Don’t we own them by now? Haven’t we been doing this longer than the
show aired? Sure. Don’t I have
them in my basement? Oh yeah.
Fifty one ain’t bad.
Thanks to TSL for the wonderful pressies! Thanks to Gersh for her friendship and
Greenie, we’re with you, girl! JC? Love you.
- the sequel: Heard this song by Five for Fighting called *Superman (It’s not
easy)* and it screamed you-know-who. If
you haven’t heard it, buy it. Anyway, it inspired this bit of nonsense.
Don’t blame Five for Fighting, they’re terrific!!!
Summary: Jim discovers how much and how little he knows about Blair....
Not Easy To Be Me
can’t stand to fly~~
the hell is this man? Jesus Christ, I’ve known him for three years—and I
don’t know him. How is that possible?
I know a few things, sure. I know he’s afraid of heights - sometimes. I know
the cold bothers him. I know he uses his hands and words and thus manages to
weave stories and spells. I know he’s a flim-flam man, smoke and mirrors. I
know he’s my equal.
know he’s pushy and a push-over. A guy can spit in his face and he’ll turn
the other cheek. Another guy can call him a hippie wannabe and he’ll try to
extract the man’s heart through his throat. I know that he’ll go out of his
way to drive around a snail in the road - yet use a Cree spear on a trout. Okay,
maybe that one was unfair. He never speared anything but my big toe with that
know that he’s slept beneath me for three years and he mumbles in his sleep.
Mostly nonsensical stuff that only the angels could decipher, but he sleeps with
ha. You’re wondering where the hell that came from, aren’t you? Just
something I read in one of his pseudo-pop psychology books. See, it’s like
this: Type A personalities sleep with clenched hands. Now I would have pegged
him as a definite Type A. Little did I know. He mumbles, sure, but he sleeps
peacefully, rarely changes positions and his hands are as open as his face.
I do know a great deal. But—
don’t know where he was born. I don’t know what his deepest fears are, yet
he knows mine. I don’t even know if he’s ever truly been in love, but I know
he was close with Maya, but only close. I don’t know if anyone has ever
really, truly broken his heart, but I know he breaks mine every day.
he like teaching? Beats me. Where did his interest in old cars come from anyway?
Hell if I know.
know he has heroes. Well, at least one: Orvelle Wallace. But were there others?
Who was his favorite author when he was growing up? I know he stole a microscope
once, but what other troubles did he get into?
the piano. He has a guitar and he strummed it once, but I’ve never had the
impression that he actually played anything, let alone the fucking piano. When
the hell did he have time for lessons? And who taught him? And why?
how do I know now? Because here we are, in my father’s home, and there Blair
sits—at the piano. My mother’s piano.
never been here, to my father’s house, 'til now. Dinner at the Ellison home,
whoopee. Dad’s not home yet, my fault. My paranoia about time. Had to be
early. Sally let us in, took our jackets, I introduced her to Blair and her eyes
just shone. Haven’t figured that one out yet.
Then we went into the family room. Not the living room—the family room.
there it was, just like always.
Steinway Concert Grand - made from Macassar Ebony.
little adorns it; a Lalique vase filled with lilies, two sterling silver framed
photos, one of Steven, one of me, and that’s it. Blair took one look at it and
shit, Jim. Do you know what that is?” he said as he pointed at the piano.
Chief, I think so,” I said dryly. “It’s been there as long as I can
cheeks went pink and he ducked his head and said, “Oops.” Then he lifted his
face up to me and grinned. “But do you really know? Do you play? Huh? Do
it down a notch, EB. You’re about to bounce your way outta here.”
My code for Energizer Bunny. He hates it. I got the grimace I love and smile in
return. “No, I don’t play. Steven does. Forced lessons from age 8 to high
walked over and ran his hand reverently over the smooth, dark, gleaming surface
and I know I’d never seen his eyes shine quite so brightly. It hit me then.
eyes never left the piano as he nodded. “Yeah, yeah, I do. A bit.
Kind of. Lessons all over the world at weird times.” He turned to me
and I could see the question burning a hole in his brain. I beat him to it.
right before my eyes, he turned into this—little kid.
