Smokes And Statues


chamberlain_icon.gif buck_icon.gif

Scene Title Smokes and Statues
Synopsis Chamberlain makes like a nice guy and gives out cigarettes in Central Park. Lucky Buck.
Date December 28, 2009

Central Park

Central Park has been, and remains, a key attraction in New York City, both for tourists and local residents. Though slightly smaller, approximately 100 acres at its southern end scarred by and still recovering from the explosion, the vast northern regions of the park remain intact.

An array of paths and tracks wind their way through stands of trees and swathes of grass, frequented by joggers, bikers, dog-walkers, and horsemen alike. Flowerbeds, tended gardens, and sheltered conservatories provide a wide array of colorful plants; the sheer size of the park, along with a designated wildlife sanctuary add a wide variety of fauna to the park's visitor list. Several ponds and lakes, as well as the massive Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir, break up the expanses of green and growing things. There are roads, for those who prefer to drive through; numerous playgrounds for children dot the landscape.

Many are the people who come to the Park - painters, birdwatchers, musicians, and rock climbers. Others come for the shows; the New York Shakespeare Festival at the Delacorte Theater, the annual outdoor concert of the New York Philharmonic on the Great Lawn, the summer performances of the Metropolitan Opera, and many other smaller performing groups besides. They come to ice-skate on the rink, to ride on the Central Park Carousel, to view the many, many statues scattered about the park.

Some of the southern end of the park remains buried beneath rubble. Some of it still looks worn and torn, struggling to come back from the edge of destruction despite everything the crews of landscapers can do. The Wollman Rink has not been rebuilt; the Central Park Wildlife Center remains very much a work in progress, but is not wholly a loss. Someday, this portion of Central Park just might be restored fully to its prior state.

Central Park at night is splashed with intermittent light, the golden glow of this lamp or that reflecting queer shadows across the faces of statues and sculptures that litter the clean, grassy portions in the northerly parts of the park. The scattered crumple of rubble that infringes at its border is a looming shadow of the past which Michael Chamberlain neatly circumvents in his lope down one of the old, winding jogging paths that cuts through the park.

Unfastened suit jacket flapping in the slight breeze, he pauses in the shelter of stone General Sherman to light up. The red-orange glow of the ember-lit cigarette he shields from the flutter of the breeze in the intermittent light, and a puff of dark smoke curls past the teeth of his smile as he looks out over the even stretch of lamp-lit lawn beyond the graven figure. Sometimes he thinks it would be funny if someone mugged him, but, as of yet, his sense of humor has not been rewarded in action.

These occasional pools of oddly-colored light illuminate another figure as well, that of a cowboy — or perhaps would-be cowboy — seated on a bench. In no more than a denim jacket to stave off the worst of the cold, he sits on a bench with his elbows propped on his knees and head lowered somewhat under the pale Stetson. But the smell of tobacco catches his attention and he lifts his head, looking at the fellow near the satue. "'Scuse me, you got a extra cigarette?" he wonders in his drawling baritone.

The long sweep of dark wool that is Chamberlain's coat is loose, unbuttoned; his suit likewise unfastened at the torso, the pale whisper of white cotton and the dark green flash of his tie in the light as he moves away from the shelter of the statue. His mouth pulls into a sideways twist, although as he steps between light and shadow the twist of his expression is hard to read in his eyes. The common brotherhood of smokers, met by moonlight. Michael tugs the package of Marlboros out of the inside pocket of the wool coat, and slaps it against the palm of his hand to jerk one loose, which he proffers toward the stranger.

"Merry fucking Christmas," he says, his voice a ghost of dry humor and other low-rasped things, at the close of a long day with far too much use of these self-same vocal cords. His benediction is a couple of days late, but the holiday season clings to him like a spectre of years past, and like many who fail to put away their Christmas lights, Michael fails to let go. New York roots blanch his accent crisp and stark in the cold air, and as he takes his cigarette from his mouth to hold loosely in his off hand as he offers to share, no steam curls past his lips despite the chill of winter that bites in the cold air. Maybe smoking really just warms him up or something, right? "You want a light, too?"

