A screenshotof the kitchen sink in the Hippocratic Club. It's full of dishes.

Twenty-Two Short Films About Wellington Wells: Ascending from the Damp Savannas

There were two kinds of Doctors in Wellington Wells: those who worked at Wellington Health Institute (under which general practitioners also fell) and those who worked at Haworth Labs. One might assume that this was a mere distinction of workplace, determined only by the needs of the town. In fact, there was a great divide in sensibilities of these Doctors and the stark separation in assignment was a symptom of that rift, not the cause.

Haworth’s Doctors tended to be a somber sort with overt concern for the noble dignity of their profession. They carried themselves with stately composure and took things very seriously. They chose work at Haworth Labs for its clean and precise ethic. Pharmacology was a matter of measures and mathematics, and the only variables were in the patient’s response to their compositions.

Health’s Doctors, on the other hand, dealt with biology. The human body was little else but variables and with only some tentative principles on which to work, Health’s Doctors had to be much looser in their expectations. This looseness followed in everything else they did. They did not take the work seriously, they cut up in the lab, and made puerile jokes about bodily functions.

And yet, these two cohorts got along well enough under most circumstances. They each had their separate domains, well away from each other, and only occasionally did they have to set aside their differences and meet each other in the middle. For the most part, it was not a lot to ask for a Haworth Doctor to offer a concessive chuckle at a fart joke or for a Health Doctor to refrain from giggling at how closely the word “organism” sounded like “orgasm”.

For the most part.

This gentleman’s agreement did not hold at The Hippocratic Club, largely because so few of its residents actually were gentlemen.

Only two of of the Doctors who called the club home were from Haworth Labs: Dr. Edward Hughes and Dr. Sam Coleridge. The rest of its boarders were Health Doctors. Being outnumbered as they were, Hughes and Coleridge had little influence on the fraternity house culture of the Hippo Club. Attempts to assert higher standards were not appreciated.

So it was that Coleridge came home from a particularly late and grueling day at the labs to find that his written admonishment about undone dishes – “Wash your own dishes! I’m not your maid! What’s wrong with you people! – Sam” – had a reply appended to it. It was, if he were being honest, a quite decent illustration of him wearing an apron and brandishing a feather duster with the caption “Sam is our maid!”

He stared at the addition, trying to conjure up some anger at being so demeaned and dismissed, but he lacked the energy to do more than harrumph at the drawing. He should have known better than to expect more of his roommates. He probably should have known better than to sign a note like that too. Not that it would have been hard for them to deduce which resident of the house had left it. Hughes, after all, generally took his meals in his rooms, away from the circus that was the rest of the Hippo Club.

Hughes had been living there the longest and as Chief Medical Officer at Haworth Labs and the oldest among them besides, he commanded some respect among his roommates. As such, he had staked his claim long ago and had most of the third floor – all of it, really, save for the landing – to himself. He kept the doors to all his rooms locked and did not permit their use to any of the other Doctors in the club.

Coleridge’s circumstances were not so fortunate. He shared a room with Dr. Terrance Dicks who, true to his name, was the ring leader behind much of the tomfoolery that went on in the house. Per the tacit agreement usually observed elsewhere, Coleridge had tried very hard at first to take his roommate’s antics in stride and to be a good sport. In turn, Dicks had extended some mercy towards Coleridge and even sometimes dissuaded the rest of the Health Doctors from pushing his buttons. Their truce was shaky, however: they differed greatly on the matter of how clean their room ought to be which sowed tension in their cohabitation.

And as Coleridge would find when he shuffled up the stairs to their room, if he insisted on pushing, then Dicks would be all too happy to shove back.

His bed was covered in full glasses of water.

He didn’t think they even had this many glasses in the house. The others must have gone out and borrowed some to do this. How many neighbors must they have called upon to manage this? Glasses upon glasses of water, each one filled precariously close to the rim, unevenly spaced across the surface of his mattress to avoid the lumpy spots so that the entire thing from head to foot was covered.

Coleridge stared down at his bed, his mouth fighting his mask to express in his contempt, when Dicks came in behind him.

“Oh, you’re home!” he said bright and cheery as if he didn’t know Coleridge was absolutely seething or what he was seething at. “Popplewell made the most delicious stew for dinner tonight. We saved you a bowl in the refrigerator. We would have left it on the stove to keep warm, but he had to sauté the onions and the mushrooms and sear the V-Meat and all the dirty pots and pans wouldn’t fit in the sink with all the oth-“

“What is the meaning of this?” Coleridge demanded, cutting him off.

Dicks leaned around Coleridge to survey the landscape of his mattress. His lips pulling taut to only just restrain his laughter to a disciplined snort, he schooled his features back into neutrality and said, “It would seem you have some dishes to do.”

