Calling Carl J
Let me tell you, Cascade is cold at four oclock in the morning. My little corner of it, that is. Well, actually, a lot of the problem being that my little corner isnt so little. Relatively speaking. Ten thousand square feet has ample opportunity to get friggin cold. Space heaters mean absolutely nothing in 32-and-frosty. Which is why youd think someone with so few opportunities for sleep would still be in bed. Which would be true, if I hadnt just shot straight out of it for the third time this week. I am so not into having my own personal nightly rendition of Big Cat Diary. Only Ive got jungle, not savannah, and no nice BBC crew in sight. Plus its blue. Blue. A blue jungle.
Definitely calls for Jung or Freud or, at this point, anything I can find since Ive tossed half the paperbacks onto the floor already with no luck. Because I swear I have a copy of Carl J. and I sure as hell know The Interpretation of Dreams is in there somewhere. Huh, didnt know I still had that -- The Serpent and the Rainbow, gotta read that one again sometime. But the blue place is looking more South American than Haitian and as far as I could see, not a zombie cucumber in sight. Popul Vuh might leave that one out at least its the right land mass.
I really want Dreams. Okay, what I *really* want is to go back to sleep but this is gonna bug me until I work it out. I figure, you know, this is my subconscious trying desperately to communicate something. And if were going Jungian, think Sandburg, youve got the exposition of the setting that would be jungle, weirdly blue. You got the plot development uh, so its not much of a plot: theres me, theres this black jaguar, theres me seeing this jaguar, then theres me running scared out of my collective wits because I mean its one *big* pussycat. Culmination? Havent got to one, just wake up hyperventilating. The lysis simply aint happening here, Carl.
Crap. Wonder if I traded them? I remember taking a big boxful to McKays when I needed that copy of "Policing in a Multicultural Age". Argh. Im cold, Ive gotten maybe, *maybe* eight hours sleep in the past four days and Simons probably expecting me to appear right after class with some new angle on this homeless mess. The only thing that seems to be going good right now is Jims progress.
Hes managed a lot more in the past few weeks than I would have originally thought possible. I know hes in there and I know hes trying to reach out. Its not exactly Helen-Keller-at-the-pump, but simply the act of naming us has opened up a trickle of language ability. Not satisfied with being able to identify us, Jim now wants to order us around. That brought a smile to even his fathers normally compressed lips. It seems to be person-specific at the moment but I dont think that will last. Hes gonna catch on after a while that somebody besides Steven can supply waffles and that it's not just Sally he can ask for a hug. All he seems to want me to do is talk, well, and not leave his sight. That last ones gonna take some work.
Which reminds me why I really needed to sleep. Im not sure how much Jim is able to put together, but I thought if I took him down to the station, showed him where I am when I tell him Im at "work". Hell, show him that Simon is there -- he and the Captain seem to share some secret whos-in-control-of-Sandburg agreement.
Im really starting to feel a little possessed here. First Simon somehow gets me thinking so much like a cop Im starting to scare myself and now Jim seems to be expecting me to God, I dont know do *something.*
If Burton had spent half the time researching Sentinels that he put into deciphering the Kama Sutra maybe Id have some answers. Okay, so my early sex life would have been a lot less interesting but maybe Id know how it is Im supposed to start helping Jim.
Cynical of me, but I wonder sometimes how this would have worked out if Jim wasnt the son of the richest guy in the city. Not that Im complaining. Simon isnt impressed with wealth, but hes not na´ve enough to think that staying on the good side of the mayor isnt in everyones self-interest so if I want to bring Jim into the bullpen for the afternoon its all hunky-dory. Want a visitors pass? No problem.
Very like Jim to, in fact, find the visitors pass (at least for the first few minutes) to be the most fascinating thing about the entire place. He fingers it, rubbing lightly over the laminated front, then moving to the edges and repeating the entire process. Then, as if suddenly noticing hes in a room full of people he doesnt recognize, he drops the badge to the floor and latches onto my wrist.
Joel Taggart is watching all this intently. I havent warned them, but its obvious enough that Jim Ellison isnt behaving in an average way. And if theres anyone here I trust to be understanding, its Joel.
When I introduce them I notice Jim giving him the same scrutiny he gave Simon down at the waterfront. Joel offers his hand, and I dont expect Jim to comprehend the gesture, but Joel stands there patiently and after a moment Jim straightens the fingers cuffing me and responds in kind. No words are exchanged and Jims hand immediately returns to its tight hold, but, by damn, if he didnt just shake hands. Im grinning like a madman. Joel sees me smiling and joins me. Jim lowers his head and stands quietly but I still feel like doing a friggin victory dance.
Cause maybe, somehow, my blind stumbling is actually helping.
Trying to get across to Jim what the bullpen is turns out to be somewhat of a challenge. Im more and more thinking that my theory is right that, because sensory information is so overwhelming to him, Jim has to sense the parts and slowly construct the whole.
Theres an abandoned desk Ive reclaimed from the boxes of file folders that were piled on top of it. According to Simon its more than a part-time observer, full-time pain in the neck deserves, but hes the one who helped me clean it off. Anyway, its the perfect place to settle Jim, out of the way and relatively quiet. I point out people, ask if he remembers Rafe or H, generally just let him soak up the atmosphere while I slump further into the need for a serious afternoon nap.
