An old Indian custom brings peace to Jim.
This is a sequel to Alyjude's "The Conversation" as invited in her author's notes.
thanks and apologies to Pet Fly and Jimmy Buffett, and proceeding under the
assumption that forgiveness is easier to ask than permission....
been a stand-in, a stunt man
EVER AFTER (NOW & THEN) ~ Jimmy Buffett & Dave Loggins
for Jim Ellison were just that. A way to simply say what he needed to say --
on the other hand, lived for words. Words were everything to him.
CONVERSATION ~ Alyjude
loft was quiet ... not a serene quiet, entirely, but not the barren quiet that
might have been. Through the narrow crack in the doors of the small room
in the corner came the sound of low and steady breathing, broken now and then
with a sharp inhalation, a slight gurgle, and a rustle of bedsheets. The
young man behind those doors suffered an uneasy sleep.
sipped at the dregs of his beer and let the bitterness sit on his tongue for a
long moment before he swallowed. The glowing letters on the VCR told him
that it was very early in the morning, but he resisted his own bed.
Instead, he listened to the troubled slumber of the man who lay behind those
was sleeping one more night in the loft. The kaleidoscope of scents that
whispered backpack to Jim drifted through the loft, mixing with the other
fragrances that told him Blair was still in residence; dark ale, aloe, mint, old
paper, unwashed cotton. But boxes were piled by the door, still packed,
and two duffel bags rested on the floor behind the couch, still zipped tight.
reprieve, not a resolution.
now, the air in the loft seemed to murmur. For now....
on the fire popped, and Jim flinched. He set his empty bottle on the
coffee table and got to his feet, stretched, and walked to the fireplace.
He lifted the poker from its wrought iron hook carefully, so as not to make a
noise, and halfheartedly poked at the logs, then closed the screen and regarded
the flames. The new life they found with his prodding soon failed and left
only glowing embers.
it a sign?
turned away from the fire, too weary and worried for metaphors. Smoke from
the fire stung his eyes ... surely it was smoke, nothing else ... and he lifted
his hand to knuckle the saltwater away and--
froze, the smallest toe on his right foot throbbing where it had connected with
a corner of a cardboard box. But his attention was on the small room in
the corner. A snuffle, and a cough, then even breathing again. The
noise hadn't wakened the sleeper.
let his breath out, and looked down at his foot.
had packed in haste and anger, using old boxes rescued from the trash bin behind
the bakery downstairs. "Cascade Powder Grist Mills" declared the
lettering on the cardboard carton Jim's foot had sideswiped, and the jagged tear
in the side that had been ineffectively repaired with old masking tape had
opened up like the side of the Titanic. Small pieces of Blair's life were
visible through the gash, and Jim bent down to look more closely.
woven fabric and a red knotted cord caught his eye. Gently he took the
cord in hand and tugged.
it gently in his hand, Jim returned to the couch and sat quietly in the dark.
In the faint light of the dying fire, bright colors of red and gold and blue and
green were easily discernable to Sentinel eyes.
had been sitting on a bench, together and yet not, in the main concourse of the
airport in Mexico City. Simon was at the ticket counter, trying to use the
redoubtable power of American citizenship and American police credentials to
secure seats on the next flight to Seattle. Megan was in the ladies' room.
Blair was trying very hard to stifle a ragged cough, and Jim had wrapped himself
in a stony silence built of shame and worry.
old woman seemed to come out of nowhere. She was ancient but not infirm;
white hair cradled her temples in smooth braided coils, and she wore black,
except for the red and gold of her shawl.
blinked ... she was addressing him. Jim watched, on guard but somehow
feeling foolish for it.
beg your pardon? Blair stumbled in broken Spanish.
wizened face warmed with a gentle smile. She extended a hand, and
automatically Blair met it with his own. From the depths of the black bag
slung over her bent shoulders, the crone produced a colorful bag and placed it
in Blair's palm, folding his fingers around it.
murmurs in Spanish told Jim little. He recognized no money from
Blair, but only a few words of the woman's answer. gift ... sweet soul
... sorrows ... trouble dolls ... peace....
then she had bent and kissed him, as a mother would a son.
madre, Blair had whispered. And Jim had watched, astonished that after
all that had happened to them in Sierra Verde, Blair's eyes only now held unshed
tears. He'd blinked fiercely to keep them at bay as the old woman walked
is it, Chief?" Jim had asked.
didn't look up, but loosened the string on the bag and shook it over his hand.
Six small dolls made of thread and bits of fabric tumbled into his palm.
dolls," he answered.
women make them for their children. At night, you tell one trouble to each
doll, then put them under your pillow. The dolls are supposed to take your
troubles away before morning comes."
Jim started to ask, then thought better of it ... too late. Blair blinked
again, and Jim saw moisture darken one tiny face. Then Blair had fumbled
the dolls back into the pouch and slipped it into his backpack, and silence had
settled once again between them.
same troubled silence that now lay thick and foggy between the couch in the
living room and the futon behind the French doors.
loosened the drawstring and let the six tiny dolls spill out into his hand, and
stared at them. Six tiny figures made of scraps of cloth. But Jim
had lived among the Indians, and had learned from Incacha that things were often
more than what they seemed. Living with Blair had driven that lesson home.
laid the dolls out on the coffee table and picked one up.
know you're Blair's," he said softly. "She gave you to him.
But if you take my troubles away, you'll take a lot of his away too."
doll in his palm seemed to grow heavy, settling comfortably in his palm.
It felt warm. Jim swallowed.
afraid," he began. "I'm afraid he'll be hurt."
breathed softly on the doll, slipped it into the bag, and picked up another.
afraid my ... our ... work will break his spirit." He blew on the
doll and gently returned it to the bag.
more dolls. Four more worries. Four more breaths.
afraid he'll always mourn what he's given up for me."
afraid he'll someday see me for what I truly am."
afraid I'll fail him."
afraid ... I'm afraid ... I'm afraid...."
couldn't say the last aloud, not even to a doll. Jim hoped the small
spirit would hear him, nonetheless. He slipped the last doll into the bag
and drew the string tight, and on an impulse, pressed it to his heart.
Then he stood and began to undress in the firelight. When he wore only his
boxers he walked the perimeter of the loft, checking the doors, checking the
windows, listening. The silence was gentler somehow, warmer than it had
been. Security seemed to gleam in the hardware of the knobs and latches;
peace seemed to drift in the air like a barely detectable scent.
picked up the small woven bag and felt the six small figures inside. He
held it firmly in his hand as he walked to the French doors, and through them.
shifted in his sleep and made a small and sorrowful sound. Fingers
tightened on a fold of the comforter, and one bare shoulder shivered.
shivered too, and tightened his hand around the bag he held. Carefully he
approached the futon, lifted the sheet and comforter, and slipped into the bed.
With deliberate stealth, he slid the small bag beneath his pillow. And
then, gently, he reached out and pulled the restless body of the man he loved
into the curve of his own.
made a soft sound, and settled easily into the embrace. Jim pulled the
comforter up and over his shoulders, and the shivering stopped.
was only a few hours away, but Jim closed his eyes and felt sleep accept him.
Somehow, he trusted, the trouble dolls would have enough time.
it from me 'cause I found
people never find it
~ 30 ~