Part 1: The Horse
Charlie sat up in his bed before the sun had risen and his face, announcing that he is seriously aware ofJacksonsitting on the bony and cushionless armchair, relaxed and a few words stumbled out.
“The nurse’s office is down the hall if you’re lost.” This is his way of asking Jackson what, of the many possible options, was wrong with him for being up this early. Charlie was usually sharper in the mornings before his memory seemed to get lost.
It was no aberration forJacksonto be found in Charlie’s room the day after a failed attempt and whether or not Charlie minded or not he didn’t say. Either he was just used to it or he never remembered it happening enough to be bothered –if indeed anything really bothered Charlie.
Their rooms were across the building from each other so when the lingering disappointment of still being in the home kept him awake –or perhaps the rambunctious neighbors-he would make his way to the other side of the building, being sure to avoid the guards to where it was much quieter and he could think in peace; at least until Charlie woke up.
“I don’t have time.” At the sound of Jackson’s words Charlie sat up again
“What was that?” Jackson had to think about what he said.
“I’ve been doing this for a year and I haven’t gone anywhere. I’m not getting younger.”
“Look around, none of us are. Some things you cant stop coming.” Charlie wasn’t making any jokes which meant he was getting sleepy again.
“I’m not trying to live any longer, I just don’t wanna die here.” He might have heard Jackson before he nodded off. This is his way of saying “Stop feeling sorry for yourself” Sometimes Jackson felt that he was the only one in that hell-hole that spoke “Charlie”
Part 2: The Breakfast Boogie
The dining hall at was like a high school classroom at 2:58: everyone was waiting for whatever was going on to get going so they could go do something else. The difference was here they had nothing better to do. The only thing that doesn’t get old in a place where time stands still is meaningless bitching and if someone bit back it just made things all the more interesting. Most of them weren’t even aware of it. It was simply all they had. It was like they all had a baseball to bounce against a prison wall whether they knew it or not.
This made things harder for Jackson being around people who reminded him so distinctly of where he knew he didn’t want to be. See, at times he could emerse himself in it all and forget that he could be somewhere else but it felt wrong to him-as if he were giving up.
Today, however, everyone was in rare form. Charlie was hungover from the night before-he had a personal supplier of booze- and Marilynn was already getting into it with Lars, the stringent Presbyterian.
He was in the Home for ceaselessly lecturing his children. He alienated them by
only reaching out to them with discipline and tireless ritual. They all either disowned him or were disowned for being atheists.
“Charlie, tell the slut to pass me the ketchup.” He was talking about Marilynn.
“Look ‘holy man’ if you want your precious ketchup youre going to have to be nice to me for the whole meal.” He hated being called that. “no one is holy” he would say.
“Charlie, tell the floozy that I won’t need the ketchup after the meal is done.”
“Well then you can have it for the next one then cant you?’ She let out a smile with an air of satisfied victory. The religious man responded by slowly moving forward in his seat and reaching for the hot water.
Jackson, and avid player of chess, didn’t even see that coming. The hot water was exclusively Marilynn’s because everyone else at the table drank coffee and it took damn near an act of God for a guard to refill the hot water so for Lars to take the only means of her morning tea was an act of treason.
“Lars” Marilynns voice was serious and pleading. Charlie spoke up in a tired, and quite annoyed voice as fits someone severely hung over.
“Lars, buddy, nobody wants this.” He spoke half-hearted like a conflict counselor going through the motions.
At this point Jackson stood up and left. Breakfast hadn’t come and he didn’t much care because all he wanted was to get the hell out of there and spend some time alone. Nodding Oscar was always in the game room sleeping behind a chess game and sitting there, making the moves for both of them sounded much better to him than listening to this racket.
They all stopped bickering and watched him leave.
No one had missed breakfast for years. Even with all the bitching, mealtime was a time of communion. It was the only real event of the day that wasn’t half-heartedly thrown together to make it look like they were cared about (not that the food was by any means an indication that they were cared for) and it was the few thing they could all look forward too.
This was an act of treason worse than stealing the tea,
“Charlie, tellJackson to come back.” Marilynns face was sincere.
Part 3: Moving Pieces
It took Charlie much longer to get anywhere in the Home because he was usually stopped by one of the guards who was understandably suspicious of the old prankster.
Most of them had been victims of his at one point or another (the coffee pot is now guarded for fear of Charlie) and the onse that hadnt yet were probably too new to have been targeted. If the old sprite had the memory for it he would initiate every new guard with a special prank but he thought half the guards were new because he couldn’t remember them and to initiate half the guards is exhausting. It has always been Charlies opinion that mischeif should not feel like work; it should most definetly be something that happens with spontenaety with an epiphany.
So if you were a guard there and you saw Charlie walking around with his robe undone over his sleeping wardrobe (which always varied in modesty) sunglasses on (the old man still being hungover) and looking around with a sense of urgency you would peobably stop him and try to figure out what sort of mischief he was up to. The hungover resident had figured out how to dodge the guards a while ago and it still took him just as long to get to his destination but he would much rather have the satisfaction of not being caught by the gaurds.
By the time he had finally made his way to the game room whereJackson, in self-absorbed gloom, was playing chess with Nodding Oscar, Charlie was more than ready to get the gloomy old man back to breakfast. Besides, his memory was getting fuzzy and soon he wouldn’t be able to keep a conversation going for too long.
