Gasps echoed quietly all around Oram as the cart lumbered into the anatomical theater. ”Faldrun’s balls, it’s huge!” somebody muttered, which made the hunter grin. He could tell which of the students were townies by how they responded to seeing a cow stomach for the first time.
The student wasn’t wrong. The organ *was* huge. To a city-dweller unused to such things, it must have seemed as monstrous and exotic as a dragon’s heart. On the other hand, hunters like him, and farmers, already knew that cows were pretty much giant digestive tracts on legs. Indeed, not only had Oram seen cow stomachs before, he had seen *this* one before, and as the cart rolled up, he stepped forward to help the other assistant hoist the thing onto the dissection slab.
Professor Seams had suggested to Oram that he volunteer for practical activities like this, not only to enrich his studies, but also to break up the tentrials of tedious book learning that otherwise made up the bulk of them. Oram had thus volunteered to assist in this dissection, presented to students of both science and medicine by a young instructor named Magdalene, as part of a course in comparative anatomy. Magdalene was a Licentiate in Medicine, currently under contract as an assistant instructor for a Professor named Argus Hamilton-Smith, who was sitting somewhere in the theater apart from everyone else, taking notes. Oram hoped he stayed there, for he hadn’t liked the Professor at all when he had met him.
By contrast, he did like Magdalene. She was serious, attentive, and focused, smart but down-to-earth, and willing to get her hands dirty, as she did now, helping Oram and the other assistant position the stomach on the slab so that it aligned roughly with the diagram on the easel set up to face the assembled students. The three of them stood by the dissection table at the center of a round room ringed by rows of seats and rails stacked three courses high. The current class was small enough that the students were all able to squeeze in to one side, in the bottom two rows. Magdalene could easily face all of them.
With the stomach positioned, Magdalene was ready to begin. Pushing a stray shock of red hair aside after wiping her hands on her apron, she surveyed the class a few trills before she spoke. ”Good morning,” she began simply, waiting a breath for the students to mumble their responses before continuing: ”this trial, we will be examining the stomach of a cow. As some of you have noticed, it is quite a large organ. Not only is it considerably bigger than a human stomach, it is structurally more complex, as befits its task of digesting large amounts of vegetable matter quite thoroughly.”
Magdalene began to explain the structure of a cow’s stomach, first referrring to the diagram on the easel, then gesturing for Oram to indicate the corresponding structure on the actual orgam. The diagram on the easel was colored in a way that the actual stomach was not, which looked more like a vast pinkish gray blob. Oram had had a similar experience a few tentrials ago when he had been assigned to dissect a crayfish. The diagrams available for that assignment had also been color-coded and simplified, and looked nothing like what appeared inside the specimen. The promised organs proved to be tiny yellowish shapes nearly impossible to make out without a handglass, and difficult even with.
With the cow’s stomach, fortunately, the structures were large and distinct enough to spot easily, even without useful color contrasts, and Oram had by now studied enough to identify them quickly. The esophagus -which was noticeably redder than the rest of the digestive tract- led into the rumen, which was by far the biggest portion of the stomach. The rumen itself was divided into a dorsal (upper) and ventral (lower) sac, separated by noticeable grooves, which Oram and the other assistant pointed out to the class while Magdalen called them out.
One of the students in the gallery asked if they could show the grooves again. Oram realized that the students there probably couldn’t see the structures nearly as easily as he could standing right next to the stomach, so he repeated his demonstrative gestures, exaggerating them a bit. Magdalene, watching the hunter do this, nodded approvingly, then continued. Close to where the esophagus entered the rumen as another structure called the reticulum. This structure was small and round, and much firmer and springier. The reticulum was recognizable from the honeycomb pattern visible on its surface. Again, Oram noticed the students straining to see what Magdalene was talking about, so he dramatically circled a couple of the hexagon shapes with large showy motions of his finger. Although he felt silly doing this, the students seemed to respond well to it, and Magdalene gave him yet another encouraging nod when he glanced at her.
Below the bulk of the rumen were the omasum and abomasum. The former was where most water got absorbed out of the food, and the latter was sometimes called the glandular stomach or “true” stomach. It had the same sort of acids and muscles that a human stomach did and worked on food much the same way before passing material on to the small intestine. There were coronal grooves, accessory grooves, and blind sacs, all needing their own ridiculous-seeming theatrical gestures to show off to the students in the gallery. Finally, there were two large flaps of tissue called the lesser omentum and greater omentum.
Here, Magdalene paused and asked the students some questions, then took questions from them in turn. After that, it was time to start discussing the internal structure and working of the stomach.