Coleridge stood there, nostrils flaring like an angry bull, fists balled like he was seriously considering decking Dicks one.

“You really must relax, Coleridge,” Dicks said with a nonchalance that made Coleridge even angrier. “Why, I was just saying to Swineburne the other day that you might benefit from an experimental botanical treatment we’ve heard about. It’s still criminalized though so we hid it in your typewriter. Apparently, it’s all the rage in certain artistic circles! It might even help you write research papers that are a little less dry.”

Coleridge looked to his left to see that his typewriter was full of grass. Seeing his keyboard jammed with sod was infuriating, but at the same time, he was distracted by how tenuous the joke of it was. He wondered at how they decided to do this at all, if they put the grass in first and then thought of the explanation or if the grass was the explanation for how they decided this particular jest was funny as opposed to just absurdity. But he was getting distracted. There were more pressing matters to sort out.

You’re going to be a little less dry if you don’t get these glasses off my b-“

Just then, the tin can phone “rung” with an unconvincingly human-sounding “brrrring”. Dicks held up a finger to pause Coleridge’s tirade and “answered” the phone.

“Dr. Terrance Dicks, PhD., how may I help you? …Yes. Yeeees… Oh, I see!” He placed and hand over the open end of the can and said, “It’s for you.” He held the tin can out to Coleridge.

And for some stupid reason he would never be able to explain, he took it.

He knew what was coming. He knew. And yet…

He held the tin can to his ear and waited. He stared deadpan into a distance unimpeded by walls, as a long evenly pitched fart reverberated in his ear. It went on for quite some time, at least thirty seconds, which felt like an eternity when one was listening to it through a tin can. It would have been cause for some concern in a proper medical setting, it was that long of a fart. About halfway through, Coleridge looked to Dicks, who was sniffing like a badly bred bulldog as he tried not to laugh yet.

Finally, the fart in his ear dashed off to a quick close with a sharp uptick in pitch. After a beat, Dicks and the tin can phone bust out in uproarious laughter.

Coleridge set the phone on the desk, exhaled his frustration long and deep, and left the room. He went up the stairs to the third floor and knocked on the door to Hughes’ study. He waited as he heard shuffling on the other side of the door. Hughes opened the door just a enough to poke his annoyed face through. His eyes landed on Coleridge and some of the irritation dissolved as he recognized his fellow Haworth colleague.

“Ah, Coleridge! What can I do for you?” he said, not giving any leeway on the door.

“Dr. Hughes, surely you agree that the way our housemates conduct themselves is beyond the pale of acceptable. The pranks, the mess, the noise at all hours. It begs action.”

“Oh, indeed! There really should be something done.”

“Well, I’ve tried, certainly, but you know how Health Doctors are.”

“Quite, quite.”

“The thing is, if I’m to be fit to work, I need some peace and quiet. Our work at the labs is so important, I really must be at my peak acuity.”

“Most definitely,” Hughes agreed. “It’s absolutely vital.”

“Perhaps I could share one of your rooms then?” Coleridge proposed. “I believe you have an entire study in there, correct? We could just bring one of the spare bed-frames up and-“

“Ah, oh my! Good heavens, no! We couldn’t possibly!” Hughes deflected. “I reference all of those books in my study constantly. I need full access to each and every one if we’re to ever solve this supply problem.”

“Perhaps I could just have a bed in the bedroom then?” Coleridge persisted. “Off in a corner, out of the way. I assure you I wouldn’t be a bother at all.”

Hughes’ eyes darted about as he searched for an excuse.

“No, I really couldn’t make the space. I need time alone to really think through my formulas, you know. It’s all very complicated mathematics and other people in the room make it harder to focus. One misplaced decimal and things go unspeakably awry!”

Coleridge scowled, realizing that despite both of them being Haworth Doctors outnumbered by those from Health, Hughes was not going to be an ally in this fight if it meant conceding or sharing any of the third floor.

“What about the loft in the attic?” he asked as his last final gambit for peace in the house. It wouldn’t be ideal, but he’d be alone at least.

“You’d be breathing all the fumes from my chemistry lab,” Hughes blocked. “Besides, how are the rest of those boys down there ever going to learn to behave themselves if both of us are hiding away up here? Someone has to be an example of civility for them. One of us really should be down there showing them how to represent the field of medicine. Unfortunately, Wellington Wells can’t afford for it to me at this time. Too much depends on my work at the labs-” A whistling sound drifted out from behind him. “Oh, speaking of which, my formula is at the reaction point! I’d best see to it! I have every faith you can civilize the rest of the house though. Best of luck!”

With that, Hughes shut the door in his face. Coleridge rather suspected he was just boiling a kettle of water on his hot plate to make tea.

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