphazardly at best. Today's selection included those so poorly preserved that merely cracking the seal and releasing the fumes nearly knocked me from my seat. Then I had to reach into the sludgy mess with a pair of long forceps, and extract whatever flesh and bones could be saved.

But fortunately not all were so horrible, and a few of the fish must have been truly beautiful in life. I recognized one or two from the fish mongers, so I was able to guess their original colors more accurately.

One particular particular denizen of the sea fascinated me; with its lumpy appearance and frilly attachments it resembled nothing so much as a disanimated section of reef. I stood and placed it on a blotter where I could spread it out and examine it more closely, curious to see if the bits of what looked like lichen were part of its skin, or another organism attached to it.

But as I articulated the dorsal fin, I felt a sharp jab in the meat of my thumb, followed by a burning sensation racing up my arm. I drew in a sharp breath and cradled my hand to my chest, but the pain grew so intense that I wobbled on my feet.

"Mr. Oakleigh . . ." I hissed.

"Hmm?" He did not look up from the stack of papers he was sorting.

"Mr. Oakleigh," I said more firmly, "I'm wounded—that blasted fish stung me."

"Oh?" Now I had his attention. "Let me take a look at that."

I held out my throbbing hand as he approached, but he reached past me to the specimen I'd been handling. "Fascinating," he commented. "Which part injured you?"

"A spike in the dorsal fin, I believe." When he continued to poke and prod the fish, I said, "Mr. Oakleigh, the fish will still be there later, but my hand needs attention now."

"Hmm? Quite so, but we'll be sure to document your symptoms." He examined the puncture and surrounding tissue, already red and puffy past my wrist.

"There do not seem to be any spines or barbs left behind," he said. "This looks to be a reaction to venom."

"Can you do anything for it?" I asked through gritted teeth.

"When I was collecting specimens in the field and one of us got stung, there were two remedies that helped," Mr. Oakleigh mused. "One was to immerse the hand in very hot water, and the other was to bathe it in urine."

I recoiled. "I'm willing to try the hot water treatment."

At my expression, Mr. Oakleigh hastened to reassure me, "Oh, it doesn't have to be human urine. I could send down to the dyers for a jug of bovine urine."

"The. Hot. Water." I spoke clearly and firmly.

"Suit yourself," he said, shrugging. "I'll have Mrs. Chatsworth heat some."

In the meantime, I sank into a chair and laid my swimming head on the upholstered arm. Mr. Oakleigh sat across from me and proceeded to interrogate me.

"Now, what are your symptoms? Describe any neurological, mental, and physical complaints as best you can."

"A burning pain shooting up my arm, lightheadedness, nausea, dizziness, and a lack of patience for more questions," I said waspishly.

He looked up from his note-taking, and raised his eyebrows. "I believe I must add irritability to the list of symptoms."

"If you must."


Unknown said...

I love it! Olivia's voice is fantastic!

Angelica R. Jackson said...

Thanks, Shayda. She definitely has my sarcasm and dry humor.

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