This is a work of historical fiction. The main character, Dr. John Slayter, was Health Officer for the Port of Halifax in 1866 when called upon to treat cholera-infected patients on a ship in the Halifax Harbour. The details concerning dates, his family life, interactions (with Charles Tupper, among others), treatment protocols, etc. are drawn from historical records. The characters of George, and Maggie and Seamus Murphy are imagined.
* * *
Dip, splash. Dip, splash.
Waves gently lapped against the boat. The motion made me sleepy. Sitting in the bow, I followed the oars’ creaking trail through the water and up into the brisk morning air. Water droplets hopped over the black harbour and spread circular ripples in their wake. Pulling my focus closer I gazed up one oar over the shackle to George's bulging bicep and across his broad back.
I nodded off for a split second. When I snapped my head back up and opened my eyes, George turned toward me.
"This seems about as good a spot as any. What do you think, Doc Slayter?"
George had rowed far past Thrum Cap, the southernmost tip of McNab's Island, but I could still make out the distant speck of a girl watching us from the rocky shore.
"Little further George, please."
I sat opposite the crude pine coffin roped across the stern, protruding over the water. I wished it were a hallucination but I knew otherwise.