Analysis And Therapy
By Nicola Ditty aka britwizz
A PSR story:
Summary: After death, life is the next obstacle
PG for language. Comments and feedback welcome. Share your thoughts with me at firstname.lastname@example.org
~ Sincere thanks to Morgan Logan for keeping this wayward writer on the straight and narrow. ~
In my dreams? This snot-nosed kid in his tweed jacket – with corduroy elbow patches, no less – this punk-ass, know-nothing nobody wants to know what I see…in my dreams? Hell, if I thought for one second it did anybody any good maybe I’d tell him. But where the Hell does he get off asking me that?
It’s a bunch of crap. I’ve been coming here twice a week for eight weeks now and never had to deal with this shit. ‘Cause I see Doctor Harris and we spend the hour playing pinochle, or I see Doctor Luther and she tells me about her sciatica and her grandkids and what she’s gonna do when she retires at the end of the year. And all three of us knowing I’m not gonna pass the Medical Board anyhow; we’ve just been going through the motions. So I never have to say nothing about anything.
But especially not my dreams.
I know they won’t look any better in daylight than they do in the dead of night. And ‘Sigmund’ here’s gonna think I’m loony toons if I start rolling around on the floor hollering, twitching like some circus freak.
Staring down the barrel of the gun that’s gonna kill me… Yeah, that’s pretty fuckin’ freaky for starters. Then there’s the one-two-three punch when the slugs rip into my chest. And falling… God, it felt like I was falling forever and the ground was rushing up at me, only I wasn’t falling as fast as it was coming up and it was like in cartoons when Tom steps on the rake in the yard and – Wham! – it smacks him upside the head and that’s what it felt like when I hit the ground.
Like I stayed upright and the ground came up and hit me.
And I dream about that…all o’ that shit. And that’s what’s so fucked up…’cause I don’t really remember any of it. Not a damn thing.
Except in dreams.
That ain’t the worst of it.
‘Cause that’s all about me. And I oughta tell him that it’s never been all about me.
There are the other dreams. Same shit, but not the same. Hutch and me, walking out to the car – his car – and him fumbling for his keys, and this time I get to see the black-and-white first and I say, “Hutch! Get down!” But he straightens up, turning to look where I’m looking. Standing tall like he doesn’t already stand out in a crowd, wearing that bright white jacket that might as well have a big bull’s-eye painted on the back of it.
And I am too late – too fuckin’ slow. I mean, the squad’s doing 5 miles an hour maybe, and less when it hits the car next to it. Hits it hard, sheet metal screaming. And I stand there staring for long, long seconds before I say a word. I could stop this from happening… I should be able to stop this, but I can’t. I’m supposed to watch his back…
And I don’t.
“I understand your anger, detective. Your feelings of resentment towards your partner. You feel that he let you…”
And it’s only then that I realize I’ve done it. I’ve said all this shit out loud to young Sigmund here. And he’s looking like a Buddha in a head shop, painted all wise and knowing, like he has the faintest idea about anything. So I lean forward in my chair - too fast, so it hurts. But it should hurt. It’s a good hurt. I say, real quiet to him, “You are one stupid motherfucker.…”
I swear that’s all I do, all I say, but I guess it takes him by surprise.
And all of a sudden I see it and – oh, how sweet it is – to have someone look at me just one more time like I might actually be dangerous. This…this know-nothing quack… Well, he looks like he not only believes I’m about to rip his head off and use it as a football, but like he’s just figured out the yardage I’ll get on my drop-kick, and it’ll keep the pundits talking for years to come.
He looks…scared. Of me. And that feels good – I feel good. Like a man again.
There’s a knock on the door and before the doc can wipe that look off his face, even before he says, “Come in,” Hutch snakes his head round and says, “Ready?” And I grab my cane and push up outta my chair like an old man called for dinner, slow but eager. Hutch moves in behind me, sorta tucks his hand under my elbow when it looks like I’m about to take a dive. Not holding on, or nothing, just…there.
Where he always is.
He says to the doc, “Same time Friday?”
And I say, “No,” sharp enough it hurts my ears, and they both look at me. “…um…change of plans…” I say, and it sounds lame but Sigmund ain’t about to argue.