Conner comes up and cuffs me lightly on the back of the head, a semi-regular greeting, then backs up as Jim growls. Really growls. Which is enough to send the bullpens resident non-resident back to her own safe corner.
When hes finished checking out all the items on my desk, Jim gets up and wanders toward Simons closed door. His head tilts slightly and, undoubtedly, he hears Simon talking on the phone.
Its actually kind of weird that Jim took to Simon so easily. I joke that its the height thing, but it took a while for Simon and me to grow on each other. Yeah, I can hear him now. "Like a fungus Sandburg, the only way youd ever grow on me is like a fungus."
I needed a diss topic. Really needed one since everyone in the department thought the Sentinel idea was not publishable, which made it worse than crazy. I had started out with tribal protectors and I figured there was no sense wandering any further afield than was necessary. Sentinels to cops didnt seem that big a jump. Shows you what I really knew about either topic.
I go to retrieve Jim and Simon opens the door unexpectedly, ushering us in. Jims nose wrinkles slightly at the combination of brewing coffee and lingering cigar scent that normally hangs in the captains office.
"Mr. Ellison, its good to see you again."
I get "Sandburg" or "kid" or, even, "hey you" and Jim gets "Mr. Ellison." Simon sees me roll my eyes and frowns, biting down on the unlit stogie he carries between his teeth.
"I thought Id show Jim where I work, you know, let him know where it is I disappear to."
My guess is that Jim really may think I disappear, swallowed up into the cacophony of the world that lies beyond the quiet so painstakingly built by Steven and Sally.
Shyly Jim darts a couple glances up at the captains face then seems to decide something. He makes my name sign, circling his hand around his own wrist, touching the pulse point. Then he draws both his hands to his face, his fingers touching his lips before lowering them to finally steady palms up. One of the new signs wed been working on.
Simon raises an eyebrow.
All I can do is shrug. "He said Blair and thank you. I think hes thanking you for something you did, or didnt do, that has do with me."
"Like what? Putting up with you for the past year?" But gently, surprisingly so, Simon steps closer. Im the one who almost jumps when he puts a hand on Jims arm. Id seen hysterics when Jim was touched and would rather have not been. "He means a lot to you, doesnt he?"
Jim looks down where Simon grasps his arm then back up at the bigger man.
"Dont worry. We look after him here. Well do our best to keep him safe."
There is that long moment of eye contact again and Im standing there getting impatient because Jim is finally communicating in some way other than touch and who does he pick for this important turning point? He picks Simon?
Then, oh my God, Jim does something incredible (well, if youve been waiting for weeks to see some glimmer of it). Its the equivalent of the damn Sistine Chapel as far as communication is concerned. He *nods* at Simon. Youre thinking thats not much, but its more than it seems. He initiated conversation, received a response and then replied which is pretty damn wonderful. Jim Ellison, who a few weeks ago, was completely mute, has been participating in a conversation. I grab him, whooping, and spin him unprotesting in a tight circle. In the blur he looks slightly perplexed, Simon looks quite conceited.
By the end of the visit, though, Jim is grouchy and sensitive. He pulls away from my touches to his arm, not wanting me to even place a guiding hand on his back. My guess of sensory overload turns out to not be completely correct. By the time we make it back to the house hes flushed and fingering his throat. Id heard this from Steven, that on the rare times Jim does succumb to whatever bug is going around, it comes on quick and strong. Looks like that nasty respiratory virus that decimated the PD force last week has claimed another victim.
Stevens not there. Its Sallys night off and that leaves me and William with one quickly drooping Sentinel whose senses are apparently off the map. He turns unceasingly in the bed, finding even wearing silk pajamas and being tucked under 300-count Egyptian cotton sheets to be too much to bear. The orange juice I offer is literally knocked out of my hands and lies staining the Ellisons pristine carpet. A cold cloth on his forehead quiets him for a while, say, thirty seconds.
William Ellison may be a master when it comes to controlling a roomful of irate stockholders, but hes an absolute coward when it comes to one cranky son. By a little after midnight the CEO is settled comfortably in his own bed and Im patiently explaining to Jim, for the third time, that even if youre feverish, taking off all your clothes is not an option. By two, it is. So is endlessly sucking cherry popsicles and forcing your friendly neighborhood anthropologist to read the same section of "The Jungle Book" over and over and over. That sign for "again" is way too easy.
So, for about the twelfth time I thumb back through the pages, the edges turning brown and brittle in a copy so worn it probably belonged to the elder Ellison himself.
"Now this is the Law of the Jungle as old and as true as the sky;
And the wolf that shall keep it may prosper, but the wolf that shall break it must die.
As the creeper that girdles the tree-trunk, the Law runneth forward and back
For the strength of the pack is the wolf, the strength of the wolf is the pack."
I dont know what is so particularly appealing about the Law of the Jungle, except maybe the rhythm is lulling. Sure as hell is about to put me out. The last line I remember getting out is from the fourth stanza, thirteenth reprise. Then I must have nodded off.
