Midwatch (AKA Warts and All)

A short (300ish words) story I wrote whilst walking home from work.

Midwatch

The hand was small, and wrinkled, and had a wart on the third knuckle. I didn’t like the look of that wart. It spoke of disease, and a life submerged in others’ filth. I looked across at Shaw. He had a calf, and was face deep in flesh. Lucky bugger.

Jenson hadn’t opened his carton yet. He was eyeing my wart-ridden hand with unconcealed distaste.

“Blind swap?” I asked, without much hope of success. I was right to be pessimistic.

“Not a chance.” Jenson was emphatic. “That wart is horrific.” He patted his carton. “Whatever’s in here, it cant be worse than that wart.”

“Last chance? You could have toes in there. Or even a scrotum. Is it worth the risk?”

Jensen grinned in pity, and began to fiddle with the seals of his lunch.

Summarily dismissed, I turned my full attention to the hand. It still disgusted me. I picked it up and tilted it into the light. The fingernails had been removed, of course, but looking closer now I could see that the cuticles still remained. Once covered by carapace, the now exposed half-moons were a filthy, discoloured yellow speckled with flecks of red. Blood or disease, probably. Neither option was appetising.

I looked across at Jensen. He’d lucked out and got a forearm, complete with faded naval tattoo. He caught my eye and held up his prize in mock salute. Bastard.

I contemplated the hand once more. I still didn’t want it. I had the duty watch next though, an all nighter. I’d never make it through without some food in my belly. Beggars can’t be choosers.

I held the hand close to my nose and sniffed. Quelled a moment of nausea. The wart seemed to be winking at me, it’s sparse white hair like an old man’s eyebrow.

But beggars can’t be choosers.

I held the hand up to my mouth.

I closed my eyes.

I ate.

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