First Night: The Conflict Between Hope and Cynicism
Story by Dr. Lee Brazil
Foreword and Epilogue by:
Written by Ron Breazeale, Ph.D.
All Rights Reserved
KINGS WHARF, BERMUDA
Lee closed the adjoining cabin door to Joann’s room. He suddenly felt very much alone. He surveyed his cabin. A double bed, neatly made by Emanuel, he assumed. Clothing stacked on the dresser. Pants with pants, shirts with shirts. A place for everything, and everything in its place, he thought.
Lee made his way to the bathroom. A little water he thought might help. He switched on the light and reacted with a start when he saw his image in the mirror. He was still having a difficult time seeing himself as a younger man . . . with hair. It was almost like an out-of-body experience. He was watching himself from deep inside the body he saw in the mirror.
He found a plastic glass and unwrapped it. He filled it to the brim. He gulped the water. He looked again with anticipation. He scanned the image slowly.
His self-examination was interrupted by a knock at the cabin door. He swung his body around, missed the step-down from the bathroom and almost fell. He regained his balance and stumbled toward the door.
The knock came again and was louder. “This is Dr. Sherman,” a voice said. “Please open the door.” Lee positioned himself behind the door and complied. Dr. Sherman entered the room cautiously, and when he did not see Lee in the room, he peered around the corner of the door. His eyes met Lee’s. He smiled.
Dr. Sherman was a tall man, with a full head of black hair streaked with gray. A fit and trim looking person who appeared to take his own advice regarding self-care. Without a word, he directed Lee toward the bed.
Lee stopped at its edge.
“Please,” said the doctor, “I can help.”
Lee did not respond.
In a hushed voice, “And, no, you are not the Emanuel that left the ship this morning.”
Lee turned toward the doctor, appearing alarmed.
“But I will help you as a favor to my old friend, Father Allen. Please sit.”
He patted the bed and then drew a chair from the table and sat down. Lee seated himself on the bed’s edge.
“You are my first patient since we left Boston three days ago. This is a strange cruise. No one has been to my office, not even for a Band-Aid.” He reached in his medical bag and pulled out a prescription pad and began to write.
“Here,” he said, handing Lee a medical excuse slip. “You will not need to work until we arrive in Boston. That should not be a problem.” He stood up. “Have Joann give this to the chief steward.”
Lee could not speak English with a Latino accent, and his Spanish was horrible. So his plan had been to say as little as possible. But it didn’t seem to matter to the doctor. He knew that Lee wasn’t the person he was pretending to be.
“Now you must stay in your cabin. Joann can bring you your meals.”
So Lee decided to risk it. Why not ask? He blurted out in English, “What is all this about?”
Dr. Sherman smiled for a second time. “I don’t really know. We have a new captain. Wormell is his name and a number of new crewmen. They appear to care little about what I’m doing and, I would assume, what you’re up to. They don’t seem to be a very friendly group. I think they’re avoiding me.”
“Wormell,” said Lee, remembering the name of the captain of the illfated Carol Deering.
“Yes, Wormell,” said Dr. Sherman, showing interest. “You know him?”
Lee blushed, or at least he thought he did. “No, no,” said Lee. He wasn’t ready to explore that one. Changing the subject, “So what are you doing on this ship?”
“I couldn’t stand retirement. My wife died a few years ago of cancer. A rare form of brain cancer…” He stroked his chin. “A form becoming more common because of all these electronic devices we seem obsessed with. Anyway . . . they needed a doc, and I needed to get away. So I do this. The job at times is quite boring. I’ve hardly talked to a soul since we left Boston.”
“Microwaves and cancer. That still is a pretty controversial issue, isn’t it?” asked Lee.
Dr. Sherman shrugged. “For some people it is and I would guess there are a lot of people and corporations who would like to keep it that way. I just know what my colleagues in oncology tell me.”
There was a buzzing sound.
“Oh. Well,” said Dr. Sherman, “finally, someone wants to see me.”
He pulled out his cell phone and looked at it with interest.
“Speak of the devil. The captain is looking for me.”
Turning to Lee, “So . . . Emanuel, I wish you good fortune. I have no idea why you are so important to my friend Father Allen. But I don’t need to know.” Dr. Sherman moved toward the door and turned. He smiled. “Work on your Spanish.” And with that, he pulled the cabin door and was gone.