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Debbie’s Story, Part One

 Debbie’s Story

A Jack Collier Story

By Brett N. Lashuay

 

 

Part One

November 8th

These are Days




 

These are days you’ll remember.

10,000 Maniacs

 

            I went to see Jack in the hospital again today. There hasn’t been any change, but the doctors said it would be a long trip back up, if he ever did make it back. He’s not getting worse though, so that’s something. At least I hope it’s something. Maybe the fact that he’s not making progress in either direction is just him being the way he’s always been. Whenever Jack gets depressed, he just ceases all movement, he burrows himself a little nest and stays there and he’d been depressed for a while before this happened.

 

            I keep thinking maybe if I yank him out of the bed by his hair and smack him with my purse. If I scream at him, if I shake him, if I hit him, maybe he would realize how much trouble he was in with me and would get up. Maybe if I threatened to leave him forever he would leap up and get back to work. I can’t do that of course, I don’t even really want to, but if there isn’t a threat of some kind he just sits there and waits.

 

            I talked to my sister again today. She keeps asking me why I just stay here. If everything is supposed to belong to me, why don’t I just go to the Chicago office and run things from there. Since we’re opening the new office in San Francisco, she thinks I should go there and oversee things. I don’t want to go though, because Jack is here. She doesn’t understand, no one understands except him.

 

            I suppose I could explain why I’ve stayed at his side for my entire adult life, but it would sound wrong. I can’t just say because I love him, because people would get the wrong idea. I don’t love him in the way a wife loves a husband, or a sister loves a brother or anything like that. I love him like a squire loves a knight, or maybe like a batman loves his captain. He’s always been there when I needed him and I’ve tried to be there for him when he needs me. When it started, it was lopsided towards him helping me and now it’s maybe a little lopsided with me helping him. I don’t mind though, he has a lot of credit at the moment.

 

            I suppose I should try to articulate what it was that has made it so Jack and I stay together, and if I decide to let other people read this, it might give people some insight into Jack too. I think people have got the wrong idea about him because of how he writes about himself. I’m not going to say Jack lies, but I am going to say that he puts things the way he sees them. The way he sees things isn’t quite the way they always are though, not when he looks at himself.

 

            He gives everyone the impression that he’s not very bright, even though he’s probably one of the smartest people I know. He’s got a mind that spins about five beats faster than anyone else’s, which is probably one of his problems. I think he’s hyperactive, or attention deficit or something like that, because his mind tends to scatter on occasion. He can’t always focus, and he gets frustrated easily.

 

            Still, I do love him, and if I don’t watch over him then who would? Besides, I owe him. He spent so long watching over me, being my friend, taking care of me. When I had pneumonia, he came over every day to take care of me. He was working on that big case finding out who had killed Cheney Boone at the time, but he still came over every day to feed me soup and make sure I was comfortable. He slept on my couch, if you could call what he did sleeping, since every time I woke up suddenly he was at the door asking if I needed anything. If I’d had to be on my own, I probably would have shriveled up and died.

 

            That’s just one example, just a slice of how he’s taken care of me over the years. He’s always taken care of me though, since the first time we me. I’ve never had a moment when he wasn’t trying to take care of me. He’s the best protector a girl could hope for.

 

           

 

 

 

 

I should probably start when I met him, even though the story doesn’t take place then. I met him early in my freshman year, when he was a sophomore. The reason I stay with him though, that takes place in the summer after my senior year. I think I should start with our first meeting though, because I think it says something about how things would go between us for a while. Maybe it says something about the debt, and why I’m still paying it out.

 

            It was lunch, in the West Building of Chippewa Valley High School, when they still had a West Building and an East Building and Fine Arts Building. In my senior year they connected the West and Fine Arts together and made East Center a middle school. Not that it matters, but you sort of have to understand that there were three buildings and two lunch rooms one in East and one in West. The East building needed its own lunch room because it was something like a quarter mile from the East Center to the West Building. I was in West, because my lunch fell between two classes that were both in West.

 

            Someone had thought it would be a clever idea to start a betting pool on what color underwear the freshmen girls with skirts were wearing that day. My mother was still insisting I dress like some sort of catholic school girl, and this still being September I had let her have her way. It was easier to let her have her way until October and then let my sister decide she’d had enough of the dress code and have the fight with my mom.

 

            It is probably fortunate for me that my mother would never let me wear any interesting underwear and that I had to wait until college to get into the silk and lace collections I keep today. That day, I think it would have been worse if I hadn’t been wearing simple white cotton. I had my bag over one shoulder and the lunch tray in my hands when someone grabbed the end of my skirt and yanked it up, exposing my bottom to the school.

 

            “White!” The guy brayed to his friends. “Just normal white.”

 

            He shoved my shoulder to show his friends and I have to say with some shame that I just stood there and let him. There are days now, when I try to flash my panties to people just to see if they’re watching, but at the time it was the single most humiliating thing that had ever happened to me. I just stood, my hands trembling and my cheeks getting so red I could almost see the heat coming off my face.

 

            I remember wondering why no one was doing anything. I even saw a hall monitor, doing double duty as a lunch room monitor, take three steps toward me. When she stopped and didn’t do anything more, I guessed that she had decided that a freshman wasn’t worth the effort. Fortunately, that wasn’t exactly what was happening. At the time though, as tears were starting to spill down my face, I felt like I was being abandoned to whatever fate this monster had in store for me.

