A GOOD DEAL
AN: Thank you so much for reading. You guys are so wonderful and full of heart! Hugs, and sunshine, Karen
It was hot in the small dorm room where we'd been confined for the weekend. Outside, the rain poured down, feeding the flowers and trees. Inside, sweat poured down my face, back, and into the collar of my shirt. I pulled a handkerchief from my pocket, mopping my forehead, feeling like I'd been swimming in a tiny puddle. Stuffing the hanky back into my pocket, ignoring my roommate's twitchiness, I went back to caring for my little darlings, thinking if I'd gotten that guitar string fixed, I could have worked on the song twirling around in my head instead. That might take my mind off this heat and the fact I was stuck in this room because I couldn't hack Physical Training.
For the thousandth time, I glanced over my shoulder and looked past my roommate's huge head of curly hair to the window, and wished I was outside jogging in the rain.
I needed to stretch my cramped legs and build my strength. Jogging was a great way to do that, and I loved running in the rain. It was the best time to run. The sidewalks were empty, and the splash of raindrops on my face kept me cooler, making me feel faster so I could go the longer distance. The rain always seemed to wash away all that was boggling my mind, and I could just run and run. Not to many folks seem to like the rain, but precipitation is an essential part of any ecosystem.
I didn't know much about my roommate, but I could tell by the look on his face - he was one of those folks who never liked the rain.
The other thing I knew about David Starsky was that he was a pain in my ass. Aside from his stomach always complaining out loud, and his all-night snoring fest, it really annoyed me that he kept his side of the room so tidy and neat I almost had to wonder if he was sneaking a maid in here when no one was looking.
No man ever born made his bed the first damn thing in the morning-before he even took a leak. Everything was clean, organized, dust free, polished, and neatly folded. There was a place for everything, and everything had its exact place. Hell, even his books and eight-tracks were kept in alphabetical order. I almost was jealous. Organizational skills are important in becoming a detective; which was my ultimate goal. Being able to put each piece of the puzzle in its proper place brought you to the proper conclusion on the culprit.
We each had a small desk of our own. Starsky had called dibs on the window seat. That was the second thing that ignited my fuse. I hated the fact my desk was stuffed into the dark, cobwebbed corner. And I hated the fact the only thing he kept on top of his desk was a cardboard blotter and a hallucinogenic flask full of red wax.
Worse, he insisted the lava lamp realized him and he had to keep it lit so he could sleep. Every night, I opened my eyes to my roommate's snore fest and the projecting red light' which sent space-aged shadow blobs floating about on the walls like a bad B-movie.
I set my spray bottle down and turned to the mirror to brush a strand of hair off my forehead. Immediately, I saw a pair of blue eyes that weren't mine staring at me. Great, David M. Starsky was a mirror watcher.
I pushed the lock of hair off my forehead, trying to pretend I didn't notice him glaring at me. He sat cross-legged in a chair at his desk near the only window. He looked ridiculous in a black tee-shirt, funky choker chain and blue pajama bottoms, and roasting-of all things-marshmallows over the flame of a candle stick. I wondered if maybe that was what the 'M' in his middle name stood for-'marshmallow'. He had an arsenal of them in his bottom right hand desk drawer. Maybe the 'M' stood for 'mushbrain.
At any rate, I was glad he'd stopped doodling on the window pane. The high-pitched squeaking sound was giving me a headache. Seems the only time the guy actually sits still is when he's eating. I'd never seen anyone scarf down food that fast.
I shook my head. The academy was tougher than I thought. Maybe I should have stayed at Harvard. The class work at the Academy wasn't difficult, but police work required that you be able to work well with the public-not my greatest attribute. But the hardest lesson to learn was that when partnered with someone, you'd better be able to read between his lines-if you couldn't' that's what could get you killed. I'm not a bad guy, I just don't trust easily.
Something about my roommate told me I wouldn't have to worry about that much longer. I could tell by watching him that he had the same drive and passion I did when it came to wanting to make a difference in this world.
So far, I'd aced all the Academy's written exams, but was falling flat on my face when it came to P.T. and making friends. My father would be happy to know that I was a failure, so far. In my father's opinion, knowledge was life and friends were the last thing I needed to focus on. To this day, Richard Hutchinson had tried to keep my life fisted in his hand while I buzzed around inside like a trapped fly trying to escape. While I could understand him doing that when I was a kid, it didn't make sense now that I was a man that he held on even tighter.
