Drabbles, Double Drabbles, a Chain and a Snip
I. Surprise/Breakfast – a double drabble
He lets himself in – careful to replace the key.
The apartment stands still.
He tiptoes toward the kitchen – freezes at the sound of a sigh,
the rustle of sheets.
The bed creaks – bare soles hit hardwood.
He dare not move – he can’t breathe.
No sound from the bedroom now.
He lifts a foot – his ankle pops.
A crash and a yell.
He drops the cake, icing first
as balloons float lazily to the ceiling.
He smiles sheepishly now at the man
clad only in a pair of briefs, hair tangled, eyes hard.
He stares down the barrel of the Magnum,
holds up both hands and whispers,
He lets himself in – careful not to slam the door.
The apartment stands still.
He tiptoes toward the bedroom – freezes at the sound of a snore,
the rustle of sheets.
The bed creaks – a soft moan.
He dare not move – he can’t breathe.
No sounds from the bedroom now.
He lifts a foot – so far so good.
He stands by the bed – watches the chest rise and fall,
the one foot stuck outside the sheets.
He leans down – moves close.
A nose twitches – a quick intake of breath,
two hands reach out, searching, finding.
A crash and a yell.
He smiles sheepishly now at the man,
taco sauce running down into the hollows of the neck,
splintered shells littering the bare chest – eyes wide open.
He holds up both hands and explains,
“I brought breakfast.”
II. Did They Know? – a double drabble
Huggy watched them fly out of the bar. Phone call. Hushed tones. Decision. Life and death. See ya, Huggy. Pay you later. Did they know about the fear that scrambled up his spine every time they hit the door running?
Huggy never let anyone else answer the phone. He was their scout, their source, their lifeline. Did they know he sometimes slept standing up, at the end of the bar, waiting for their call?
Huggy ignored his paying customers to help Starsky drag his addicted partner up the back stairs. Did they know how much it cost him to see Hutch so strung out – from the poison that had already claimed three of his friends?
Huggy hoped they understood the message. “Hutch, let me talk to Starsky.” Did they know his ribs cracked under the pressure of not telling Stryker’s goons where they were? That his heart shattered at his own betrayal.
Huggy watched them swagger back into the bar. Smiles. Back slaps. Death defied. Hiya, Huggy. Sit down, have a beer with us. Did they know the banter and jibe disguised the relief and supplied the strength to face the fear the next time they flew?
Did they know?
III. At Least
The chill rose from his core. She’s gone. For a moment, at the end, he had the notion to follow her. Service revolver. Symbolic. Romeo and Juliet time. “At least she didn’t suffer.” The preacher drones; the mother sobs. Hutch’s arm around him – his only connection. To himself. Not to her. “At least you caught the guy.” He leans into the warmth, absorbs the comfort. Hutch wraps tighter. Takes some pain. He knows Hutch would open a vein if it would help. He whispers the guilty mantra that finally warms his core, eases his pain.
At least it wasn’t Hutch.
It’s a game of inches. One more or less and it’s shrouds, not sutures.
Lilies instead of roses – you get the picture. One more inch of road and he’s not in the ravine. One less inch of car and we’re both dead in the parking garage.
He wonders why I’m obsessed with what if. I’m not obsessed, just observant. Somebody’s got to keep track, measure the distance. Define the parameters.
What if we didn’t go bowling?
What if she didn’t need milk?
What if he hadn’t fucked her?
What if I tell him the truth?
What if he already knows?
I watch him walk into the room. The staggered warrior. Still bloody. Still sardonic. His smile crooked. His hands trembled. I love him. I am startled by this admission. Even if it’s only to myself. I love him. So simple. So goddamn complicated. He holds out a glass. I fill it. I watch him watch me. Now my hands tremble. He quips and sits on my couch. I banter and join him. Legs touch, glasses clink. Here’s to forgetting. Every damn detail. Except I can’t forget. Not the exhaustion around his eyes, not his long fingers that caress the glass, not the hollow of his neck, where my head suddenly needs to be. He turns to me. I see it all in his eyes. His need. His love. He leans and I lean and its all legs and arms and then I find his lips and I am done. Finished.
VI. Fixed – a double drabble
The ache never goes away. The bruises pale, the sickness wanes, track marks fade to freckles. He’s now gone an entire day without thinking about it. Twice. But the thrum of need always whispers back in. Relentless. Under every sentence, every step, every caress. Every raised eyebrow.
He’s tried to walk it away. Took to the beach one night, almost outran it. Caught up with him at the end of the pier. Chased him back to Venice, where he stood staring up into dark windows, wondering when it had became less about stopping the ache and more about just stopping.
He can’t stop. The sleeves are shorter, the hair longer, the swagger is back. Almost. He’s now gone an entire week without worrying about it. Too much. But a dozen unanswered rings sends him across town at three in the morning. Sidelong glances at every twitch have become an unwanted reality.
Standing guard between what happened and what might occur has left him exhausted. He buys the cigarettes they both know doesn’t touch the need, accepts the need for the lights on, and sits alone in the dark. Waiting for the other shoe. Waiting for the ache to go away.
VII. Thanksgiving – a double drabble
They took the LTD, everyone knew the Torino. They parked in back, walked in side doors. They had a small argument about who went first. Starsky had his hands full, but this was Hutch’s idea.
They knocked on every door. They only had to pull their weapons once – when Fat Rolly drew down on them with a bb gun. Can’t blame the guy – since when do they make social calls?
It got hard for a while. The trembling hands. The vacant stares. Drove Hutch out to the sidewalk once. Starsky finished that one alone. But it got easier. Huggy joined them. Edith stopped by with replacements. Tentative smiles replaced bitter sneers.
