In the white-glazed brick confines,
The druggist bottles send out genii of gleam, vitriol, sal ammoniac, but
The two gas mantles set back on the far wall cast insufficient light for good clinical inspection.
Can we bring the body nearer the light — the table is fixed.
The smell of the body was apparent. The attendant offered us a cotton mask each, which we were glad to use, and provided a small barrier against the possibility of infection — although it has been shown that decay may not be plague. But the stench was noisome.
We shall have to do our best as we have our conditions.
The cadaver in its rest, its face looked up, empty of eye and defeated.
And he examined, occasionally using the wooden spatula also provided to him by the assistant, rotating the attitude of the head from side to side, lifting an arm to gain a view beneath.
The flesh had shrunk but the graveclothes were still in evidence, through torn.
The fingers were mainly lost, by their fragility.
By the white hair, an old man, of age around seventy, the natural span.
The frame of average height, some scolosis of the backbone and usual tendency towards arthritis, otherwise having suffered no disease of gross disfigurement.
A smallpox vaccination with elaborate punctures, in the method of a country doctor — let us infer around 1840.
It is for me to offer my informed opinion:
— This man has been dead for five to ten years. The degree of decay must indicate this.
And inhumed for that whole period.
He looks at me:
— And I, on the other hand, offer my opinion that, most significantly, this man is a nondescript.
He says this in a clear intimation towards disappointment.
This man without distinguishing marks. This misfortunate anonymous.
Giving no sign of a reason.
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When No One is Looking by Hannah Shilling is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.