When I was a teen, he kept me busy year round. During the day, I had to sign up for the toughest high school courses and was expected to keep my 4.0 G.P.A.
During the evenings, I was forced to take every private lesson known to man or beast. Guitar, piano, harmonica, flute, French, Spanish, wrestling, boxing, even fencing. Dad had said that sparring with a partner was a good way to learn grace and balance. He also said there was an unheard melody, almost a dance, and most certainly honor, in the art of two guys dressed in white outfits, dueling one on one with swords. I was pretty good with the one on one part-it was the hearing the music and the dancing parts that I lacked. I never could block the attacks, and always ended up on the ground. But hand me a guitar-watch me make it sing.
During the summer months, I'd spend most my day working in the greenhouse on my grandfather's farm. The other half of the day, I'd ride a painted pony named Show Biz through the cornfield down to Jenson's pond. I always hoped to cross paths with some kids my age. The farm was a good fifty miles from any highway, town, or malt shop-w were all the kids.
Once, I did come across three teenage girls skinny-dipping in the pond. They giggled when they saw me and tried to get me to join them. I could only cast my eyes away, feeling my cheeks blush tomato red, before trotting Show Biz down the path back toward home. Some ladies' man I was back then. Things are way better in that department now, besides, most ladies seem to like a guy in uniform. I couldn't wait to get into my blues.
A flash of lightning followed by a clash of thunder brought me from my thoughts. I watched Starsky shudder, and drop his marshmallow stick. I wasn't sure if it was my imagination or not, but I got the feeling he was scared of thunderstorms.
"Starsky are you o-"
"Where would you want to be, Hutch?" Starsky cut me off. "If you weren't here I mean?"
"Oh, I don't know," I answered, seeing right through his child-like need for reassurance. "Haven't given it much thought."
"You ever think about what it would be like to rob a bank?"
"What?" I snapped. Where'd that come from left field? "Starsky, we're here because we are going to become cops."
"So, cops don't rob banks," I huffed in irritation. Starsky always seemed to have the weirdest trivia, thoughts, and ideas about the finger points in life. "Besides," I continued. "No one ever gets away with robbing a bank. Too much security."
"Not in Bolivia."
"Bolivia?" I raised my voice a touch. "Are you crazy?"
"I read in a book that's what Butch said to Sundance, but they did it. What an adrenaline rush."
"All good bank-robbing stories give you a tiny sample of the rush the thieves feel when they're pulling off a job," I explained logically.
"Butch and Sundance could retire in real comfort." Starsky clicked his tongue in awe.
"Starsky," I sighed. "Butch and Sundance were killed."
"Oh, that's right."
Another round of lightning lit the room. Starsky fumbled with his desk drawer, shoving the marshmallow bag back in and blowing out the candle flame.
My curly haired roommate must have eaten his way through three-fourths of the bag of marshmallows, but his stomach still rang out its protest like a bank alarm going off. I bet he'd never survive one night on the streets on an empty stomach.
"Hey." I watched him bounce down on the bed.
"Yeah?" Starsky couldn't seem to stop his nervous fidgeting.
I reached behind Beautiful Beatrice.
"Calm down," I said, tossing him the Baby Ruth my mother had sent me in a care package.
I could safely assume the candy bar would do anything but calm Starsky down, but at least he'd have something to occupy himself. For a moment, he looked dumbfounded, like he'd never been shown an act of human kindness before. I blinked, and when I looked at him again, Starsky's face had lit up that quickly. He was an emotional roller coaster, and I wondered how anyone ever managed to keep up with him. However, I felt like I was getting to know my roommate fairly fast. It didn't quiet put us on even footing-but consciously or unconsciously, I was starting to really like this guy.
Starsky unwrapped the candy, and now stared almost lovingly at the thick chocolate bar. I had to smile-I never had seen anyone eat first with just their eyes.
Finally, he bit a huge chunk off.
"Delicious," he muttered around a mouthful. "Never figured you for the Baby Ruth type, Hutch."
"What type did you figure me for?"
"More the French gourmet, caviar, veal piccata type." Starsky took another bite. "Thanks."
"Welcome." I yawned and stretched. "Think I'm hitting the sack."
"Me, too, in awhile," Starsky said, stuffing the rest of the Baby Ruth into his mouth.
