December 6th: Good Time Charlie’s Got the Blues by Monica Rose Kiesel

This story is dedicated to Nancy Roots for inspiring it.

Starsky had seemed his usual self when Hutch walked into the squad room that morning. He’d told Hutch three bad jokes — two of them he’d told him just the week before; he’d told Minnie she looked smokin’; he assured Dobey that his new diet was working because he looked like he’d lost at least five pounds (he didn’t); and he paid Hutch the ten dollars he owed him without even being asked.

Hutch hadn’t asked why he was in such a good mood; one thing he’d learned being a cop was that while good things — good luck, good times, good weather, good moods — never lasted, questioning them could kill any of them on the spot.

Still, his partner was naturally upbeat, so Hutch didn’t think he’d been unreasonable to expect his cheeriness to make it through to lunch.

They were sitting at a spindly little table at a new Mexican place called Rosarita’s Eat-n-Go — a name Hutch sincerely hoped referred to Rosarita’s feelings about her customers rather than the effect her food would have on them. Hutch asked Starsky’s opinion on this, but Starsky was frowning at his taco as though he’d never seen one before.

“Starsk. You chose this place. You ever eaten here before?”

Starsky picked up his taco and bit into it before saying, almost unintelligibly, “Wha’d you say?”

“I should be asking you that,” Hutch said. “Are you all right?”

Starsky chewed a while. When he’d swallowed, he asked Hutch, very seriously, “You ever had a conversation with the new guy?”

“Charlie Robinson?” Hutch asked.

“No. No, he does not like Charlie. It’s Charles.”

“Oh.” Hutch realized he probably hadn’t talked to Charles Robinson, because if he had, he’d know that. “I keep hearing people calling him Charlie. How did you find out he doesn’t like it?”

“Well,” Starsky said carefully, and he seemed confused by what he was saying, “I think that’s what he was talking about.”

Now Hutch was confused. “What?”

“You never talked to the guy?” Starsky practically pleaded with him.

“No. Maybe said hello, but nothing — why? What’re you so — ” Hutch couldn’t come up with a word to describe him. Discombobulated, maybe. “I saw you talking this morning. What did he say to you?”

“I’m not sure,” Starsky said. “There are things bothering him.”

“What kind of things?”

“I don’t know! He didn’t say!”

“Then how do you know — Starsky, what did this guy say to you?”

“OK. He was here when I came in this morning — I had to come in early to get a ride with Peggy, so I got here before you — ”

This sounded like the beginning of a return to the argument they’d had about why Hutch couldn’t pick him up, and Hutch did not want that. “Right. You got here early.”

“Yeah, so I clocked in, then I took my break early, not long after you got here. He was in the cafeteria when I went in and so I sat with him. I asked him how things were going, did he like it here?”

Starsky stopped talking. He looked very puzzled.

Hutch was getting irritated. “And? What did he say?”

“He said — And don’t yell at me, I’m going my best to quote him direct. He said, ‘Not so good. You know. It’s like that.'”

That hardly seemed like it required the brainpower Starsky was affording it, but Hutch stayed quiet and waited.

“I asked him what was wrong and he said, ‘Some people don’t really listen, you know? You tell ’em a thing, but they–‘” Starsky stopped, frowning.

“‘But they’–what?” Hutch demanded.

“I don’t know! That’s just where he stopped, like it was a complete sentence! Then he said, ‘And what am I going to do? I mean, it is what it is. It’s like this all over. It’s just how things are.'”

Hutch had so many questions, but he just asked, “What did you say to that?”

“Well I wanted to ask him what he was talking about! But I said, ‘Yeah, I hear ya,’ because — I don’t know why! And I asked if he’d talked to the Cap’n about it, and he gave me this — pitying look! and said, ‘I really can’t talk about it. But it’s not a good sign when they all get your name wrong.'”

