Of Pine Sprigs and Revolution

March 2019 prompt

Nathaniel burst through his own front door with his arms full of summer herbs, and his head full of fancies. He’d spent the bright morning foraging for medicinal plants for his stores, but as his fingers worked so too had his mind.

He daydreamed of his first patients – who should be arriving soon – and seeing them back to health. He imagined the end of the war, and the start of this new country, these new United States. He knew it was up to his generation to bring the ideals of their fathers to fruition, to see that the Declaration wasn’t just empty words. But it was also up to them to right their parents’ wrongs.

He puffed out a long breath as he laid the plants on the table, and cast aside his hat and coat.

One day at a time. One stitch at a time.

That was the only way for things to be mended.

Now as his hands worked to sort the plants, his mind relaxed, soothed by their names as if he’d just had a hot mug of tea made with them.

Chamomile. Willow bark. Thyme. Rosemary. Mint. Pine.

He held up the sprig of evergreen needles to the September sun streaming through the front windows.

My windows, he thought with pride, remembering the satisfaction of paying upfront for his new home with its front office. It was a gamble, spending all of his prize share in one go, especially if he couldn’t find a steady flow of patients to cover the cost of food, of drink – of living, essentially.

He then realized, to his horror, that the window panes – his window panes – were exceedingly grimy, so he shoved the pine sprig into a bottle and set about scrubbing the glass with a cloth.

His mind wandered again, running through potential ailments his friends and neighbors might have, based purely on his own cursory diagnoses.

Well, more like slightly tipsy observations, he thought, his head aching again at the memory of his last tavern session with Abner.

Abner’s toothache was surely relieved somewhat by the copious amounts of rum they’d had, and Captain Colt’s gout would have slipped his mind as his patrons filled his tavern’s coffers.

Nathaniel ran his hand through his messy reddish hair, smiling through his now-clean windows. He’d certainly give his friends the remedies and tinctures for free, but hopefully they could help spread the word about his new practice. His stomach rumbled, but he ignored it as he began shelving his new supplies.

He had just put the pine tonic away when a commotion sounded from outside.

Hoofbeats and shouting – that means we are either under attack, or there is news of the war.

He waited a beat, glancing towards his bedroom where his musket lay ready under his bed. He’d hoped he wouldn’t see action again once he left the Navy. Even as a ship’s doctor he had some scars of his own, and had seen enough carnage for a lifetime. He wasn’t anticipating having to stem any more gaping cannon or musketball wounds.

But let’s see what today brings, he thought as he stepped out his front door and squinted down Bank Street.

A crowd had gathered around a man on horseback, who was grinning despite looking harried. He quieted them and boomed out:

“The British have surrendered at Yorktown. The Continental army has won!”

A hush fell over the townspeople, and then a ripple of joy spread through them, erupting into cries and cheers.

Five years of bloodshed, of families torn apart, of despair, were over.

A weight lifted off Nathaniel’s chest. He staggered back into his threshold and leaned against the frame.

It’s really over.

Abner and his other friends would be released from their terms of service in the Navy – they could go back to being regular sailors again. Nathaniel’s father could go back to being a merchant, instead of a smuggler.

Well, he’ll probably keep smuggling on the side anyway, Nathaniel thought as he watched the people celebrating in the streets. And Abner will probably stay in the Navy. He wants a captain’s commission too much…

As for Nathaniel, well, he was quite happy with his lot. It’d always been his dream to open up his own doctor’s surgery and help his neighbors and friends, and now he was doing just that, in this long sought-after future, where possibility shimmered all around like sunshine at midday.

“Doctor! You’ve heard the news?” said Colonel Avery as he strode up to the front door accompanied by his wife.

“I have, Colonel. Congratulations – and thanks – are in order.”

The colonel bowed. “And to you, Doctor, for your gallant service in our American Navy.”

Nathaniel waved a hand dismissively, his ears flushing pink. “Please, do come in. Make yourselves comfortable.”

He hastily moved his tricorn hat and coat from the chair and gestured for Mrs Avery to sit.

“It smells like a pine forest in here,” she said, breathing deep and smiling. “I can feel my headache lessening already.”

“Ah so you are suffering from headaches?” Nathaniel asked. “And you said you were also afflicted Colonel?”

The older man nodded. “It’s my damned leg, the pain’s come back stronger this time. Shrapnel wound never healed right.”

Nathaniel cleaned his hands in a basin of fresh water, and set to work while the celebrations continued outside. He couldn’t help smiling to himself, as his hands were busy, his heart was full, and the future seemed bright.

One day at a time. One stitch at a time.


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