I? You sure your dad wouldn’t mind?”
doesn’t play, Sandburg. Sit down, show me your stuff.”
think—he held his breath. I watched him walk over and carefully, as if it were
made of glass, pull the piano bench away a bit, then—he sat down.
sitting there now. Just—looking.
man, Jim. This is, this is—like—the pinnacle of pianos. Do you know what
this is made of? Huh? Do you?”
smile. “Macassar Ebony.”
he says, running his hand over the lid as he tenderly lifts it.
holds his hands out and lets them hover over the keys and I get this ridiculous
notion that he’s about to do the Sandburg version of Chopsticks, that he’s
been playing with me and doesn’t know an ebony from an ivory—but then—he
don’t know the music. It’s not a classical piece, nor any music I’ve ever
heard, but I’m completely captivated. I walk over to the piano and find myself
leaning against it, watching him play. I don’t think he knows I’m there.
melody is almost bittersweet. It’s gentle, soft and simple, his playing:
intricate. I feel as though I should know the song, know it intimately, but I
don’t. I’ve never heard it in my life. I let it wash over me and through me
and my senses seem more alive than they’ve ever been.
I watch, I’m not in the least surprised to find that he plays with his whole
body. But gently. His shoulders move with the melody, his head, with his
fingers. Blair’s eyes are closed and there’s a small smile playing across
his lips and at that moment, all the love I’ve stuffed down for three years
threatens to break me apart.
not bouncing. He’s—quiet and gentle with the keys, his fingers, perfect for
the beauty of the instrument and the music. He’s different.
different. Older suddenly. Mature. Still.
song ends as softly as it started and I find I’m choked up. I clear my throat
as he opens his eyes, then I cough, my fist against my mouth to muffle the
yes, you can most definitely play. That was—beautiful, Chief.
the song, I’ve never heard it and it’s wonderful.”
smiles and gets that embarrassed look again. “Oh, well, you’ve never heard
it because—well—I wrote it. I was twenty, brokenhearted, but hopeful.”
stunned. “You, you wrote that?”
nods and shrugs. “No biggie.”
No biggie. The guy wrote a song that choked up Jim Ellison.
else don’t I know about you, Chief?”
laughs then and I smile at the sound. “Oh, man, Jim, I’m an open
But—there were a couple of summers when I supported myself—“
know,” I say, my hands in the air, “You drove a truck cross country with
yeah,” he chuckles, “that too. But later, well, piano bar. Great tips.”
don’t burst my bubble here, okay? I’m very impressed so please don’t tell
me you sang Feelings. Just don’t tell me that.”
did, man, never did.”
Romantic mostly. Some hot stuff to get the crowd going, but mostly—soft, mushy
still hasn’t arrived and the smell of Sally’s cooking has filled the house,
but damn, I gotta hear him sing. I mean, that voice, as it is, has been my
salvation more times than I can count, so I know this man has got to be able to
starts to shake his head, then he sees my face, my eyes and he knows I’m
you asked for it. I didn’t sing this back then, but stuff—like it.”
me close, baby please, tell me anything, but that I’ve got to
listen and this time, his eyes aren’t closed. They’re fastened on me.
there’s no tears left to cry, 'til the angels close my eyes and
if we’re worlds apart, I’ll find my way back to you—by heart—“
was right about his voice. It’s rich and smooth and flows over me and fills me
in places I didn’t know I had.
father walks in just as Blair is finishing and I turn as Blair lifts his hands
from the keys.
I say, my voice husky with emotion.
smiles as he walks in and says, “Mr. Sandburg, you play.”
face is beet red and he quickly stands and carefully pulls down the lid. “Yes,
sir, a bit. It’s a beautiful piano, Mr. Ellison.”
father nods as if he created the thing, then says, “Smells like Sally’s
roasted chicken with forty cloves of garlic.” He turns to Blair.
“I hope you like garlic, young man.”
smiles broadly. “Very much, Mr. Ellison.”
may sound absurd~~
dinner was fine, the chatter ordinary unless Blair was doing the talking, but my
father didn’t let that happen much. We ate, we partook of a nice wine, then we
retired to the living room where dad served up a nice brandy. When we’d all
finished, well, that was the signal to say good-bye. I’m just not sure if it
was my signal or dad’s.
and I got up, got our jackets, Sally came out with a covered plate of left-overs,
which she shyly handed to Blair. Then I shook my father’s hand and he said,
“Good to see again, Jimmy. And Mr. Sandburg, glad you could come. The last
time we met, well, not the best circumstances.”
