~~Missing scene from The Specialist~~
“What?” Hutch snapped back at his partner.
“Will ya stop pacing already! You’re wearing a path in the carpet and you sure ain’t buildin’ the yellow brick road. The feds won’t be happy having to pay for a replacement. Even if it’s only a few bucks.”
“Well, Starsky, if you must know, I’m going crazy in here. We should be out there, drawing Drew out of the shadows, instead of cowering in some cheap motel like some two-bit hustlers hiding out from their pimp.”
Starsky chuckled. “Hey, don’t talk like that about Huggy. He’s one of the decent flesh-peddlers. And I’m worth way more than two bits.”
Hutch exhaled loudly through his nose. “You know, there’s one thing I don’t understand.”
“Only one thing?” Starsky remarked with a snide upturn of one corner of his mouth.
Hutch rolled his eyes. “I don’t understand why you haven’t been… galloping around this stinking room. I mean, you’re the one who usually has ants in his pants.”
“Saving my energy to go dancin’ when this is all over.”
Hutch harrumphed, sounding just like Dobey, and halted in front of Starsky. “That explains why you’re hanging off the bed as if you’re some sort of bat.”
“You better hope I’m not the vampire sort. That long neck of yours would make having lunch a piece of cake.” Starsky smirked at the disdainful look Hutch nailed him with. “You look different upside down.” Now Starsky was staring at the infamous Hutchinson index finger accompanied by his equally infamous scowl. Far from being intimidated, Starsky said with contrived condescension, “Ah, c’mon, Hutch, lighten up. Why don’tcha go back to readin’ your book.”
“Finished it.” Hutch restarted the back-and-forth.
“Okay, then, let’s talk about somethin’ you find–” Starsky waved his hand around as he sought the right word — ”comforting. Tell me some more about spending time on your granddad’s farm.”
Hutch smiled, and his expression turned from irritated frustration to peaceful nostalgia. His speed slowed to a crawl. For several laps, he quirked a smile. Then, it was gone. “Good try, partner, but I don’t want to lose my edge waiting for nothing to happen here.”
“Okay. Just tryin’ to help out my antsy-pantsy friend. What if –?”
Hutch cut Starsky off with a growling, “You know where you can stuff those what-ifs.”
Starsky closed his eyes and shook his head. “I was just gonna suggest, before you so rudely interrupted me, that you splash some cold water on that cute mug of yours. The shock will derail your brain-train.”
Hutch stopped mid-stride and stumbled. “My brain-train? Where did you come up with–never mind. So why would I want to derail my brain? It’s the only thing that’s keeping us alive.”
Starsky looked properly annoyed. “It’s just an expression, Hutch. You probably worked up a sweat anyways. Maybe even shower. Now get your caboose in the bathroom. Drew could find us by your B.O.”
“Doubt it. Yours is dominating mine. And I’m not ‘cute.’” Hutch huffed and strode for the bathroom. Before shutting the door, he turned back toward Starsky and said, “By the way, Starsky?”
“You are most definitely not cautious.”
Starsky waited to laugh until the door was closed. Working his way back to lying on the bed rather than suspended from it, he thought, Wonder if he got that hint for my Christmas present through that thick skull of his. Now, what for him? … Got it!
~~Tag to Nightmare~~
Starsky caught the delectable aroma of pizza–Ah! Smells like an Antonio’s Special!–before Hutch’s foot pounded on the door.
“Open up, Starsk! Hands full here!”
Starsky smiled at the unexpected visit from his best friend. He laid his tattered copy of his open book face down on the coffee table and exuberantly jogged the few steps to the door. He grinned at Hutch, hair ruffled from the wind, listing toward his left where the two six-packs of Michelob were tucked between arm and ribs, and barely keeping the pizza box parallel to the floor.
His hunger greater than his thirst, Starsky opted for grabbing the pizza. “Hey! What’s the occasion? Thought you had a date with that new traffic cop, uh…” Starsky struggled to remember her name–much too difficult a task with his mind on salami, pepperoni, cheese, olives, and more.
“Madeline. She got hit by a car.” Starsky’s eyes widened in alarm. Hutch shrugged as he moved the cartons around until each hand carried a pack. “She’ll be fine. Some bruises and a broken arm. She’s staying with her mother for the next few days.”
“Think I’ll send her some flowers to cheer her up.”
“Hey–you trying to horn in on my woman?”
Starsky placed the pizza on the dining table. “This was gonna be your first date, buddy boy. What, afraid of the competition?” he teased.
“If you’re the competition, absolutely not. Come on, let’s chow down.”
Starsky pulled two plates from the cabinet while Hutch used the church key to open four beers. A minute later, they were deep into their first slices.
Halfway through the pie, Hutch slowed down enough to start a conversation. “I see you’re reading A Tree Grows in Brooklyn again. Feeling homesick?”
“Nah, my home is here,” Starsky, gazing directly into Hutch’s bright blue eyes, replied around the pizza cud. “It’s more like people-missin’.” He finished chewing and swallowed. “Playing with Lisa the other day reminded me of a kid who lived a couple doors down from us in New York.”