“He really couldn’t talk about what?” Hutch asked. He was starting to feel a bit desperate. “Whether he’d talked to Dobey, or what they talked about?”

“I don’t know! I said, ‘He got your name wrong? What did he call you?’ And he said, ‘Everybody thinks they’re your best friend all of a sudden, and what are you going to do?'”

“What does that mean?” Hutch asked. He was beginning to see why Starsky’s good mood had evaporated. He was starting to feel a bit surly himself.

“I don’t know! I think maybe it means people are calling him Charlie instead of Charles. I called him Charles, and he patted me on the shoulder and said he knew he could count on me.”

“O — K — ,” Hutch said slowly.

“I asked if he was having any other problems — ”

“Sure, because he can count on you,” Hutch said, and finally Starsky laughed.

“Yeah, we’re best pals now. Anyway, he said, ‘There are so many problems, but, you know, I can’t really talk about them.’ I tried to get him to tell me what kind of problems they are — I said, ‘So, what kind of problems are you having?’ but he just shook his head and thanked me for being such a good friend, and he left!”

Well. That simultaneously explained everything and nothing. Starsky seemed to be in a better mood, but Hutch wasn’t feeling so hot anymore.

“He’s only been here a week,” Starsky said. “How many problems could he possibly be having?”

“If people calling him Charlie instead of Charles is his idea of a huge problem, he could have thousands,” Hutch said.

“You got a point. Hutch, I don’t want to talk to him anymore.”

“I don’t blame you,” Hutch said. But he had decided he was going to seek Charles Robinson out to talk to.

The next morning, Hutch came in early and went immediately to the cafeteria for a cup of coffee. Charles Robinson was there, an untouched bagel on a paper plate in front of him. He was frowning at it disapprovingly.

“‘Morning, Charles,” Hutch said cheerfully. “Or do you prefer Charlie?”

Robinson had looked welcoming enough when Hutch first greeted him, but at that question, his eyes hardened. “Yeah,” he said. “That’s how the world is. You can’t trust anyone.”

Hutch wanted to laugh, but he didn’t. Instead, he sat down, belatedly asking, “You don’t mind?”

Robinson, shaking his head, said, “It’s not worth it. What are you going to do about it?”

Hutch thought he meant it wasn’t worth minding if people just came and sat with you and what can you do about it if they did, but, really, who knew? “My partner says you’re a great guy,” Hutch said, because he wasn’t trying to cause trouble; he just wanted to better understand what Starsky had told him.

“Yeah, we talked,” Robinson agreed, and he seemed a bit more friendly. Then he frowned at his bagel and added, “I can’t really discuss it.”

Hutch considered saying that he didn’t need to, Starsky had told him everything, but maybe this guy’s weird secrecy shouldn’t be punctured. It might be all that was holding him up.

“You forget your cream cheese?” he asked.

“Yeah,” Robinson said, and he seemed disgusted. “Because there’s only one way to do things, and if you don’t do ’em that way, you’re a weirdo.”

Hutch had made the mistake of taking a sip of his coffee after he asked this innocuous question. Robinson’s answer made him choke on it.

“Sorry,” Hutch said, wiping his mouth with a napkin. “Hotter than I expected.”

“That’s how things are,” Robinson said in what might be fellow-feeling. It was hard to tell.

“So, you getting along OK, Charles?” Hutch asked, hoping not to get on Robinson’s bad side. Assuming he wasn’t already. Assuming he’d be able to tell the difference.

“It’s all the same,” Robinson said. He picked up his dry, uncut bagel and took a bite. “It’s all the same.”

“He wanted a cinnamon roll,” Starsky told Hutch after he’d made his report on coffee with Robinson. “Cindy at the cafeteria told me he asked for one, then accepted the bagel when she told him they were out. She offered him cream cheese and — I don’t know what all, but he just kept saying, ‘What’s the point?’ And ‘You can’t count on anything.'”

“I can’t tell if the guy is seriously depressed or terrified of making some kind of direct statement that might be attributed to him later,” Hutch said.