 

            Then there was motion, and as I look back, I suppose the Hall Monitor had seen him coming up behind the guy. I’m not sure exactly what he did, but I know he got a few fingers into the guy’s neck and pushed his head down to the laminated surface of the table in front of us. There was a bang and I turned my head around to see the guy with his face pressed into the table.

 

            Three of his buddies got up and I saw a dark brown fedora turn towards them. He looked like he could eat an iron bar and shit nails. His eyes were so cold that you could almost see frost forming in the field of his vision, which is strange because he actually has the warmest gaze of anyone I’ve ever met. Right then, it was like he had some sort of freeze ray attached to his optic nerve. He looked like the sort of person who could take on the entire world, if only it would throw the first punch and give him an excuse.

 

            “Sit the fuck down!” were the first words I heard Jack Collier say as he pointed his free hand at the group of leather jacketed guys who were starting to get up.

 

            It must have looked strange, a single guy in a trench coat and fedora yelling at a pack of Italians who must have all been a foot taller and at least a hundred pounds heavier than him. He wasn’t even having to keep the guy he’d grabbed in any complicated hold, just a couple of fingers pressed hard into pressure points. Most people might have thrown a punch, but Jack just grabbed people by the neck and smacked them into something. I’ve never, to this day, seen him punch anyone. He’s more the type to hit things with people than to waste his knuckles.

 

            “My fuckin’ neck.” The guy Jack had grabbed yelled, complaining as if he hadn’t done anything.

 

            “You are going to apologize to the frosh.” He didn’t make it a question, or even a suggestion. His was voice so calm he might have been talking about tax codes. He likes to play like he’s never sure of things, but when he’s angry he just tells you how things are going to be. “Apologize right now, or I’ll break your motherfucking neck.”

 

            “Fuck yoaaAAH!” The guy screamed as Jack grabbed his ear and twisted it in a way I would watch him do a lot of times in the next four years.

 

            “Tell her you’re sorry or I’ll pull your fucking ear off.” He snarled.

 

            “Sorry.” The Guy said.

 

            “Sorry for flipping her skirt and telling the whole room what color undies she has?” He asked.

 

            “Yeah.” He said. “Sorry about that.”

 

            “Say it.” He might have been telling a dog to sit, or a cat to get off the couch. He was commanding, but he was so far from angry that it was a little scary. Like what the hell would he do if he ever got angry?

 

            “Sorry for flipping your skirt and showing everyone!” He shouted.

 

            “And if I catch you doing it again, will I tear your fucking ear off?”

 

            “Yeah.” the guys said.

 

            “Good, now get the fuck out of my sight you piece of shit.” He let him go and took three steps back.

 

            The guy got up, and towered over Jack who was a bit short in those days because he still had a couple of growth spurts coming up. I thought that this was going to be the start of an apocalyptic battle or at least a long standing grudge that would lead to an arch nemesis. I almost expected him to throw a punch, even with everyone watching. Strangely though, that was the end of it, right there. No one bothered him about it that I ever heard about, not even the hall monitor who was standing just a few feet away.

 

            “You okay?” He asked turning towards me.

 

            It was like someone had flipped a switch in his head when he turned. The guy who’d started it had walked off, and Jack didn’t need to be mean anymore. His dark brown eyes were… it was like watching something go from a solid to a liquid. I think his eyes actually changed color. They were nearly black when he was looking at the guy, and they were still dark but they were defiantly brown when he turned to me. There had been a warmth that had suddenly come in, like someone lighting a match and touching a gas line. I said that there had been frost forming in the line of his sight, but now I almost felt my hair being blown back by the wave of warmth coming off him. I know he doesn’t know this, but I almost had to catch my breath looking at him.

 

            “Yeah.” I said.

 

            “Okay.” He said and walked back to his table in the far corner where he and his friends sat.

 

            It was not an instant friendship, I’m not sure we talked at all for the next month or so. He did notice me in the halls though, and he would nod or wave to me when we passed. That seemed to mark me, but not in a bad way. Him waving and nodding to me wasn’t a scarlet letter, but in a way it sort of was. He had put his mark on me or something. It was like by nodding and smiling at me he was letting everyone know that it would get back to him if someone bothered me. I know that I wasn’t bothered after that first time, but then there was good reason not to.

 

            We didn’t start hanging out until my junior year, which was well after he gave up on school. He had failed a few classes by then and I think we all knew he wasn’t going to be standing up in robes and a stupid hat. I think he knew he would never be wearing the cap and gown, but he thought it was for a different reason than I did. Jack is one of the smartest people I’ve ever met, but he doesn’t think so. I think he’s got some sort of learning disorder or other such personality thing, because he’s smarter than any of us will ever be, but he thinks he’s dumb because he did bad in school. I guess after so many years of people telling him he was either lazy or stupid he decided he was both and gave up on school. He’s not dumb though, he’s smarter than anyone.

 

            That’s not really important though, since this isn’t even a story about school. School was more or less over before this story starts. I mean we met Karen while we were still in school, but that part of the story doesn’t seem as important as what happened after school was over. I suppose I should talk about Karen and how things led up to that night.

 

            I should probably explain a lot about Karen. Karen and Jack and I, it all sort of revolved around us that summer I suppose. I can still sort of see her sometimes, with her arms around him, kissing him hard like she did on that summer’s day. It still gives me the same small twinge of jealousy that I felt the first time I saw it when I think about it now. Strange that this many years later I still feel that tiny bite of jealousy.

 

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May 6, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized | ,

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