you for inviting me, Mr. Ellison. The dinner was delicious.”
were walking out the door and dad was saying how he hoped there’d be more
nights like this one and maybe next time, Steven would make it and it would be a
real family get-together. Huh-uh.
got the gate open for Sandburg, who had his hands full with the platter of
chicken and probably apple pie and a few other goodies. I waved at dad, who was
still standing on the porch and as I got the truck door open for Blair, dad
finally went inside. The door shut and the porch light went out.
ride home was quiet. Mostly my fault. I had the feeling that I’d missed
we got home, Blair put the food away, then walked into his room. He left the
French doors open as he changed because he was talking the whole time. About
dad, about the dinner, about how dad was really trying and that was a good
thing. I listened, I changed, I locked up—and still, I knew I was missing
words of the song that Blair sang, the way he sang it, haunt me, but don’t
help me find what I’m missing—
just about to find the better part of me~~ Five for Fighting
kind of life puts Blair and a piano together twice in one week? My life.
next two days go quickly, crime moves on, we stop a few bad guys. On Thursday,
while Sandburg and I are in the cafeteria at the courthouse, where we’re due
to testify that afternoon, I find out more about Blair and pianos. Over beef
dipping a chunk of roll in beef juice and says without really thinking, “Well,
other than a couple of jam sessions with Henri—three years.”
years. A coincidence?
That’s how long you’ve lived with me.”
nods as he chews. When he swallows, he says, “Explosion. Home goes boom. Ring
know my forehead is wrinkled cause I’m frowning. I take a deep breath.
Sandburg? Are you saying that you had—a piano—in the warehouse?”
nods as he munches a fry. Food pushed to the corner of his mouth, he says,
“Not anything like your dad’s, just a nice little Steinway.”
I’m not only a detective, but in case you’ve forgotten,” I lean in close,
“I’m also a you-know-what. I think if there’d been a piano in that place,
I’d have seen it.”
was covered. Cold, big, drafty, remember? And there were books on it. Lots of
wrack my brain, try to picture that huge room and I do see something large,
covered and littered with books. “Well, I’ll be damned. And it was destroyed
in the explosion?”
the first time, his face clouds over, his eyes going dark. “Yeah, yeah it
I know the subject is closed. He immediately launches into the afternoon and
Judge Knotts and whether either of us will be called on time.
Friday, Joel tells us all about a new club on the west side of Cascade. He talks
us all into going and by seven, Sandburg and I are walking into the Blue Note.
We’re both pleasantly surprised. It’s small, intimate and the lighting is
very easy on the eyes.
spots us and waves us over to a large table in the corner, next to the small
stage. Conner and Rafe are there and Bob Williams has Rhonda on his arm. Simon
is seated next to Conner, but I notice that Henri Brown is missing. I’m about
to ask when the lights dim and five musicians walk on stage. Blair sits up and
so do I. One of them is Brown.
is beaming and we all start clapping like crazy and saying, “Joel, you
so-and-so, why didn’t you tell us—“ but then the music starts.
is good. He plays guitar and his band, The Stragglers, is pretty darn hot. The
crowd gets behind them immediately. They play for forty minutes, then Henri
steps up to the mike. He taps it, then grins that huge smile of his as he
at this time, we’d launch into some songs with Ray over there singing,” he
indicates the tall guy at the piano. “But he had two teeth pulled this
afternoon and unless you all want to see a mouth full of cotton and guck, well,
he ain’t gonna warble a note.”
a chorus of, “Ahs” as the audience makes their sympathy and displeasure,
known. Henri holds up his hand and says, “But, I happen to know a fine piano
player in the audience. He sings and he didn’t have any teeth pulled today.
Maybe we can get him up here.” Henri steps in front of the mike and motions in
could have knocked everyone at our table over with a feather—well, except me.
I stood and clapped and in a few seconds, everyone else was encouraging him. He
rolled his eyes, muttered something about *getting even*, but he got up.
we sat down again, everyone was looking at me and I just shrugged happily and
said, “Just wait. Just wait.”
the toothless pianist, got up and looking relieved, turned his piano over to
Blair, who sat down. A microphone was set up and bent low so that Blair could
sing into it.
right,” Henri said with a grin. “We’re ready to make you all feel good.
