Sitting in a Tin Can


deckard3_icon.gif teo_icon.gif

Scene Title Sitting in a Tin Can
Synopsis Teo finds Deckard conveniently caged and attempts a do over of desertion.
Date October 17, 2009


It's close enough to curfew that even the most unruly of children and blossoming gang members have cleared out from under the lights of Chelsea's freshly renovated playground. A homeless man who could well be the shaggily-maned son of Nick Nolte and Willy Nelson hums to himself on the swing set, brown bag leaning at a precarious angle in the wet sand at his feet.

S'been raining off and on all day, and further along, the asphalt laid down into a trio of basketball courts shines black between puddles blotched broad between freshly painted white lines. The locks meant to keep people out after hours have already been cut, and one chain link door is open enough to admitted a lean, grizzled man in a knit cap and a shabby overcoat.

Save for the plaid shamble of his homeless friend, he's alone in the concussive, echoing rebound of ball against court. Up and down, up and down around the freethrow line, and then flat off the corner of the backboard to slither and rattle cold through the pristine chain of the netting.

"Hey." Teo's voice ought to be familiar, even when hitched to an American-casual monosyllable of salutation that he generally discards in favor of cultural conceits. And even when stretched out and diminished across half the length of the basketball court, thickened through by the ambiance of unspent humidity, and further troubled by a note of something akin to shyness.

He's next to the way out, having chosen not to take the way in, hanging off the wire net fencing by his fingers like a proper delinquent. His hands are not nearly big enough that his digits can each span the gaps between diamonds but he covers about two of them with each hand, stretching the web between them out as far as the elasticity of skin and joints will admit.

Teo looks oddly at home in this setting, like he was built for tumble-scuffed jeans and skulking on the edge of a playground at armpit o' clock, outside and looking in. He looks like he fits better than Deckard or Nolte-Nelson do, anyway, which undoes him. Any archetype that defines itself so neatly within such a subculture must be a liiie. Nothing's that clean anymore. "What are you doing?"

Without anyone to rebound, the ball bounces high once out've the net before petering off into an awkwardly angled series of rolling bounces for the fence behind the pole. Deckard's forced to go after it himself at an unhurried walk, boots scraping clammy at asphalt until he's near enough to hook an overlarge hand around the dirty sheen of the ball itself. It's around the time that he's brushed the faux leather off and righted himself that Teo's voice at his back explains the sudden stop to NN's wavering tune.

Too far away for a sigh to be audible in its blunt expression through his sinuses, there's some tell-tale force behind the misty plume that trails breath after a turn of his head after the open gate. There's a moment while he just looks once he's turned himself around, ball seated in the splayed support of his right hand and shoulders and cap blazed white under harsh lighting. Even at a distance, coat raggled all the further by wind snaring sharp at his collar, he looks better. Like he lives around here rather than literally here under the monkey bars. Like he's been eating. And sleeping. And playing basketball by himself.

"Working on my freethrow," is an answer that is both true and boring. Boring enough, in fact, that it isn't really all that conducive or inviting in the way of inspiring further questioning or conversation. Granted, the standoffish stiffness to this spine and the gravel in his voice probably make the same point more succinctly.

It is good news for Teo— who doesn't, quite possibly contrary to popular consensus, take pleasure or manifest total indifference when confronted by bad news— that Deckard looks better. The loose-hinged firewood stack of bones he'd dropped off at the cathedral for his girlfriend to pick up had not looked promising. Occasionally pink around the cheeks, sometimes, with something that definitely wasn't health. At a distance, even bleached out by electrical lights, one can imagine that Deckard looks even healthier close up.

Which is kind of like a good excuse not to get close enough to tell if he's actually worse. Not that anybody would really hold Teodoro Laudani to, like, doing something about it even if Deckard was. It'd be a relatively small problem, and he's been ignoring medium-to-large ones for awhile now, so. Consistency for consistency's sake. Which is kind of like being reliable.

"I used to play football," he answers, presently. He sniffs rain. "Or 'soccer' as they say. I like basketball, though. Not so much baseball. I don't get baseball, or cricket."

More like a stray that's been caught foraging around into a spotlight's domain than a person comprised of social skills and emotional well-being, Deckard stands and listens and breathes all without moving much. The tenuous fog of his breath drifts in starts accelerated by physical exertion, however lazy — just now on their way to slowing back into a more regular rhythm. He stands that way while Teo speaks, alert to the sound of his voice, and then for several seconds after without answer.