I cleared my study books off the bed and crawled in, while my roommate went back to the business of bee-bopping around the room.
Starsky checked his gun, laid his clothes out for the next day, brushed and flossed his teeth, tossed a football up and down in the air one hundred times, dug through the dirty clothes basket and matched all his dirty socks, then dropped and gave me twenty.
Twenty-one, twenty-two, twenty-three, twenty-
"I thought you were going to bed?" I asked sternly.
"I will. Twenty-four, twenty-five, twenty-six…" Starsky jumped up to his feet when he reached thirty.
"One too many marshmallows, Starsk?"
"I'm still walking straight, ain't I?"
"Go to sleep, will you?" I pulled the covers up to my neck and turned out my bedside lamp.
"Can't sleep," he said, straightening his desk drawers, and organizing his comic book collection, before clipping his toenails.
"In a few minutes," he said sitting down at his desk. Flipping on a wall light hanging near his desk, he pulled pencil and paper from the drawer, and began to write. And write. And write. And write some more.
But it wasn't just the writing that drove me nuts. It was the constant mumbling, hems and haws, ooos and awws.
"What are you doing now, Hemingway?" I tried to get cozy on the small bed, but my feel always hung over the edge.
"Writing a letter home to Mom."
He hymned and hawed another half dozen times before addressing and stamping the envelope.
Then Starsky danced around the room again, doing a little of this and a little of that like a Harlem Globetrotter on speed.
After six hours of being locked in this room, my patience was going right out 'his' window. My roommate finally settled on one thing, throwing darts at a poster he'd pinned up on the door.
Starsky had a good eye. His execution and style in dart throwing didn't even compare to how he handled a gun out on the firing range. I was more than a little awed.
"You like that movie?" I reached for a glass of water on my nightstand, watching a dart hit James dean dead center of his right eye.
"Rebel Without a Cause'," Starsky identified. "Yeah, guy wears a mean jacket. Red's my favorite color."
"Red looks better on cars," I said taking a sip of water.
"I know." Starsky nodded.
The water slid down the wrong pipe and I choked. We'd actually agreed on something.
"Did you know James Dean was raised on a farm by his aunt and uncle?" Starsky gave me a sideways glance before he threw another dart.
More trivia, meant to detour and divert.
I swiped a dribble of water off my chin, not letting on I knew his game and said, "Nope."
"You ever see the movie?" he asked wearily.
"Yes, I've seen it." I gave my synopsis. "New kid in town." Wants to prove himself to his peers. He's been in trouble before and gets into more trouble with some really tough guys. Switchblade fights, driving his car toward the edge of a cliff like a madman, hiding out from the cops when a friend accidentally buys the farm. That the one?"
"That's the one."
I watched another dart fly, this time hitting dean in the center of his left eye.
"Don't' you ever take a break or something?" I gripped my pillow, and resisted the urge to toss it at him.
"Couple years ago, taking a break would get me nothing but killed." He titled his head, wide blue eyes showing something I'd never seen in them before.
"What were you doing a couple years ago?" I asked.
"Invading another country," he admitted just barely above a whisper.
"You were in 'Nam?" I sat up straight, swearing I could see the horror and the bombs detonating in his eyes.
"Didn't get this…" Starsky stopped throwing darts, untucked his tee-shirt from his jeans, and lifted the material high on his chest. "…in a bar fight," he said hotly, revealing to me a large jagged scar on his lower left side.
"Damn!" I whistled between my teeth.
"Could've been much worse." He slipped his shirt down real fast, looking a little embarrassed that he'd showed me his war wound. "I'm keep you awake." He uneasily plucked at the feathers on his dart.
"You're not," I said softly.
"You know it's not like in the movies, where somebody screams, 'lights…camera…action!"
Suddenly looking very tired, Starsky slowly moved back to his window seat. "It just sort of happens." He rolled the dart between thumb and forefinger. "Having to leave your buddy's dead body spread eagle in the dirt and-"Starsky shrugged, and swallowed convulsively. "Sorry." He shook his head, setting the dart to the desk, and pressing his lips together in an obvious effort not to reveal anymore.
"Sorry for what? Defending your country?" I switched on my nightstand lamp and swung my legs out of bed, surprised he'd divulged so much-most I'd gotten out of him since we bunked together was useless trivia.
