He woke up to a new face. He was wearing a hospital gown which was neither green nor blue but some kind of non-committal shade thereamongst with a pattern on it. The bleached-out logo of the hospital trust, perhaps, he couldn't tell. A dusty glass of water on the bedside table but no cards or fruit. He sat up and drank. The gown tied up loosely at the back and his fur and his arse visible to all, the water, as warm as the room, it being a hospital significantly warmer than room temperature, dripped down his chin, some of it. Down his chin where once, and until quite recently, there had been a beard. The water, some of it, dripped onto his chest. He looked down and couldn't see anything, concentrating his glance no further than the bottom of his face. Nothing to see. They'd shaved him. He stroked his cheek to confirm the fact. All gone. Well.
It wasn't a castaway beard or a shaped beard, it was in every way unremarkable. A middling beard, but one which he had been very much attached to. On the left side of his face was a dressing, which followed the line of his jaw from below the ear halfway to his chin. A talking point, certainly, but at the same time a poor substitute for the hair that had of late covered the same area. He worried at the gauze, scratching at it reflexively until a nurse appeared and told him off.
His wife and son arrived some time later without the missing fruit, she having determined, quite reasonably, that it would just go off, but with a large greetings card. A cartoon bear in a pyjamas sucking mournfully on a glass thermometer. The boy was only two and was frightened at first by the stranger in the bed. He had never seen his father clean-shaven or with a post-op black eye. Hearing a fat-tongued approximation of the familiar voice though he gauged the situation and climbed onto the bed. “New daddy hurt?” he asked. His father nodded yes to everything.