It was only his left shoulder, Holmes tried to remind himself. Only his left, his non-dominant side. No bones broken; no nerves nicked. It was only for a few weeks until the bruised flesh healed itself, after all. Really, he should not allow it to trouble him so; he should be able to put his mind to the task and overcome or at least ignore his physical limitations as he always did. But who would have thought a shoulder injury could be such a confounded nuisance in the meantime?

It was most often a dull, throbbing ache that hovered ubiquitously at the edges of his attention. At that was when he was engaged in only quiet pastimes that required minimal movement. (Said pastimes were now primarily reading the various newspapers he subscribed to interspersed with the few books he found worthwhile. The violin was obviously out of the question and even the chemistry set demanded certain postures and stretches that his shoulder would not tolerate.) Holmes found himself resentfully resorting to morphine if only to escape that incessant nagging of outraged nerve endings. It was one thing to indulge out of ennui but quite another to have to indulge because of pain.

And true pain there was on occasion, sharp and crippling, a lightning bolt of white-hot sensation that zipped through shoulder and stole his breath away. Holmes learned very quickly how careful he must be while dressing: cautiously worming his way out of his night shirt, gingerly slipping his left arm into its sleeve first and then contorting the rest of his body so that his right arm could go into its sleeve without disturbing his shoulder, pulling on trousers in such a fashion that his arm barely had to move. The slowness of the process was almost as agonizing to him mentally as it was physically when he grew too impatient for caution.

Even in sleep the pain would not let him be. It dictated which positions he must assume in order to drift off and woke him fiercely if he dared so much as roll over. This Holmes found utterly unfair. If he did not move his other muscles would cramp up but if he did move . . . well ! And then to wake with the whole of his shoulder feeling tight and stiff and encased in cotton wool! Intolerable, simply intolerable!

Not quite a week after the shooting Holmes was quite sure he had reached the limits of his tolerance and so naturally the elements had to push him even further. The barometer plummeted, the sky darkened, and the air grew heavy and suffocating with the impending storm. The fresh wound sang out its displeasure and Holmes gingerly rubbed at it, fervently hoping the storm would break before his patience did.

Then he saw Watson rubbing his left shoulder with what was undoubtedly an identical grimace of pain. Holmes let his hand drop, silently chastised and humbled. Suddenly his own pain had greatly diminished.


The title, just in case anyone missed it, comes from the old saying about walking a mile in another man's shoes. And, in my own twisted mind, there's the barest reference to Stephen King's The Green Mile where "walking the mile" means you're headed for your execution, i.e. a stressful and nerve-wracking experience.