Blair, you name it and we’ll follow along.”
shook his head, rolled his eyes, then said into the microphone, “Well,
there’s someone in the audience who has this favorite song, and, well, this is
for you, Detective Ellison.”
started playing. Feelings.
audience cracked up as Blair warbled it and Henri and his guys followed along.
Then Blair kicked it up and got everyone to sing along.
I stuck out my tongue at him.
he was done, he got a huge hand, then he launched into some real music. For the
next twenty minutes, romance, peace, love, humor and a silky, honey rich voice
ten, Henri’s band was coming to the end of their set and he turned to Blair.
“Last song, Hairboy. What’ll it be?”
pulled out a hunk of hair and said to the audience, “Ain’t he quick with the
nicknames?” Everyone laughed and clapped, then Blair said, “Well, I’m
thinking—a special song for two people I know.”
looked out into the audience and being a sentinel, I knew he was looking at me.
two people walk the same path, one with shorter strides than the other. They
know so much about each other and so little. Sometimes, I think, one would like
to walk a different path and doesn’t understand that the other would
walk—any path chosen. So for them, this song.”
lighting on the stage dimmed to nothing and at the first few notes on the piano,
the lighting went solo on Blair. He started to sing and it was clear this was
different. His voice changed, went softer and higher—and sad and rough.
can’t stand to fly, I’m not that naive. I’m just out to find the
part of me. I’m more than a bird, I’m more than a plane, I’m more
some pretty face beside a train. It’s not easy to be me—“
listened. I heard the words. I don’t think I blinked. It was dark in my
corner, but I could see Simon’s eyes widen at the lyrics and he turned
slightly and looked at me, then back to Blair.
may sound absurd, but don’t be naive, even heroes have the right to bleed. I
may be disturbed, but won’t you concede—even heroes have the right to
found what I’d been missing. I got the message. I really heard the words. Knew
what they meant. It was a song about both of us - separately and together.
Sentinel and his sidekick. Detective and his ride-a-long. Jim, William Ellison’s boy and Blair, Naomi’s son.
only a man in a silly red sheet, digging for Kryptonite on this one way
street—only a man in a silly red sheet, looking for special things inside of
me. It’s not easy—to be me.”
last note of the piano faded away with Blair’s head bowed. For a moment, there
was silence, then slowly people began to stand and applaud,
including the band. And us. And me. I glanced over at Simon and he
applause grew and finally Blair lifted his head and he blinked, then came back
to himself and grinned. He stood and joined Henri, who lightly cuffed his head,
then gave him a huge hug. I’m the only one who heard Henri’s whisper.
I kind of did. Finally.
stepped down and rejoined us as the lights came back up and Henri and his group
went backstage, their night of glory over. I pulled out Blair’s chair and he
sat down, careful to avoid my gaze. He wasn’t sure about me, about whether I
was talking at once, congratulating him, slapping him on the back and Simon sat,
arms crossed, a silly grin on his face. A few minutes later Henri came out and
took his spot at our table and as everyone turned their attention to him, I had
casually dropped my arm over the back of Blair’s chair and after a moment, I
settled my hand on the back of his neck. He was startled and looked at me from
the corner of his eye. I gave him a smug, *cat eating the canary* grin and
whispered, “Any path, huh?”
nodded as a small wrinkle showed up across the bridge of his nose.
leaned in close, my lips just touching his ear—
by side, Chief? Forever?”
wrinkle vanished. “Forever,” he whispered back.
up, up and away. It’s all right, you can all sleep sound tonight~~
have my hands over his eyes as I nudge him into the center of living room.
I’ve planned this very carefully. I turn him so that he’s facing the dining
room table and I drop my hands.
Flowers. The table is set for dinner. Champagne chills. We’ve been a couple
for two weeks. I’ve decided to celebrate. With my hands on his arms, I turn
him once last time.
you, Blair,” I say as I nod to the southern corner of the room. He follows and
his eyes widen.
I said, my father doesn’t play and Steven didn’t want it.”
walks over to it and sits down. His eyes are suspiciously moist.
yours, Chief, but you gotta tell me something?”
looking at me, he says, “What?”
were you born?”
you kidding? With Naomi? The original flower child? Where do you think?”
Francisco?” I ask, incredulous.
Haight Ashbury, no less.”
I be damned,” I say. Then I smile and add, “Play for me?”
dweeb played Feelings. I swear, he is not going to see our third week