And Hutch? Hutch just says, “Oh. Okay.”
But as soon as we’re walking down the hallway he says, “What was that all about?”
I’m practicing walking-and-breathing-and-keeping-cool-at-the-same-time so I don’t answer, and by the time we come to the elevator I’m feeling pretty wiped out. While we stand waiting I have to press my hand against the wall, holding myself up, and I know I’m leaning too hard on the cane. And Hutch knows it too, but he doesn’t say anything.
And that tells me all I need to know about the shape I’m in, about how bad it’s been... And is. ‘Cause if it wasn’t bad then he’d be razzing my ass about being a gimp, or kicking my cane out from under me. He just doesn’t do that kind of stuff these days.
He says, “So who was the Boy Wonder back there?”
And I answer, “No idea, but he plays a lousy game of pinochle.”
His mouth sort of quirks up under his mustache and the skin around his eyes crinkles, and I guess that means he’s smiling but it’s not what I remember smiling looking like on him. And the crinkly eye thing just makes it look like he don’t fit his skin anymore.
He looks like…like… aw, fuck. I don’t know what he looks like. Except, maybe like somebody turned him inside out and rubbed salt on the meat and guts then put him back together again. So now he hurts all the time but you can’t see his wounds. ‘Cause it’s all inside. That’s how he looks.
There’s a rumble and a ping and the elevator’s there. Riding down, I get him to tell me about his day. See, he took a transfer to Robbery four weeks ago, for the hours. I mean, it’s not exactly nine to five but it’s pretty regular. Pretty flexible too, I guess, ‘cause here it is, three o’clock, and Hutch says he’s free for the rest of the day. To tell the truth, I was real pleased he went for it. I think Dobey talked him into the move, and Lt. Tyler’s a good guy, a good boss – didn’t even try to stick him with a partner, ‘cause Robbery’s mostly a desk job anyway; reading files, writing reports.
Paperwork. Lots ‘n’ lots of paperwork…
Hutch tells me how he can type with four fingers now instead of two, so I say I’ll keep him in mind when I write my memoirs, only first he has to learn to make a decent cup of coffee. He thinks that’s pretty funny, and so do I, even if it’s half true – the coffee he makes is pretty lousy, even worse than when I make it.
When we get to the parking lot I see he’s got himself a
new set of wheels from the department pool. Well, not new, but different – a
He says, “Bernie said there’s nobody home today so the pool’s all yours, if you want... Well, I brought your stuff… Or did you want to go eat and then…” He seems kind of edgy, like he doesn’t want to say the wrong thing. Like he doesn’t want to push me around.
I sort of miss him pushing me around. Like I miss his old junker. Like I miss his lousy squad room coffee.
But I like the way he always gives me choices. Even if I don’t really have a choice, he likes to give me a chance to act like I do. So I say, “Swim first, then we can get some supper.” So we head for Bernie’s.
This whole swimming thing was my physical therapist’s idea, but it meant going to the pool at the sports complex on Parkway. And after the first session I pretty much decided, ‘Well, fuck that! I’ll stick with being a cripple, thanks very much…’ See, the thing about public swimming pools is that they’re so damn public. And they don’t let you swim with your clothes on.
I never said anything to Hutch about why I wasn’t gonna go back. I blew it off with some BS about it being too much like hard work and, seeing as how I was semi-retired, I might as well go all the way and lead a life of complete leisure. And he was quiet driving me home. Thoughtful.
A week later he picks me up midday for no good reason I can think of and bundles me into his car like a kidnap victim, him all urgent and me protesting. We pull up at this house in the suburbs and he says, “Let’s go, lazy ass.” And he grabs a bag from the back seat and we let ourselves into the backyard of this ordinary little house…and there’s a pool there. And not just a kiddie pool or one of those round above-ground ones that looks like you’d keep a pet seal in, if you had a pet seal.
This pool is huge. Almost full-sized. There’s the house and then no patio, no grass, just a whole yard full of swimming pool.