Buck takes the cigarette with bare fingers and puts the filter into his mouth. Plenty of steam coming out of him, at least. "Yes, sir," Buck answers with a nod, finally unfolding his legs and getting to his feet. He looks the other man over while he's waiting for a light.

Cigarette slipped back in his mouth to be held between his teeth as he tucks his pack away and then unearths his lighter from the depths of his pocket, Michael bobs his eyebrows; they climb up, and then drop low again over his eyes, before evening out to a more customary position. Fire glowing in a flickering teardrop at the end of his lighter, he holds it out and up, his hand bare-knuckled despite the onset of winter. "Your lucky day, right?" he says, wry at the expense of his own largesse. Still no steam from his lips, though. Only smoke.

Buck leans forward to draw at the flame, avoiding invasion of the other guy's personal space as much as reasonably possible. Once he's got the cigarettte lit and exhales a cloud of smoke, he looks up toward the fellow's face, straightening his back. "Hell, I got so many of 'em, they oughta call me Lucky," he deadpans.

"Okay, Lucky," Michael answers easily. He takes a long drag of his own cigarette, and blows a low stream of smoke past the purse of his lips with the cant of his head. His face is mobile, reflecting vague amusement as well as a distant sourness, and his body language reflects a weary tension, in the set of his shoulders and the rest of his weight on his heels, that nicotine has provided only insufficient respite. He taps a flick of ash off the end of the cigarette to let it trail away on the swirl of the breeze. "Nice to meet you. It's a name I certainly never earned and that's God's honest truth."

"I didn't really, either," the Texan admits. "Most people just go ahead an' call me Buck." He takes a drag on the cigarette, exhaling smoke and steam, then puts out a hand. "Nice t' meet you."

"Buck," Michael says, the puff of a laugh buried in the tone of his repetition. The smile that twitches his mouth up at the corners is mildly incredulous. "Hi," he adds, "Michael." He meets the handshake firmly, his skin cool and his grasp reflective of the lean strength of his rangy frame. "So, how long you been in New York?"

"I dunno," Buck admits. "Couple months, I think. Maybe longer." The claim to ignorance seems more than simple mathematical laziness. His own fingers are frigid and move stiffly. "You seem like you might be from 'round here, though. But I can't tell too well." He reaches up to adjust his Stetson before holding the cigarette between two fingers to exhale.

"Born and raised," Michael confirms, irony in the slant of his pale gaze as he contemplates the other man's hat. His eyebrows climb. "I got out," he confides after a heartbeat's pause, "but this city, I don't know. It's like we're moths." He takes another draw on his cigarette, held loosely between his fingers, and a faint frown knits at his brow as he glances away, over the stretch of lawn and the dark that swallows the park beyond it. "Does time fly?" he asks, his voice ghosting dry over the inquiry as he tips idle curiosity in the direction of that patch of uncertainty.

Buck frowns thoughtfully, scratching at his jaw. "For me, it does. I mean…I dunno. Not so much day t' day, but…it's sorta hard t' keep track, I guess. Lemme see. It's December… Guess I came out here last summer?" He shrugs at Michael, dragging again. "So…you like it here?" he asks cluelessly.

Free hand scrubbing at the line of his jaw where he holds the cigarette in his mouth, Michael subjects the other man to a narrow-eyed frown, a sleepy thoughtfulness lingering in his expression as the lift of his eyebrows draws the narrow edge away. "Liking doesn't enter into it," he says, humor and smoke together a rough blend to sand his voice as he lifts the slender cig away from his lips to sketch through the air in an open, smoke-trailed gesture. "Or you could say it's a shitbucket crawling with freaks and ninnies and nuclear fallout but at least it's home."

"It ain't home for me," Buck points out softly, watching the gesture, then looking back to the man's face. "But it ain't that bad, either. In my opinion," he adds with a little nod of acknowledgement. "Hey, 'm I botherin' you?"

