Segments, Layers

It’s all about segments and layers, Charlie decides. He is so proud of this deduction he voices his thought to the dead man sitting next to him.



Genre: , ,


Warning: ,


Length: words

Notes: Written for the Butterfly 2005 Ficathon. Change one thing, change everything. A re-write of Quimby’s “That Simple

Further Notes: I wrote this for the Butterfly Ficathon in 2005 and promptly lost it. My BFF found it in her bottomless inbox and so now I’m uploading it. Quimby’s fic, “That Simple” has vanished from the internet. If you search hard enough, you can find it by the Wayback Machine, but I don’t want to link it because Q has taken it down for her own reasons. Reading her fic is not necessary to understand/enjoy this one.

It’s all about segments and layers, Charlie decides. He is so proud of this deduction he voices his thought to the dead man sitting next to him.

“How so, Charlie?” Bombay asks.

Had Charlie not been almost swimming in alcohol, he may have been unnerved by the presence of his dead mentor. Perhaps if it was alcohol alone he may still have been unnerved. But a small girl, her name Q, all other details a mystery in a momentary meeting, had pressed something into his hand earlier. A couple of tabs of paper with little smiley faces on it (the faces remind him of the sorority girls who use a smiley to dot their I’s). He is feeling a little devil-may-care tonight, despite the fact that the first and only time—barring now—he has taken LSD he’d had visions of dancing wallpaper, angry traffic cones and a homicidal kitchen sink.

Charlie leans back and thinks about his wonderful deduction.

He was always the heart of the team, everyone said so. So around him were the layers. First the Ducks, the original D5, the ones who kept in touch after their victory over the Hawks; then outside them were the ones who didn’t; outside them were the “new” Ducks, and even further outside were the people who weren’t involved in the team.

He thinks he should have realised earlier that he would always be alone. He was a segment, and the others, say, Connie, for example, were part of a layer. On Connie’s layer there were Guy, Averman, Goldberg, Fulton, Adam and Jesse. Connie would never be alone because she was part of a layer.

Charlie, in the centre of things, alone, was a segment.

Come to think of it, so was Hans, so was Bombay.

And they are dead.

Of course, one is sitting next to him.

The thought amuses him. Two segments, side by side, in the chilly Burlington air.

A further thought amuses him: they are both wearing the same coat. Literally.

Bombay had not died in the coat, which was unusual, as he practically lived in it during the winter. Charlie sometimes likes to pretend that it was the ice on the roads that killed Bombay, not the alcohol in his bloodstream.

When the will was read, everything came to Charlie. The thick wool coat was one of the few things he kept, even though it looks slightly strange on his tall gangling frame. It had been custom made for Bombay—short and slightly sturdier.

If pushed, Charlie would name Bombay as the father figure in his life. Others would agree. Initially, Charlie had wanted to be a lawyer, then he settled for being an alcoholic. The similarities are frightening.

Charlie thinks it’s a Conway genetic that makes them gravitate towards alcoholics. His mother had the gene, too. The similarities between his father, Bombay, and her husband (Rick, barrister, penchant for hockey and expensive woollen coats) who she divorced several years ago, are quite unnerving. This gene has made her very bitter.

She calls often, leaving long-winded, self-pitying messages on his answer-phone. He used to listen to them. Now he hears the opening, “Charlie, it’s your mother, the one who gave birth to your ungrateful self—” and hits delete.

He wonders when he stopped liking his mother.

He wonders when he started liking his father.

He met his father at the tender age of seventeen. The man gave Charlie a silver hip-flask, a sob-story of an excuse, then a lot of heartache when he left just as abruptly as he had arrived. Charlie might not have paid close attention to the excuse, nor did he enjoy the feeling of rejection as his father disappeared into the sunset, but he does like the flask. He keeps it in his coat pocket. It is always full at the start of the day, but empties quite quickly.

But all the same, he likes his father more than his mother. Something he finds puzzling.

Not that his care for the both of them amounts to much.

He only has a limited amount of love left inside, and it is mostly reserved for the past. He misses the Ducks. When sober, his memory is fragmented, he cannot see clearly. He can’t remember the details. He only has flashes of the past, and some of those flashes are less than pleasant. So he likes to drink until the painful flashes recede and the details become sharper.

Given that a dead man is sitting beside him, he has high hopes of actually seeing more of the past tonight. He is feeling very content, all things considered. He is as good as can be expected (for someone who has very low expectations).

Bombay has no words of wisdom to impart. Perhaps the well has run dry. Or perhaps death has jaded the horrible optimist which lurked inside of him.

Charlie finds he wants Bombay to say something. Bombay had a knack of making all things better. Provided he wasn’t drinking. But he says nothing.

Charlie squints and looks over at the lake. The lapping of the water has taken on a slightly harsher quality, it’s no longer the sound of water splashing, but more the sound of water freezing. He squints a little, and watches as the water turns to ice, much like the fields turning to blood in Watership Down, Fulton’s secret guilty pleasure.

Charlie puts his hands behind his head, and finds that this brings the scene into sharp focus. He now sees a bunch of kids, skating on a frozen lake. They’re very bad at skating.

“I hate kids. They’re barely human,” the dead man states.

Charlie moves his hands a little, feeling a lot like a human TV aerial, the scene becomes even clearer now.

He watches the kids fool around on the ice, two aggressive brothers taking shots at a cowardly goalie, a cheery redhead keeping a running commentary, a very small boy in a leather jacket starting fights, and a skinny boy (who looks a little like a girl) in a horrible jacket, the sleeves held together with tape, on the outskirts, smiling serenely.

Charlie likes the scene.

He likes it until it’s broken up by flashing blue lights. He likes it even less when a couple of inconsiderate men get in a boat and sail right through his beautiful vision of the past. The men fish something out of the water/ice. It’s a long, dark and apparently heavy thing. Charlie tries to see around it, because he thinks that the young Goldie might have accidentally saved a goal.

The men in the boat bring the thing back to land, and Charlie is glad that they’re out of the way because, as it turns out, Goldie had saved the goal, and is now on the floor, close to tears because the puck hit him in a very personal place. Charlie sees his younger self torn between laughing with the rest of the team and comforting Goldie. Before he can, a young and terrifyingly bossy Connie steps up to deal with the situation. Charlie can’t catch her words, but he suspects, knowing Connie, that they’re a little heartless but the quickest way to get Goldberg back to his usual self.

Charlie leans forward to try to catch some of Connie’s scathing advice, which is overshadowed by Terry’s enthusiasm that Goldie, however inadvertently, saved a goal. As he does, the men are moving the thing onto a stretcher, as they do so, something falls from it and lands with a metallic twang.

Charlie automatically turns towards the noise, he notes that the men aren’t moving a “thing”. They’re moving a body. And the thing that fell from the body was a silver hip flask. He notes that while it’s a little unlikely that two men are sitting side by side, wearing exactly the same coat, it’s downright impossible that in the same scenario two men have the same hip flask.

“You went to get a closer look,” the dead man says.

“I did?” Charlie asks.


So all three segments are dead. He wonders if now they might possibly make a layer.