“So it’s not just me?” Starsky asked. “Because I was worried.”

“I know, that’s why I went to talk to him. It’s not just you. I asked him if I could get him a cup of coffee and he wouldn’t tell me how he took it!”

Starsky laughed. “What did he say?”

“I will admit, when I asked about the coffee, he said yes, a plain, unambiguous yes. But when I asked if he wanted cream or sugar, he said it wasn’t important.”

Starsky patted his hand. “You did your best, partner. You made some headway.”

“I don’t want to talk to him anymore either, Starsk.”

“It’s like that all over,” Starsky said.

“You start that crap and I’ll get a new partner,” Hutch warned him.

“You just can’t trust anybody,” Starsky replied.

Avoiding Charles Robinson became a habit, and something of a game until, maybe six weeks later, Starsky said, “Have you seen Robinson around lately?”

“Don’t go there, Starsk,” Hutch warned.

“No, seriously, I haven’t seen him around the last few days.”

Hutch thought about it. Starsky watched him for a second, then he started the Torino and shifted into drive.

They didn’t talk on the way to Parker Center. Starsky parked the car, and as they were getting out, Hutch said, “No, I haven’t seen him. I thought we were just doing a good job of avoiding him.”

Starsky nodded, but in acknowledgement rather than agreement.

When they got to the squad-room, they corralled Minnie. “Have you seen Robinson around lately?” Starsky asked her.

“Robinson? He got transferred.” Minnie seemed surprised they didn’t already know this. Hutch was a little surprised himself.

“Really? When?” Starsky asked.

Hutch didn’t much care about when. He was more curious why. “How come?” he asked.

Minnie put one hand on Hutch’s right arm and the other on Starsky’s left. “I can’t really say. You know how it is, boys. I can’t really discuss it. It is what it is.” She patted their arms and walked away.

30 thoughts on “December 6th: Good Time Charlie’s Got the Blues by Monica Rose Kiesel”

    1. You never know! They might use a few internal sources to find out what Charles is doing now–if anybody can get him to say!

  1. I love how both Starsky and Hutch do their best to get to know him, even if it didn’t help much. That’s so them!

  2. Minnie’s reply was the perfect way to end this story. I can just see the boys giving each other looks of fear that Charles’ attitude was contagious. Thanks for the gift.

  3. Charles seemed like a really odd guy. I like the way Starsky tried to explain what happened with this guy. Thanks!

    1. Thank you! I actually know a couple of people who are like this. Big things are always happening, but they never tell you what they are!

  4. ‘Rosarita’s Eat-n-Go — a name Hutch sincerely hoped referred to Rosarita’s feelings about her customers rather than the effect her food would have on them.’ – Brilliant line that only the Blessed Blond would come up with.

    And I can just picture Starsky sitting there at lunch saying, ‘I don’t know!’ while Hutch is asking, ‘What about…? And what did that mean?’

  5. This was so much fun! Charlie – I mean Charles – will be a case they may never solve and it’ll probably always drive them nuts!

  6. This is a lot of fun, thank you! And what a fantastic opening paragraph, such a great description of Starsky:

    Starsky had seemed his usual self when Hutch walked into the squad room that morning. He’d told Hutch three bad jokes — two of them he’d told him just the week before; he’d told Minnie she looked smokin’; he assured Dobey that his new diet was working because he looked like he’d lost at least five pounds (he didn’t); and he paid Hutch the ten dollars he owed him without even being asked.

    1. Thank you! It was so much fun to write.

      And I can imagine Starsky on a good day, bouncing around the squad room, brightening everybody else’s day.

  7. LOL you got the “what are you talking about” dialog down perfect, both between our guys and Charles and each man separately. To end it with Minnie…perfect!

  8. LOL, that was very intriguing! Poor Starsky & Hutch, becoming more and more confused and irritable with each mention of Charles.

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