He says, “Bernie got a good deal on the place ‘cause of this. I mean, who the heck wants to step outside for a breath of air first thing in the morning and fall face first into a swimming pool? But the guy who built it had a daughter, and she ended up on the Olympic swim team…”
And to show my gratitude I say something like, “You can lead me to water but you can’t make me swim…” and throw in a dirty look for good measure. But Hutch heads on into the house and I follow. There’s a big bathroom right inside the door and he pushes me in that direction, then digs in the bag to hand me a pair of swim trunks and a tank-style shirt.
I change in private and squeeze into the t-shirt, bitching that it’s too tight.
From the other side of the door, Hutch says, “Yeah, but it’ll stretch when you hit the water. Not too much, just enough.”
I hate it when he’s right…
When I step down into the warm pool, the shirt eases up without letting go. I mean, it lets me move when I swim, but it doesn’t drag me down, or flap around like loose flesh when I get out.
It’s just…right. Like Hutch.
Anyway, since then it’s become this regular thing. I think Hutch gets a copy of the roster and then checks with Bernie to see when his wife’s on duty at the hospital. And if the coast is clear, we go swimming.
So, we’re heading to Bernie’s and Hutch is talking about some B and E at Rosario’s Market and that gets me thinking about tortillas and salsa and refried beans and I say, “Hey… How about Mexican for supper?”
He looks at me sideways and says, “Mexican,” and there’s no expression in his voice, so I don’t know if he’s disbelieving or disapproving, or maybe just plain disgusted with the idea. But we get to the nitty-gritty of negotiating and I’ve already talked him into letting me have nachos with the works and maybe a burrito, when we pull up at Bernie’s.
And after I’ve done a couple laps I decide I’m about done with the farmer’s tan look and wriggle out of the tank, and Hutch keeps on swimming like it’s no big deal. But I feel like it is, and I think he does too…but we keep swimming and he paces me, stroke for stroke.
In a while, he heaves himself out of the water to sit on the bricked edge of the pool and be my cheer section. I know I’m flagging, and my strokes get choppy, and instead of moving smoothly from one end of the pool to the other, I’m flailing around. It’s starting to hurt and when I hit the far end wall I latch onto the brickwork like a half-drowned bat or something.
“You want those nachos, I better see another lap.”
I look over at Hutch and he’s just sitting there, squinting up at the sun like a weather prophet, pretending he’s not really paying me much mind.
So I take a couple more deep breaths and push off again.
Almost in the shallows now, and I hear him say, “You wanna qualify for the burrito?”
Oh, you better believe I get the picture now. I think it counts as an act of coercion, if not outright blackmail but, man, I want that burrito. So I give Hutch another lap of the pool. And, strangely, it goes a bit better than the last couple. Easier.
This time when I slap my palm against the wall I huff and holler, “Root…beer…float.” And pull another lap out of my reserves. When I turn my head to the side with every other stroke I see Golden Boy basking in the sun. Kicking back. And he’s smiling, a real Hutch smile, and I pick up the pace a little.
Somehow – don’t ask me how – I get another four fucking laps in and then he calls a halt, but by this time I’m ready to puke anyway, standing hunched over to catch my breath, so the nachos, root beer float, three burritos, and king-size helping of the desert of my choice will probably end up in a doggy bag.
And I don’t care.
‘Cause Hutch edges along the pathway between the pool and the fence - all of thirty inches wide, and slicker than shit – and he throws this big towel around me, and his arms, pulling me in for a hug like I just won Olympic gold.
“You’re unbelievable, buddy… You know that?” He sounds…pleased.
And, ‘cause I hate soapy scenes, I make the effort to blow it off. “This time next month,” I say, “You are taking me to ‘El Cerdo Lleno' and I get to have one of everything on the menu.”
“Oh, is that a fact?” he says, arching his eyebrows, wiping the smile off his face, but not out of his eyes.
“With hot sauce on everything,” I add, heading back towards the house, carefully, like a duck on ice. “Even the ice cream.”
And before I know what’s hit me, Hutch’s arm snakes round my belly and, with a hefty tug, he launches us both sideways into the pool. When we splutter our way to the top he grins at me like an idiot and says,
“In your dreams!”