“Yeah?” asked Hutch, seeming to be genuinely interested in the story.
“Yeah. Charlotte was, you know, special, like Lisa. Real sweet kid. When I told her I could make her taller than anybody she knew, she begged me to show her.” He sighed, smiling wanly at the memory. “So I taught her how to climb trees. When we were up in ‘em, she thought she really was that tall. She loved that. Wanted to do it even in the winter.”
“When you go back to visit your mom, do you see her?”
A flicker of melancholy crossed Starsky’s face. He tried to hide it behind a long pull of alcohol, but knowing how observant Hutch was, he was pretty sure Hutch noticed it. “Nope. She died from the flu, about a month after my bar mitzvah.” He inhaled deeply, trying to temper the sorrow he let show. “She gave me the best present.”
Hutch’s eyes began to glisten. “Really sorry, buddy. She sounds like she was special in more ways than one.”
“She was. Like Lisa, ya know?”
Hutch nodded his agreement. “What was the gift?”
Starsky felt his throat start to burn, so he went for his second bottle of beer and chugged a generous amount, even though he knew it was no remedy for what he was feeling. “It was… a leaf offa our favorite tree to climb. She put it between two pieces of plastic and taped the edges closed.” He paused, trying to control the burn that now inflicted his eyes. When he finally spoke, his voice vibrated lightly. “I loved it. Me, a smart-ass, tough, thirteen-year-old boy lovin’ a leaf.”
“That sounds… beautiful, Starsk. Will you show it to me one of these days?”
Don’t freakin’ cry, you softie. Not in front of Hutch. At least not about this. “The bag it was in when I moved out here that summer was stolen sometime during the bus trip.”
They fell back into silence for a few minutes until Starsky said, “I’m full. You want more?”
Hutch sighed. “No, I’m good.”
“Open us a couple more beers? I’ll put up the leftovers.”
It was impossible for Starsky to miss the contemplative look on Hutch’s face. He knew Hutch was thinking, probably plotting some way to make him feel better. At the moment, he didn’t care, though he appreciated Hutch’s eternal caring. Instead, he had begun savoring his relationships with his two special ladies–warm memories of Charlotte and fun real time with Lisa.
~~Tag to Little Girl Lost~~
After brunch with the Dobeys’, an early dinner at the Ramoses’, and an open house at Huggy’s apartment, Starsky and Hutch were ready for some downtime. They decided to finish the long holiday celebration at Hutch’s with the intention of getting somewhat wasted on a traditional Scandinavian mulled wine.
Hutch sat at one end of his sofa with his feet propped on the coffee table, wedged there by Starsky whose back was slanted against Hutch’s side, head in Hutch’s armpit, and feet propped on the arm rest. The only light was coming from the television. They were watching It’s a Wonderful Live for the fourth time this season–to Hutch’s dismay–with the sound off so Starsky could sing or hum along with the Christmas songs playing on a local radio station. Starsky knew he was well on his way to sauced when he couldn’t recall the lyrics to Jingle Bells. He smiled, thinking, Good thing I’m stayin’ over tonight.
“Hey, Hutch,” he said during a commercial break.
Starsky smiled again; Hutch was obviously feeling pretty mellow. “This clogg –”
“Glogg, Starsk. Guh-looogg-guh.”
Starsky tittered at Hutch’s elongation of the spirit’s name. It wasn’t so much a correction as it was a display of his growing inebriation. “Oh, yeah, I knew that. Anyways, I was sayin’, this glogg is good stuff. How come we never had it before?”
“Dunno. Don’t care. Hey, are you still up for Chinese? Great Wall is delivering tonight.”
“Maybe in a little bit, when my eyes uncross.” He scooted up a little so he could rest his head on Hutch’s bicep. “Been wondering why you got me a tree. I mean, you had to know I wanted a caboose. I musta mentioned it a dozen times.”
“I know. But I thought a tree would be a much better, more meaningful gift.”
“Like how? It ain’t even planted in my yard.”
Hutch took a sip of the cooling glogg. “It’s not your yard. It’s the landlord’s. So I’ll tell you why if you tell me why you got me an ant farm. An ant farm, Starsk? Isn’t that a bit… childish, even for you?”
“What–you don’t like it?” Without meaning to, Starsky’s hurt came through.
“It’s okay, I guess. I am glad you didn’t give me a toilet bowl full of bugs. I just don’t see the purpose.”
“Then lemme ‘splain it to ya.”
“All ears, buddy.”
Starsky imagined Hutch as a bunch of ears and giggled. Shaking that image out of his head and forcing himself to tame his buzz, he said, “‘Member when we were in that roach’n’rat motel hiding out from Drew? You were all nervous, wearing the carpet down, I called you antsy-pantsy.”
“How could I forget? You were practicing for your Broadway debut as Count Chocula.” Hutch snickered at his thin barb.