"Forget I said anything."
Upon closer inspection, I could see a sort of lost expression on Starsky's face. Deep lines around his eyes that came only from the grip of fear, and pain, and of seeing things no one deserved to see.
"Go to sleep, he muttered, eyes staring to the rain outside the window.
The downpour had become quiet and so did my roommate. I wanted to know more about what happened to Starsky in the war, but something told me not to press him too hard. Instead, I changed the subject.
For lack of anything better to say, I asked, "Did you ever go skinny-dipping when you were a kid?" I asked, but got no answer.
"Starsky?" No response. He seemed to be distracted by his own thoughts, ten-thousand miles away, and white as a sheet. "Hey," I called, but my roommate continued to sit there with the same lost look on his face, staring into the night. "Hey, Mushbrain!" I shouted.
"Huh?" Emerging from his black hole, Starsky looked my way.
"You okay?" I tensely asked. "For a minute there…I thought…I thought I lost you."
"For a minute there…I think you did." He smiled weakly.
I crawled out of bed and pulled my chair out from under the desk. Sitting down beside him, I joined him in staring out the window.
"what are you doing?" he asked.
Out of my peripheral vision, I watched Starsky turn to face me.
"Sitting with you," I said with all the sincerity I had in my heart. "That okay with you?" I turned to look into downtrodden, deep blue eyes.
Starsky quirked his lip and studied me as if to consider y motives. "Yeah. Yeah, that's okay with me." He gave a nod of invitation, going back to stare out the window.
I settled in my chair, and extended a friendly hand to the back of is neck and gave a small squeeze. I just wanted him to know he wasn't alone in this crazy life.
"Want to tell me-"
"No," he whispered, never taking his gave from the light drizzle of raindrops sliding down the pane. "I can handle it from here."
"Okay, buddy." I let my hand fall away. Whatever 'it' was, the case was tightly closed.
"What about you?" Starsky's eyes locked with mine. His body was tense, tears lingering in the corner of his eyes but not falling. Old school laws-laws my father tried to teach me. Crying in front of people wasn't permissible. I watched Starsky quickly look away. "What cha' been up to?" He cleared his throat. "Before you decided you wanted to join the force?"
More tricks from his bag-distracting from his thoughts and focusing in on mine. Everyone has a story and I had plenty, but I was certain my tales were nothing compared to seeing your buddies on the ground covered in blood.
"Marriage. Harvard Law. Divorced-twice-not in that order."
I watched Starsky take a deep breath and relax a little, so I kept talking.
"I got to a point where I couldn't deal with the people in my life who wanted to suck the very joy from me."
"Both of them, and my father." I leaned forward and traced the last few drops of rain on the window, as the storm came to an end. "I hated him for how he treated me. He believed in tough love to the max," I said, shocked at myself for spilling my guts so openly to a guy I hardly knew. "When I told my dad I wanted to be in the middle of the action instead of some fancy suit behind a desk-" I paused, feeling that same hot angry surge of bile bubble up my throat. I swallowed hard, then said, "You'd think I'd thrown him under a bus and left him there to die."
"What'd he say?"
"He told me to shut up about being a cop! He said being a cop wasn't for me." I could feel myself breaking out in a cold sweat at the all too clear memory. "How could he know what was for me? My dad was more worried about his money than he ever was about me." I let my hand fall away from the window, feeling dizzy, instinctively pointing my head downward. "He told me if I did this, became a cop, I could get my ass out of his life-for good!" I shook my head.
"Take it easy," Starsky said, his hand falling to my shoulder.
I looked up into his concerned eyes. Without words, he asked me what I did. "What else." I waved a heated hand. "We parted ways. My father's righteous fury stormed off his and I stormed off mine. My dad was always quick like that," I explained. "Quick to write a check, or buy that top-of-the-line car. But listening to his lousy drop-out, tow failed marriages, wanna be a cop son…just wasn't his forte…I guess." I wrung my hands together struggling to keep calm. "He'd listen to the taxman, the car dealer, his personal finance consultant, his barber, even his mistress," I informed him, my whole body shaking with anger, and my heart twisting into my chest as I panted heavily. "I swore I'd never be like him. Not everything in this world comes down to dollars and cents!"
"I'm sorry," Starsky said, gently.
"I'm okay." I forced myself to concentrate on getting my breathing under control.