Jacksonlooked up at him from behind Oscar, noticed him, moved the chess piece, and turned the board around to play the other side. There was a part of Jackson that didn’t like talking to Charlie when during the more lucid moments of his friends consciousness. He was more fun to talk to when he didn’t know what was going on.
Charlie sat down between the sleeping man and the one that was awake. He didn’t say anything. He only lifted his sunglasses to rest on his round head sparsely covered with short grey hairs and waited forJacksonto speak.
This would be a very long time becauseJacksonwas about as stubborn as they come. He was from a time when God poured magma in the mold of man.
Charlie, on the other hand, was made of fire and couldn’t sit still long enough forJacksonto break the silence. His fingers tapped the table while his eyes bounced around the room.
“Kinda unfair, you have to move for him.”
“Don’t you ever feel like all your moves are made for you in this dump?”
“What? No!” Charlie tore his sunglasses off his face. What does that have to do with chess?”
“You’re coming in here to talk to me about breakfast right? I’m just saving you time.”Jacksonmade his move and switched the board. Charlies mind was starting to get hazy. He wasn’t all that clear on what happened at breakfast but he knew whatJacksonneeded to hear. As much as he hated to say anything directly, he would have to say his peace quickly or concede.
“Look man, sit here and stew if you want playing chess with yourself and when you’re ready to live in the real world, we’ll waiting for ya.”
“The real world isn’t in here”
Charlie put his sunglasses on as he walked out.
Part 4: Baked Beef
Previously on Bad Blood Bandits: Jackson, upset over not having escaped by now abandoned breakfast with Marilynne and Lars who eat at the table with Jackson and Charlie. Jackson has gone to the game room to be by himself where Charlie confronted him unsuccessfully on his selfish behavior.
Breakfast was more than simply communion of the damned; it was the time of day you were most likely to get a lucid conversation out of Charlie so it was really the only time of day when they were “all there” together. This being said, it was a most disturbing and heinous crime onJacksons part.
By the time Charlie returned Lars had already finished most of his breakfast and Marilynne was just staring at hers in reverence of the ritual that had been violated.
Charlie just sat there in a quiet and sustained rage at first but by the time breakfast was over it was more of a challenge just to remember what he was mad at.
Marilynne kept eying at him with a look of pity which only confused him because he knew he was mad but couldnt remember why and now he was being pitied. It was rare that Lars gave anyone attention so Charlie had a hard time reading him. With these and his anger being the only clues he had to deduce what had happened his world was becoming an increasingly confusing place.
All his problems were solved in one blow…
…or “puff” as the case may be.
To cure both his hangover and his confusion he consulted his herbal prescription and was baked much more than lunch was -this does not raise the bar very high, however, lunch would have to have been more on the side of burnt to catch up with how “well done” Charlie was.
The scene at lunch had not changed in tone, only reasons. It was still tense as before a fight when both sides are waiting for the other to make a move. In this case, however, there was a pause (not a stalemate) because of Charlies current state.
Jackson, seeing how far gone Charlie was, could not help but feel sorry for what he had driven his freind too but, seeing as how Charlie was unfit for action he was doomed to live with what he had done until the next morning when he could somehow try to mend the damages.
Part 5: Penance
Previously on Bad Blood Bandits: Jackson, having defiled the sacred right of breakfast and refused Charlie’s advice, is looking to mend his relationship with Charlie –something he can only do in the morning when Charlie is the most lucid- but Jackson, being the stubborn old man that he is, cant be too fond of admitting he was wrong.
“If you like it so much in here I can get Janine to sew your behind to the chair and make it permanent.” Said a hung-over Charlie when he awoke to seeJackson in his chair for the second morning in a row.
“If I knew you had minded I would’ve just stayed in my room and listened to the neighbors’ radio.” Jacksontried to keep his cool but when Charlie gets mad he starts giving lip and having to endure an Angry Charlie was bad enough when he didn’t know what he was talking about.
This morning, however, Angry Charlie didn’t want to fight. After a few minutes of silence that were unsure forJacksonthe sounds of snoring filled the room. Rather than give up and go to breakfast he waited for the sleeping Charlie to drift back into consciousness. When he didJacksonwas met again in Charlie fashion.
“Jackson?” called a sleepy and serious voice from the bed.
“D’you smell that?”
“Oh nothing I just thought I smelled a selfish twit.”
Jacksonwas used to this but usually when it was directed at Lars (the stringent Presbyterian at their table) as a joke or Janine in an attempt to goad her into doing something ridiculous. Being on the receiving end of this was much worse than he would have expected. Perhaps it was the reminder that normally he heard this when the two of them were causing some sort of mischief, something that would certainly not be happening with Charlie in this state.
There was another long intermission of silence before Charlie stirred again. This time he said nothing. Jackson knew he was being ignored and, as much as it almost gave him a stroke to admit he was wrong (he was Irish on his mother’s side) he would rather have Charlie at his side causing trouble than seeing him make trouble without him –even if he did go a little too far in Jackson’s opinion.
“Im going to go have breakfast. Beats sitting here talking to a log. If you see Charlie tell him I’ll try to behave but I cant make any promises.” Which was as close to an apology asJacksonwas going to get and for Charlie, it was all that was needed.
“Don’t be late you lazy bum. Lars might notice there’s more at the table than just the food.” Called the voice from the bed and a smile crept into the corner of Jackson’s wrinkled mouth.