“Umm. Got any here? Maybe we could eat that instead of egg fool young.”
“No.” Hutch took a gulp of his drink this time. That emphatic negative had the unexpected effect of sobering them up a little.
“Okay, okay.” Starsky drained the rest of the spicy wine in his mug, which he put on the table, then smacked his lips. “So, you remember that I got you to think about being with your granddad on his farm? You got nice and sorta relaxed.”
It was several seconds before Hutch responded. “Yeah, I remember,” he said fondly. “That did help, babe.”
Starsky elbowed Hutch’s ribcage. “Smart-ass.”
“Takes one to know one.”
“Is that the best you can do?”
“In my current state, uh, yesssssss.”
Oh, yeah, he ain’t feelin’ much pain. “I got it for you to look at, like that fish tank at my dentist’s office, when you’re stressed. They scurry around while you do nothing but watch and be thankful you’re not one of them. I didn’t get you an aquarius ‘cause you’d probably go fishin’ for supper in it.” He chuckled at this new image of Hutch with his half-body fisherman condom on and that stupid hat and vest with all the fishing stuff stuck in them, dipping his baited line in the tank. “Think of it as an ant farm, not an ant farm. So you’ll think of the times with your granddad.”
Hutch took in several short, stacked breaths and laid his head on Starsky’s. “That’s really… nice, Starsk. I do like it.”
“There’s more to it. This is gonna knock your socks off, babe.”
“Do I have time to take my shoes off?”
Starsky snorted a laugh, though he wasn’t quite sure if Hutch was smarting off or if he was no longer aware he’d removed his shoes a while ago. He checked his own feet to assure himself his rides were off. “Clam up and listen, willya? Remember when we helped out that rancher who got beat up and robbed when he was in town during the Bicentennial celebration?”
“Think so. Percy… Percy…”
“Albright,” Starsky finished. “Got in touch with him a couple weeks ago. Said you could come out to his place any time. You could help out with the chores if you want. He’s got chickens, and goats, and cows, and a couple-a horses. Probably some dangerous farm implements, too. I’d stay away from those if I were you when you go play Mr. Green Jeans.”
For what seemed like a long time, Starsky thought Hutch had fallen asleep; he was so still and quiet. But when his friend sniffed a few times, he knew Hutch was deeply affected by the second half of his present.
“That’s so… fantastic, Starsk. I’m, well, I don’t know what to say ‘cept thanks.”
The heartfelt sincerity of Hutch’s soft words filled Starsky with the satisfaction that he’d given his friend something he so richly deserved and that he truly appreciated it. The warm glow he felt in his belly wasn’t only due to the glogg.
Starsky waited until he thought Hutch was ready for more talk before he asked, “Your turn, schweetheart. Tell me about the tree.” He moved his head side to side a few inches to rub his head against Hutch’s.
“Okay. After you told me about Charlotte, I got the inspiration for a tree. I called your mom and asked if she knew which tree was your and Charlotte’s favorite. She was pretty sure it was an oak, so I called the Parks Department arborist and arranged for the planting of a smaller species of oak to be planted.”
Hutch’s gift was perfect. Only Hutch could think of something so perfect to touch his–Starsky’s–heart and soul. Starsky tried to blame the burn in his throat, which seemed to be occurring way too often lately to suit him, on the wine but knew better.
“I love it, Hutch, and I ain’t even seen it yet.”
Starsky didn’t know if he could take any more. He was so full of emotion–joy, gratitude, love–and so aware of being loved. This scene was bordering on alarmingly soapy and his tears were too close to spilling. Against his better judgment, Starsky whispered, “What?”
“Hope you don’t mind, but I named your tree ‘Charlotte.’ I’m getting that and ‘Reborn 1976’ engraved on a memorial brick. Maybe on the anniversary of your bar mitzvah, we could place it at the tree’s base.”
Now it was Starsky’s turn to stay silent as he struggled to contain his overflowing heart. When he finally spoke, his voice practically pulsated with intense emotion. “Yeah, sounds terrific.” Christ, Davey, you’re such a sentimental schmuck.
Hutch dropped his forearm off the back of the couch and patted Starsky’s trunk. “It’s a date then.”
“Thanks, Hutch. Merry Christmas.”
“Right back atcha,” Hutch responded with a Minnesota colloquialism.
“You’re the best, ya know. Love you.”
“Love you, too, Starsk.”
Starsky wiggled around until he was on his side, head on Hutch’s lap, face toward the TV. He was emotionally drained and full at the same time, which had exhausted him. He felt certain Hutch was experiencing the same thing. He drew in a deep breath, and it smelled of wine, spices, sweat, and, best of all, Hutch.
A second later, Starsky felt Hutch’s hand lazily stroking his curls. His eyes began to droop but he managed to temporarily abort their closing when he saw Zuzu point to the ringing bell.
“Clarence got his wings,” Hutch said in a contented, sleepy, musical voice.
They were asleep before George Bailey read the inscription in his new copy of Tom Sawyer.