Abruptly puzzled of aspect, Michael glances over his shoulder as though he is checking to see if Buck is addressing this question to someone else, and then looks back toward him with an arch of his eyebrows. "No," he says, "why? Did I tell you to fuck off?"

"Nope," Buck is forced to admit. "But some folks 'round here are kinda skittish 'bout talkin' real late at night, I noticed. Or some folks don't like t' talk t' strangers at all." Buck flicks ash to the ground. "Guess you don't mind."

"I'll talk to any lost soul," Michael says dryly, with a curl at his lips that seems more to do with irony than humor. "And some of the found ones. You learn not to be shy, in my line of work. You pull a gun on me, we got problems." He takes another puff of his cigarette, and eyes its remaining length measuringly, gauging the time it will take him to smoke the rest of it. There is an easy, amused confidence to the slant of his gaze now, the roll of his shoulders in a supremely casual shrug. "Don't take candy from strangers, though. You got to draw the line somewhere."

Buck shows both palms to display his lack of murderous intentions. "Personally, I never had a stranger try an' give me candy," he says, shrugging at that, lowering one hand and using the other to take his cigarette out of his mouth. "So, uh…what do you do, exactly?"

"Scum of the earth," Michael answers promptly. "Government lawyer."

Buck reaches up to rub the back of his neck. "What kinda cases does a government lawyer take? Like…if somebody sues the health department?" That's a wild stab and Buck's face says he's aware of that.

Here Chamberlain laughs. It's a low sound, full of breath, and he shakes his head in its wake, lifting his cigarette for one more pull before its smoldering end draws too close to his fingertips. "They do do that. But I'm afraid I'm the other kind," he says. "City prosecutor."

"Oh," Buck says, brows pulling down as he nods. "Well…what's wrong with that? Don't you put the bad guys in jail? Like…lockin' up drug dealers an' murderers an' stuff?"

"That's the idea." Michael drops the cigarette to the earth and crushes it under the heel of one gently glossed black shoe. "I've found it's the particulars to which people object."

Buck shrugs. "I dunno, sounds like a pretty damn important job t' me. Even if some people don't like it, you gotta follow th' law, right? If you break it, you gotta do the time. …Right?" Before it burns him, Buck drops his cigarette, too, and steps on it.

Michael's reply to this comes at a slight delay, the grind of his heel into the earth growing momentarily in vehemence. He squats in a rumpling sweep of fabric to collect the fallen butt. Littering is a ticketable offense, you know. He turns the cigarette butt over in his fingers, holding it out before his eyes with a contemplative air before he rises in a slower, fluid unfolding of his limbs, to pocket it until he finds a garbage can for his comfort and convenience. Aloud he says, with a hint of darker humor coarsening his low voice, "That's the idea. The devil is in the details, though. Like I said; the particulars. But never mind that." His dark eyebrows arch, as his hands find his pockets. "Your way is much more comforting."

Buck smiles at that statement, whether it's meant to be a compliment or not. "Hey, well, at least you got a job in this economy, right? Count y'r blessings," he advises. "I own a bar in Chelsea, you know, called Desperado? You stop in, I'll give ya a free drink."

"Oh," Michael says. There is a heartbeat's pause, a hesitation, wherein he just stands there, an unusual stillness in his mobile features. Then he smiles, with an inclination of his head. "Thanks," he elects to make his answer. "Make it a club soda or a ginger ale and I might take you up on that." Clearing his throat with a marginal stiffness worked away with his shrug, he turns on his heel to scuff his shiny shoes over the soft earth. "Happy New Year," he adds by way of farewell as he gets ready to lope off for parts unknown, or at least, marginally less well-lit.

"Sure thing," Buck answers, nodding. "Soda counts as a drink, right?" He smiles eagerly at the holiday wishes. "Hey, yeah, Happy New Year. Maybe we'll throw a party at the bar. But, uh…might be kinda crazy for you first time there… Anyway…" He lifts a hand in a wave. "See ya." Buck turns and starts to walk away, hunching against the cold.

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