Im used to the usual panoply of dreams. Naked in synagogue is pretty common. Not that Ive been to synagogue with any regularity clothed either. Elevator in freefall is another good one for raising the heart rate. And lets not forget my all-time favorite unprepared for the final exam, although lately thats been morphing nastily into naked *and* unprepared for the oral diss defense.
Point is, I already have my set of tried and true nightmare-producing anxieties. Im used to them. Im practically dream-lucid as soon as I see the familiar walls of the temple/ elevator/classroom. So it looks like that would be enough self-torture for my psyche that it didnt have to dream up this damn blue jungle.
Sure, Sandburg, read Kipling over and over while exhausted and see what you get. At least in the temple theres always a spare yarmulke around to borrow, not that its going on my *hair*. Okay, so Im not naked, thats not the point. The point is I want *my* nightmares back. I dont want to have to figure out what this whole jungle motif means.
Havent I got enough to worry about? Ive got Simon and the
homeless-killer thing. Ive gone so native that Dr. Stoddard is questioning
practically every sentence I write and telling me I should have gone to Borneo like he
suggested, or even to Peru looking for some damn Sentinel temple Im not sure even
*I* believe in. Then I find a
Sentinel and the best thing Ive accomplished is that he now can ask for waffles.
Crap. If Im going to lucid dream it could at least do me the favor of not being *this* lucid. I mean theres no point in being this aware if Im still stuck in the one-crayola rainforest.
Shit, did something just move?
Thanks Jim, now the place is seriously stocked with wolves. I mean if Jim was going to go turn-of-the-century, couldnt he have wanted to hear Robert Lewis Stevenson or something? I dont remember anything with teeth in "The Land of Counterpane."
Blue wolf with blue eyes.
Huh, blue teeth, too.
So if you get eaten in a dream, does it hurt? I remember being on that 747 piloted by poodles and it crashing like, poodles, man, you just know they couldnt steer. That didnt hurt.
Whys he growling at me like that?
I gave at the office, dude. Really. Cascade Mountain Sanctuary.
So is it wolves where youre supposed to play dead if they attack? Or is that bears? Nope, not thinking about large carnivores right now, that probably wouldnt be good. Uh, too late cause theres something dark and furry just beyond those really big blue leaves over there. And you can pretty much figure thats not some housecat whos been eating serious Friskies.
Backing up is good. Slowly backing up. Wait, whats got my wrist? Oh nonononono
Im half out of the chair, when I figure out its a warm hand wrapped around my arm, not a paw.
"Shit! Jim, you just scared the life out of me. Hey, hey Im sorry, I didnt mean to yell."
My hearts pounding. Jims cowering with his hands over his ears and red popsicle juice and a hurt look on his face. Crap. Whend it get so hot in here anyway?
"Its okay, big guy." I get Jims hands lowered and stumble to the bathroom to get a washcloth. A glance in the mirror makes me groan. I havent looked like this since I pulled five days straight to finish up my thesis. I havent felt like this since oh hell. A whole week with eight infected detectives and not a sniffle. A day with Typhoid Jim here and Ive got the beginnings of the virus from hell.
If this is what Jims throat feels like no wonder hes downing flavored ice like a rabid penguin.
"Hey." My patient has uncurled himself and is looking at me with a frown. "Just had to get me to join you for the ride, huh?"
Jim lets me wipe off the sticky cherry residue with the tepid cloth. Even leans into it a bit.
"Well if your throat feels as bad as mine, I can see why youve been devouring the sicles, man."
I swallow tentatively and wince. A glance at the clock shows a disheartening 6:15 and Ive promised Id take Al Cranstons eight oclock intro class for him.
Its the fever making me say this, I know, but right now Id give practically anything to trade places with Jim. I mean the mans got it made. Hot cocoas been produced. Sally didnt even have to be asked for waffles, they just magically appeared on a breakfast tray. He can lie comfortably in bed and watch TV all day.
Not that Sally didnt offer the spare bedroom, but theres no way I can play sick today. Havent been able to do that since I was a kid and Naomi would get off on feeding me organic chicken soup and checking my temp with the back of her hand.
While Jims distracted with his maple syrup I slip into the hall. Its lots easier on both of us if we can skip the goodbye scene. I can run by Natures Pantry on the way to class and grab a bottle of Echinacea. If that doesnt work Simons got that industrial-sized bottle of ibuprofen in his desk drawer.
Sally waves at me on the way out and for one last second the temptation to yield to the insidious invaders trying to make surrogate moms out of my cells is almost too great. I stop on the sidewalk and look back wistfully at the front door. I glance up to Jims window and see him looking out at me, one hand flat against the glass pane. With a sigh I wave and move on.
Before I start the car, I rest my head on the steering wheel. Tonight I gotta get some sleep. I can call and check on Jim when I get to the PD. Maybe Simon will take pity on me and let me go home. That way I can get those midterms graded at a decent hour. I mean Sally knows how to take care of Jim. Thats it. Class. Call about Jim. Use my best look on Simon and get home.
And no blue jungles I refuse to deal with any wild animals for the rest of the day.
And I mean that.