No one other than ten chapters in my journal and a number two lead pencil knew any of that crap about my dad."I'm sorry, Hutch," Starsky repeated.
"It's okay. My dad always was a no-dessert, all-business, no-fun kinda guy." I secretly wondered if I had the stomach for police work. The rapes. Hostage situations. Blood. Guts. Horror. My eyes once again met Starsky's. "I don't know. Maybe he was right? Maybe I'm not cut out-"
"You'll do great, Hutch, be like the caterpillar turning into a butterfly type thing."
"Yeah?" I Asked forcing my eyes wide.
"You play?" Starsky asked gesturing with a toss of his head toward my bed.
"What?" I looked around until I spotted what he meant. "oh, the guitar?" I play some but…"
"No Dummy. You play Monopoly?"
"I'm a big fan of the game. It's the only thing my dad and I did together and enjoyed. You play?"
"No one ever wins at that game," Starsky stated firmly. "It takes too long and someone just ends up kicking the pieces all over the room and walking away mad."
"You just have to have the right strategy," I informed. "What's the first thing you buy?" I asked.
"Stasrky, never buy utilities first. The best way to win is to buy up all the railroads first, brings in a constant flow of cash."
"Best way to win- is not to play," Starsky griped.
"You chicken," I snuffed.
"Don't call me that!" Game on! I'll beat the socks off you, Hutchinson!"
"Touchy." I smiled at the nerve Id hit. I suspected Starsky didn't like to lose-at anything he did. I liked his competitiveness.
"It's late," I said, looking at the clock seeing it was three in the morning.
"Who's chickening out now?"
"Fine, let's play." I got up, and quickly dragged the box out from under the bed.
"Groovy," Starsky said, plopping down cross-legged on the floor.
I settled next to him, pulled the board from its box, and began to organize the money.
"Groovy, Starsk?" I laughed at the use of the word.
"Okay, terrific," he corrected. "I'm the car."
"I'm the thimble."
Starsky quirked his lip at me. "Nobody ever wants to be the thimble. You're weird, Hutch."
"Thank you," I deadpanned.
Shirts off because of the broken radiator, we played intensely and energetically for about an hour and a half. Starsky was losing big time already, and getting really annoyed, abut he wouldn't give up. I had to pretend I was a mannequin, not twitching a muscle, batting a lash, or making a sound as my roommate shouted out, 'broom, broom!' every time it was his turn to make a move.
Starsky just rolled at eight. "Vroom. Broom!" He moved his car across the board and landed in jail for the tenth time. "Dammit!" With his socked foot he kicked at his dwindling pile of colored money, scattering the bills.
"Try and relax, Starsky."
"How can I relax when I'm about to mortgage everything I own?"
"It's just a game," I laughed ruefully. "Want to buy my 'get out of jail' free card?"
"What'll it cost me?"
"How much you got?"
Starsky yawned, desperately reorganizing his money, and fighting to keep his eyes open. I already knew how much he had - not enough. He was nearly bankrupt, but I didn't have the heart to tell him; besides, he was playing the master. If the guy was down to his last buck, somehow I knew he wouldn't admit defeat. I couldn't help but admire his diehard spirit.
"Starsky, look," I said deciding to let him off the hook. "Let's hit the sack."
"No! Game's not over."
I sighed. "Starsky, you can hardly keep your eyes open and I'm beat. Give it up."
"Fine, Mr. Monopoly," Starsky groaned, and tossed his money to the board. "But we don't ever give up. Leave the board alone, and we'll pick up where we left off tomorrow."
"It's a date."
"I only date chicks."
"Fine," I said. "It's a game. I'll teach you yet about how to win at Monopoly."
"And I'll teach you about artichokes and sex." Starsky stood, stretched and then crawled into bed.
"Deal." Chuckling I crawled back into my bed.
"Good deal," Starsky mumbled.
"Hey, Starsk, no snoring tonight okay?" I snuggled down.
Two seconds later a rancid smell filled the room.
"Starsky!" I pulled the covers up over my head. "Oh, man," I muttered, still unable to escape the foul stench.
"You didn't say no farting, Hutch."
I shoved my face deep into my pillow trying hard not to laugh. Don't ask me how but somehow I knew - Me and the curly haired chump over there were more than just academy roommates. There was something magical between us. I hoped we could be together long enough o find out if that magic was real or not.