by Karen Gilleland © 2014
In FanFiction #4, Martin promised to spend time with James. I thought it would be fun to see what the “Doc” might do during his one-on-one time with his son.
Note: “Crispin Crispian” refers to October 25, Saint Crispin’s Day, in honor of martyred twins, Crispin and Crispian (third century). In 1415, the day marks the Battle of Agincourt, when a vastly outnumbered British band of soldiers, led by King Henry V, defeated the French.
Martin parked the car and carried James Henry in one arm and an infant seat and the baby’s changing bag in the other arm to a secluded spot on the beach. He frowned when he saw a young man slouched on the bench, blue knit beanie pulled low over his ears, sunglasses covering his eyes. About to turn away, Martin decided to check whether the man was asleep or unconscious.
“Hello,” said Martin. No response, so he set James in the infant seat and felt the stranger’s wrist.
“What?” said the lad, jerking awake and sitting up straight. He wore a navy blue running suit with a white stripe down the sides.
“I’m Doctor Ellingham,” said Martin. “Just making sure you were breathing.”
“I’m fine, thank you,” said the visitor.
“Good.” James began fussing, and Martin picked him up.
The man smiled, jiggled his fingers at the baby and said. “I just drove down from London and stopped to rest my eyes.”
“We’ll leave you to it then,” said Martin.
“Please, you’re welcome to share the bench. I think your little one wants to play in the sand.”
“Yes,” said Martin, and he sat down next to the visitor.
“What’s his name?” asked the young man, tickling the baby’s chin, causing the infant to laugh.
“Have I dropped into your special place?” The man reached under the bench for a duffel bag and stood up, preparing to leave.
“Please stay,” said Martin, feeling awkward. “You were here first, and James has obviously taken a liking to you.”
“Thank you,” said the visitor, sitting back down. “What do the two of you do here?”
“Read, mostly. I’m giving James a taste of Shakespeare.”
“Cool. Never too early to expose children to Shakespeare. What are you reading?”
The young man smiled at James and said, “Ah, yes, Henry at Agincourt.
“‘If we are marked to die, we are enough
To do our country loss; and if to live,
The fewer men, the greater share of honor
God’s will, I pray thee wish not one man more.’”
The man stopped, and James cooed and waved his arms.
“I doubt many young men could quote that passage out of thin air,” said Martin.
“Dad must have taken Shakespeare and me to the beach when I was his age,” chuckled the young man. “Please, go on and read to your son. I enjoy Shakespeare.”
“If you’re sure,” said Martin, reluctantly, and the stranger nodded his head. Martin took a book from the bag, thumbed through the pages, settled James on his lap and read–
“This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remember’d;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he today that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother . . .”
James’ eyes were fastened on Martin’s face as the scene unfolded. The baby was undoubtedly captivated by the sound of his father’s voice. When Martin finished the scene, he stroked the baby’s face lightly and closed the book. James gurgled and patted the book with his hands.
The stranger said, almost to himself, “A compelling scene. Why do the words resonate centuries later?”
Martin raised his eyebrows and looked out at the gentle, blue waves lapping the beach. “Reading about feats of courage challenges us to look into ourselves,” Martin answered at last.
The young man nodded his head. “Yes, perhaps you’re right.”
A seagull swooped down, and James reached out for it. The bird screeched and flew off.
“’Henry V,’” mused the young man. “Shakespeare used up a lot of ink on monarchs. Some say our monarch system is outdated. Would you agree?”
“Hmm,” said Martin, and he remained quiet. Finally, he said, “Personally, I like our traditions.”
The fellow put his face close to James and said, “Would you like to be king, little guy?”
James reached for the man’s sunglasses, and the stranger gently moved his hand away.
“Doubt if he would,” said Martin, setting James down on the sand. “No privacy, and that can be irritating. I can attest to that myself in Portwenn.”
“True,” said the man. “You don’t look like a villager, if you don’t mind my saying so. Don’t see many men here wearing suits.”
“No.” Martin squirmed on the bench. James was scrambling toward the water, and Martin stood up to go after him.
“I’ll catch him,” said the young man. He raced after the crawling child and threw himself onto the sand in front of James, laughing. The baby squealed, and the two wrestled together. “May I let him dip his feet?” the man shouted to Martin.
“Yes,” answered Martin, and the visitor took off James’ shoes and socks, as well as his own, and rolled up his trousers. He carried James to the water’s edge and held him while the baby stomped his feet in the water.
Martin watched the two splashing about, having a good time, and fought feelings of regret that he couldn’t play with his son in the same, carefree manner.
Ten minutes later, the lad picked up James, gathered up shoes and socks, and carried the baby back to Martin. “He’s a little tiger. He’s worn me out,” said the visitor, flopping down on the bench.
Martin shook out the sand and put on the baby’s shoes and socks. “James doesn’t get to play that way often,” said Martin, lifting his son up to his shoulder.
The visitor looked at Martin and seemed to sense his unease. “We all have different gifts, Doctor Ellingham. Your talents lie in an intellectual vein. You give what you can, and let others share their gifts with you. If James grows to your size, he’ll have the makings of a champion swimmer. You’ll find a good coach, yes?”
James grabbed onto Martin’s face with both hands, and Martin gave James a lopsided smile. Martin shifted his eyes to the young man. “Yes,” he answered.
They sat in silence for several minutes until James began wriggling. Martin reached into the bag and pulled out a teething biscuit. He set James on the bench between the stranger and himself and handed James the biscuit. The baby chomped on it, head swiveling between the two men as they talked.
“Your practice must keep you busy,” said the man.
“Yes, I’m also leading a taskforce that’s setting research medical direction,” said Martin, surprising himself that he offered the explanation.
“Challenging task. What tops your list?
“Heart disease, cancer, all the major diseases, but the team is also looking at orphan diseases that may come into play in the future.”
“Take Alzheimer’s, for example,” said Martin. “Doctor Alzheimer spoke on dementia in 1906, but it took nearly a century for the medical community to rally around that research. We’d like to do a better job of getting in front of debilitating diseases.”
The man nodded but stayed quiet, as if pondering the words.
Martin brushed crumbs off his lap and pulled out a bottle of water. He held James in his arms as the baby drank the liquid. James finished, wrapped an arm around Martin’s neck and fell asleep.
“What is your profession?” asked Martin, his curiosity getting the better of his manners.
The young man put his hand on his chin and looked at the sea. “I’m still learning.”
Just then, Martin’s phone vibrated. He excused himself and stood up, moving away a few feet. “Ellingham. Yes, yes, don’t move him. I’m on my way.”
Martin clicked off and said, “Boy fell out of a tree.”
The stranger hopped up, lifted the changing bag and the infant seat, as Martin put the phone away and shifted James. “’Once more unto the breach,’ eh?” said the lad, quoting from “Henry V” and handing Martin the baby’s things.
“Umm,” said Martin.
“You are a man of few words, Doctor Ellingham. But according to Shakespeare, ‘Men of few words are the best men.'” He patted Martin’s back. “I’m sure you’ll do an excellent job sorting out research priorities.”
“Yes, ah—“ said Martin and frowned, realizing he didn’t know the lad’s name.
“Harry,” said the young man, sitting back down on the bench.
The lad, watching him, took off his beanie, and his bright red hair glistened in the sunlight. Harry smiled and waved.
Martin caught his breath as he strode away. “James,” he murmured to the waking child, “what will your Mum say when she hears you were splashing about with royalty?”
– THE END –
“Doc Martin” is owned by Buffalo Pictures.
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