It was strange, Doc thought. All these years. All these people. It still hurts.
Old Tom had died around midnight, and Doc didn't get more than an hour's sleep since then. Just before he went, Tom reached out and gripped Doc's hand and thanked him for everything. He was smiling when he went.
Somehow that made it worse for Doc than just having death bring a pleasant new start for someone in pain and agony. Doc hadn't been able to patch him up this time. When someone Tom's age has his organs shut down, there just isn't much a doctor can do but make him comfortable and say goodbye.
The percolator finished, and Doc knew he should go get a cup and start the day, but something made him leave the coffee behind and walk into the back yard.
He would come out here later, too, he knew. He wasn't in the mood for coffee with the boys at the Mule Barn today. This will be a day where Doc, quietly and alone, will raise his coffee cup to Tom. And after 9:30, he'll be able to hear the little girls screaming happily on the playground at the school, three blocks away. Yes, he thinks that's the way to start this day, listening to the happiness of children and watching the life around him. And sipping coffee in the back yard. Just Doc and Old Tom.