Eventually, judgment rules in the favor of non-threat in a twitch of figurative tail and a snort of wary vapor. The battered ball rolls out of his hand, back into a familiar in and out dribble on his way back around to the front of the basket. Nolte's humming resumes with the hollow ring of leather to asphalt.

And Teo obliges them both by remaining unthreatening, and he is only on the fence about that a strictly literal fashion. His fingers whiten, go loose again. He gauges the plume and regression of the old man's breathing, watches the needle cycle along the stranger danger meter down from red to yellow, and finds himself dimly unsettled by the process even if it does mean progress. Then Deckard goes back to ignoring him again. This maps with stark lines the zone of significance he has now been given to occupy in Deckard's mind. He enjoys neither where it begins nor where it ends.

Which is kind of funny, since it's almost precisely where he'd written he wanted it. There's an aphorism about this, and this incarnation of Teodoro is self-aware enough that it comes to mind. He rests his long nose up against his arm, hides a smile for the very, very brief span of its duration.

By the time Teo gets around to talking again, his voice is changed, too, clearer if not a lot louder, the scurf of casual pretense shedded all in a go, one tasselly sheet of ridged scabs and dead cells. "Anyway," he says. Anyway! Apart from his inanely European preference in sports. "I love you." He pulls both his hands loose. Galvanized steel wires clink where they interlock elbows, channeling a loose-toothed ringing down the barrier for about five or six feet before dissipating.

Whang. Whang. Whang. This is approximately the sound the basketball makes in pounding itself back to the freethrow line. Until it stops. Caught up between slatted ribs and the flat of Deckard's calloused palm, it rubs grit into wool and soaks moisture into the cuff of his sleeve. He ignores both in favor of turning his head once more to the abandoned fence, and to Teo beyond it by default.

"-float-ing ina mo-o-ost pecul-iar wa-a-ay," says Nolte, who has helpfully chosen this moment to remember a few of the words that go with what he's been humming off and on for the last…half hour. Pleased with himself, he smiles down at his knees.

Pleased with nothing at all, perhaps least of all himself, Flint lets the ball fall to an easier rest at the side of his leg. There's an intensity to his stare that rules out easy tolerance, and a patience to his posture that rules out naked hatred, but Teo has his attention again in the form of a brow-hooded look that manages to play the middleground between expectant and zero expectation.

Now that Teo actually has the old man's attention he isn't really sure what to do with it. Despite that expectation has somehow factored into the equations that span between them, the demarcations previously specified haven't really moved. The Sicilian stands with one foot in a oily-rainbowed puddle, the other resting on a gummy sole-print on relatively dry tarmac. Despite that he stands with firmer balance than he had a year ago, he's running on less sleep than he had then, too, and it leaves him float-ing in a most peculiar way.

It takes him a few more seconds to remember that there was more that he'd planned to say, which can be partially attributed to difficulty with his circadian rhythms and partly on lack of practice. The words don't come to him as easily as they used to. "And I'm sorry." He manages to hold Deckard's eye— or the distanced approximation thereof, for about another two seconds before his gaze twitches away like a nerve answering to the bite of a horse-fly, refocusing his pupils roughly on Nolte's acapella solo. He doesn't know the song.

Silence as a reaction is as predictable as the stir of wind over brackish water every time wet leaves set to rustling shushed where trees stand sentry beyond the court's far end. Somewhere, the clock strikes eleven, and one at a time, the great white lights blanching cold in their halos collapse into darkness across the park's humid expanse. Light pollution is slow in muffling new edges hazy around Deckard's harsh lengths and long angles. Once different shades of sewer brown and industrial grey have re-established themeslves as a scruffy felon standing alone on a basketball court, it's clear he hasn't moved. Which fits well with him not having opened his mouth to say anything either.

" — When the lights go down in the cit-y…" mumble mumble " — baayayaaaayyy — " There's a distant creak, a squeak. The sound of worn shoes pushing Nick Nolte into a slow swing.

A single fluid bounce rocks the ball up into a fresh rest between both of Flint's hands after a tilt in the flat angle of his shoulders. "Feel better?"

That's a good question. Mean insinuating question, but also a good question. Teo closes and opens his eyes twice, forcibly adjusting them to the sudden darkness as quick as he knows how, finds it peculiarly reassuring that its renewal does him the favor of hiding the kneejerk startle, spine-lock and scowl, that it invokes in him, had turned, astral projection flung out on a brief grappling hook swing. Nothin'. Nothing. It's nothing: they turn the lights off at eleven o' clock, that's all.

His throat works down a swallow. He doesn't clear it afterward, something about retaining his dignity, which— is only a little counterintuitive, insofar as that his voice is a messy croak when he speaks again. "Not really.

