Chapter Five: Twas Grace that Taught
said Frank, holding one up. He tore off a piece. A kind of bread, like. It was early on Wednesday morning, June 5, and he had just asked for a month-long vacation, the only one he had taken in his forty-year-long law-enforcement career, save for two days off in 73 for his parents' funeral. Now, he nodded at Barthant, handing him the chunk.
Barthant recieved it eagerly and took a large bite.
Bagel, it is called? he queried after chewing politely for a moment. I had it last day. It is good on the lam.
Frank laughed at the odd wording. Well, no need to explain... lam in Sindarin meant tongue, he had learned, and the Elf wouldn't get the cultural reference anyway. Though the Elf was learning remarkably quickly, even mimicking his accent to some degree, he still understood little of this new world. And the intricacies of slang were far beyond his grasp of the language.
I am sorry... I am... not hearing why you gladha. Barthant was at a loss.
Heh... hoho.. um... Why do I laugh? Oh, it's nothing, just, you know... I'll tell you when you're older. Frank smiled at Barthant, who chuckled. This he understood.
You have for an-uin, firion? he teased. You have for forever, mortal?
No, Elf, I don't. Frank felt comfortable teasing this Elf. They had learned much about each other when talking through the computer, and the rapport had not been lost when they turned to this more rudimentary form of conversation.
Which is why we should really be concentrating on these verbs... they're the action things, right? he muttered to himself. Sighing, he perused the thick English Language text. In three days they had made a lot of progress, though there was a ways to go.
Right... okay. We've covered see, eat, hold, read, shoot... um, have, to be, to go, to understand, to learn.... Oh, heck. I'm not a teacher! Frank threw up his hands.
I learn many words, Barthant put in encouragingly.
Frank gave a louder groan.
The past tense! I forgot the past tense! Oh, screw it!
Past... tense? Screw?
Um, past tense is when something happened. Not happened, but has happened in the past, in the past tense. Let's see... he caught hold of his patience, and his tongue, with difficulty, and turned to another page of the English Language book. He was beginning to get a bit of a headache.
Time passed, as Time is wont to do. Three weeks had gone by since Barthant had entered the hospital, and the moist heat of early June turned to the heavy stillness and glaring sunlight of a fullblown New York summer.
Melanie Defir lived in a world of hard, clean edges and and lines, bright whites and clearcut blackness. Only her hair, rapidly turning steely-gray with the inexorable passage of time, defied categorization in what had been a well-ordered life.
Barthant had green-brown eyes that shone like the stars. Oh, Melanie Defir knew, could tell herself it was the odd membrane which brought such glittering depth to his gaze. Scientifically, it was a fact. Fact, such a clean, crisp syllable, falling away like a well-amputated limb. No lingering aftertaste of mystery. The word was not so precious to some, but the doctor worked in a mental hospital. Fact here was blurred, something one had to cling too as one walked down those deep and echoing white halls.
Some patients were convincing. She spoke with one woman, a nervous and birdlike figure in her early thirties, who was in the hospital for schizophrenia and disorders related to hallucination and reality disruption. They had a perfectly reasonable conversation (the woman was a lawyer), that nonetheless shook Dr. Defir horribly.
What is real? the woman had asked, looking at her with slightly glazed eyes after her medication. And Dr. Defir had found herself unable to answer.
Reality nowadays was almost tenuous, a temperamental, changeable thing. Once solid, the world now shifted and moved like the mercury they had watched for, in times before specially automated filters took care of all that.
The world spun, sometimes, and she couldn't grasp her thoughts with the clarity she always had.
Various diagnoses flashed through her head, but she bore no classic Alzheimer's symptoms, or even signs of mild cognitive impairment common in people her age, 49. She never forgot her car keys or her alarm code, never forgot a patient's name or ailment. And yet.... there were some times... times when she felt that in the back of her mind lurked some fact, some important remembrance locked away in those dark recesses.
It all tied in to her childhood somehow. But that was so long ago, now. So very long ago. In fact, Dr. Defir could not remember ever having actually been a child. Yes, she remembered being smaller, and shorter, but she had never made any of the humorous mistakes other children made, or had any adventurous escapades out of naiveté, because she had never been naive.
She worried all the time, incessantly. She worried now, about Dr. Whitney, and was careful to stay away from the patient in 36D.
But sometimes there was no helping it. She was drawn to him and the endless knowledge-- the knowledge for which she so thirsted-- that shone from his bright eyes. For this reason she made excuses for Frank Brumsen's frequent visits, naming him a language therapist who did policework on the side. He never knew she made his excuses, and she was not about to tell him.
Until one day, about a month after Barthant had been brought into the hospital. From the purple computer room she heard the sound of singing.
Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me....
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now, I see.
T'was Grace that taught...
The old policeman's voice was rough on the delicate words, and he half-hummed the song, but something in it struck a chord in Dr. Defir's heart. For a moment she almost remembered this song, sung to her so long ago in a childhood far away, and a deep instinct made her push the door to the room open before the next line could be uttered. For some reason she didn't want to hear the next line.
She entered the purple room and Frank's song trailed off as he rose to greet her, sweeping the everpresent hat off his head. Barthant rose too, and stared at her in surprise.
A! Elbereth Gilthoniel, he whispered in a half-song, and the words had the same tune as the song Frank had sung. The same tune, flung out like a lifeline it seemed to Dr. Defir.
She smiled at the two, the cop with a bald head and the strange being standing next to him, and sat down with them. Melanie Defir was ready to learn and remember.
Disclaimer: I own neither the words to the song A! Elbereth Gilthoniel! or Amazing Grace.
On a side note, I do suggest looking up these two songs (you may find the former in the appendices of RotK). They'll give you some insight into this chapter. Back to the disclaimer: I don't own anything written by Tolkien, but Frank and Dr. Defir are my own creations.