Hutch quit pulling on his sleeves so much – still long – even in this heat. Starsky watched him close. Knew it was torture. Knew it was closure.
Once, a long time ago, they had decided never to do this. Holidays were for them – their lives, their celebrations. They gave enough to the street – let the street disappear on these days.
But the street had swallowed them this year. Taken Hutch whole. Spit him out broken. 56 turkey dinners – 56 junkies.
Finally healed his heart. And broke it all over again.
VIII. Hurt/Comfort – a double drabble
He sits in the wind. Hunkered down. Coat clutched close. He stares out over the ocean, churning and angry and unforgiving. He wonders if the sea is a reflection of his hollowed heart. He senses a presence beside him. He doesn’t look. He knows who it is. He allows himself to be surrounded by another coat. He allows himself to be pulled close to another body. He does not allow himself to desire it. He’s startled to hear another voice. It’s the voice that’s connected to the coat, but it’s not the voice. It’s Huggy. He’s disappointed and relieved in the same instant. He leans into the offered warmth. He feels Huggy’s breath in his hair, Huggy’s lips against his head, Huggy’s hands crawling under layers. A quick intake of breath at the cold hands on his stomach, and then he turns. Away from the pain. Away from the betrayal. Away from Hutch. Toward the one thing that has sheltered him time after time. His secret. Their lie. It’s always like this. No words. No need. He disappears into the soothing arms of the one he first called lover, creating a desperate syzygy, convincing himself that it makes no difference.
IX. Surveillance – a drabble chain
by Susan and Kaye
I’ve taken to watching him. I already watch out for him, watch over him, have always been watchful of him. For years I’ve been his watchkeeper, his lookout, his sentinel, his ally, his safeguard, his guardian. I’ve bought him a watch, fixed his watch, found his watch, wound his watch. I kept his watch in my pocket the entire time he floated between time and no time.
Now I watch him. Observe him. Contemplate him. Regard him. Scrutinize. Appreciate. Leer. He’s taken to watching me watch him. Times my glances. Measures my gaze. He doesn’t want me to stop. Watching.
He thinks watching will keep me safe, keep me with him, keep me.
He thinks that the weight of his gaze anchors me in his time and in his space.
He watches me and pretends my life can be found and fixed and held
safely in his pocket. Despite everything that happened. To me. To us.
Now I watch him watch me and I wait for this dance to end.
I watch for a sign he is ready to let me go. So I can come back.
I wait for him to close his eyes long enough to kiss me.
I’ve taken to sleeping on his couch. Again. A regression that started when stillness soothed him better than my touch. When I would stand all night, watching his chest rise and fall. When I learned to hate the word respiration. Now I create elaborate excuses out of thin air. Keeps me on the couch. Keeps me close. But not too close. I don’t want to push. Don’t want to assume, insinuate. He needs time. I need time. I lie here and listen to the rustle of sheets, the soft sighs, and the memory of his touch haunts every sleepless moment.
I watch him grab a pillow and head to the couch. I don’t listen to the whys anymore.
“Go home, Hutch. I don’t want you here.”
“What have I done?” I hear the hurt. I’m glad.
“I just told you why.”
“Starsk, let me stay.”
“Not on my couch.”
“I don’t want to leave you alone.”
I go for blood. His for once, not mine.
“You leave me alone every night.”
“Fuck you.” He turns toward the door.
“Yes.” I pull him back to me. Back to my bed. Back to before.
Eyes wide open. This time.
“Does it hurt?” I trace a finger over the scar, over his heart, overcome.
He watches me for a moment. Doesn’t answer.
Places my hand over my own heart. “Does it hurt?”
“Only when you breathe.”
“Time you start breathing on your own.”
This time, his ministrations are slow, deliberate.
His hands heal. His touch dispels all my lingering doubt.
His watch is finally out of my pocket.
He pulls me to him, out of myself, raking his need into the skin of my back.
Hurts. I come between his heartbeats. His breath, no longer my burden, whispers me home.
We sit together hour after hour waiting for the bad guys to show.
We are floating in stale coffee, buried in crumpled newspapers.
We’ve run out of bad jokes and war stories and have settled for silence.
We’ve learned how to do silence again.
The kind that comes between conversations, not the kind that replaces them.
While he sleeps, I watch. Sometimes I wake to find him watching me.
“They don’t pay you to look at me, buddy,” I tell him.
He laughs the way he used to.
“Good thing, Starsk” he says, “cause the department couldn’t afford the overtime.”
X. The Sound and the Fury – a snip
He would never forget the click. Almost a ping. Barely a snap. It's all that registered. His mind never remembered the shout. The thud of Hutch hitting the ground. The moans that came after. The sirens. The static. The silence. He only remembered the click. Of the gun. Pointed at his head. But late at night, if he closes his eyes, he can see Hutch's face. The grimace. The pain. The smirk.
But that's only at night. When he can feel the acres of empty sheets, the miles of empty arms. When he can see the meticulous embroidery flash across his face right before the click. Right before.
He's taken to sitting up most nights. With his eyes open. That way he can't watch Hutch throw his life in front of the bullet. Can't see the blood seep from his chest. Can't look into the eyes dulled with pain and the bitter recognition of causality. But the click is always present. Deafening. Resounding. He can’t get away from the click.
So one night, at the end of everything he tried, at the end of all he believed, at the end of so much lost, he shrugged into the shirt, still stained. He felt the loose threads strum against his back and he took Hutch's Magnum and he listened to one final click.
And the time between the sound and the fury felt like an eternity. And he knew it was the right thing to do.