"You?" Optimism never hurt anybody by itself. It's when kids start picking up semi-automatics and throwing themselves skeleton and soul into the siege engine of war because they think there's some snowflake's shot in Hell of winning that optimism hurts. Not that Teo really thinks that the old man is going to say 'Yes' and mean it: his younger analogue's pathological propensity toward apology never did anything but annoy Deckard, as far as he can remember.

In so far as non answer is an answer typical of most uncoordinated interactions with Deckard, it's the one Teo gets. And for all that anything subtle in his expression is impossible to read in the diffusing murk that's overtaken the playground in a vast swatch, there's no misinterpreting the slow turn of his shoulders after the basket down the far end of the court. Dribbling resumes as before, evenly paced by a practiced hand away from one three point line to the next.

Back on his swing, Nolte has noted with dismay that moisture has seeped its way up into the bottom of his paper bag and rendered the bottom into insubstantial mush when he tips the whole thing over with a poky touch of his foot.

Dwindling in the quiet, Teo puts his hands in his pockets, warms then against the frictive fabric of his jeans against his thighs. The reawakening prickle of heat reminds him where his fingernails end and his wrists begin. About five minutes later than he was supposed to, he remembers to check the few hundred yards' span for a patrol. There isn't one, yet. Chelsea's kind of cool that way, and this neighborhood in particular, balanced precisely on the right scales of residential district and socioeconomic misfortune. Home is where you're supposed to be at curfew, and people give less of a fuck, generally, when the poor mind their own business.

Which isn't to say that Teodoro is bound to stay long, of course; it doesn't even bring him particular pleasure to pen Deckard up in the basketball court, never mind practical use.

Still, it would be inappropriate not to follow up, and that's almost— sort of— what it is when he finally asks: "Do you believe me?" The question's too direct to invite anything particularly useful. "I want you to."

From the three, Deckard sets up, shoots, follows through. The ball sails, spins, arcs. Banks hard off the back of the rim and falls flat over the side to bobble to a lame, dithering stop in a filmy, garbage-strewn puddle. No dice. Rather than follow it up to recollect and try again, he squints up at the sky and drags off his cap, exposing overlarge ears and mussed hair in a sweaty grey bristle. The cloud cover is an uneven shade of sickly puce, soft belly smothering low and heavy with the promise of more rain. There's no moon, even in spirit, but the whistling soar of a jet blinking in low on its way in for a landing.

He scratches at his head and replaces the cap, looking up again once he's got it snugged back down coarse against the same cold that's numbed his hands stiff through the bone. Finally tucking them down into his pockets holds little promise in the way of warming them back up again, but he does it anyway for lack of anything better to do with them while he considers the ghostly outline of the backboard up ahead.

The quiet rough of, "Apology accepted," sounds a lot like, 'leave me alone,' when he finally says it. At the swingset, Nolte hooks a finger into his ear and looks resigned about what comes out with it.

The first backward step Teo takes is silent. The second less so, scratched out on a pivot of his weight across the wet rubber of his shoe. Lacking further questions, elaboration, or the rational emotive capacity to make parting what it ought to be, he merely begins to withdraw, without demurring to look up at the sky or at the species that's conceived itself in the cartlidgenous spiral of Nolte's ear, or to check if Deckard's getting something dubious or threatening out of his pocket. He wouldn't be able to tell, anyway. This kind of intermediate weather leaves a man's hands cold to feeling.

Despite the availability of street lamps, Teodoro steps in puddles. Two of them, consecutively, before he manages to wind his momentum along an oblique trajectory, lurching off onto the dull, glass-flecked glitter of a slightly greater elevation of asphalt. The closest thing to higher ground you'll find on this miserable street. He raises his shoulder against the CCTV behind a dimestore's spattered paintglass without even pausing to think about it. Thinking about something else, head down and fists in his pockets.

Deckard doesn't look after him. There's a slight, automatic twitch at the angle of his ear after the sound of retreating footsteps, then a slow exhalation of stored tension winding its way sluggishly out of his chest. If he could force himself to smoke, he'd light up. There's still a pack of cigarettes smashed flat into the overcoat pocket under his left hand.

Eventually a black and white unit does round the corner, headlights washed in a pale sweep across chain link and swing set and slides. He doesn't move; it doesn't stop. Bigger fish to fry or early enough still that the driver doesn't care. Whatever the case, Deckard stays where he is for some time longer before he trails his way out to take up a rickety seat on the swing next to Nolte.

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