Melvin vs The Pelican

The first entry in Doc Cora's casebook

May 14, 2094

I'm surprised I am able to write this at all with my hands shaking as much as they are. My eyes keep straying to the locked cabin door, and the churning in my stomach has nothing to do with the rocking of the Adeline. He found me. Wilkes saw me on the boat, and now he can track --

Well, that was odd. I guess this will turn out to be a physician's casebook sooner than I had planned.

Earlier, footsteps pounded in the hallway outside my cabin, and muffled shouts followed. One passenger nearly plowed me over when I peeked into the hall. I followed the ruckus up the stairs - no, the companionway - and found a crowd of men and women leaning over the port side of the steamboat. Shouts and shuffling feet joined the hissing of steam and the churning of the paddle-wheel. By the time I reached the swell of passengers, they had begun tugging on a thick jute rope. Several men and even two women hauled a soaked and shivering male aboard.

I shoved my way into the crowd as they laid him on the deck and hollered at no one in particular to find me some blankets. Blood skittered in dilute tracks across the man's forehead and down his temple. The origin was a small gash approximately 3 cm into the hairline. Once I examined him, had him covered, and determined there were no other injuries, I asked him to tell me what happened. His teeth chattered, and by the end of his story, I had to bite my own lip to keep from laughing.

His name was Melvin, and he had been attempting to bait his hook. The silvery smelt (which looks like a minnow on steroids) had objected to the whole procedure and was flopping around in his hand. Melvin was juggling the bait fish, trying not to stab his finger with the hook, when - as he put it - all Hades broke loose upon the earth. A pelican dove toward the silver fish wiggling in the air, but instead, its beak connected with Melvin's head. The smelt went flying, the startled pelican flapped its wings all around the poor man, trying to take off but unable to. Meanwhile, Melvin was stumbling around under the pelican assault and kicked over the bucket of bait. The pelican righted itself and dove for the school of fish flopping on the deck in a flurry of feathers, Melvin slipped, and went heels over head into the brown Mississippi.

Physician's  Notes - Melvin Strube, age 44, male in overall healthy condition but with notable halitosis. Puncture/gash wound approx 1 cm diameter in hairline above forehead. Treatment: Cleaned the wound and applied a small amount of my personal stash of garlic ointment. Instructed the patient to keep the wound clean and to check in with me tonight.

I am grateful for the distraction, to be honest. Gordon Wilkes knows I am aboard the Adeline, and he no doubt knows the destination is New Orleans. I will have to disembark early then, no way around it.

Notes - 5/16/2094 - The pelican has followed Melvin around deck for two days. We named him Bill.


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