A Pencil and a Piece of Paper
The year is 2016 and Starsky has discovered FanFiction.
This story is for Paula, who encouraged me to resurrect old stories I'd written as a first-gen S&H viewer back in the day. (I'm still working on those stories, but here's a fresh story in the meantime – it came to me one day like a bolt out of the blue.)
I thank Sandy and Tammy in the S&H Fans & FanFiction Facebook Group for their support and feedback, and all the gang there for egging me on and being such a terrific bunch of people. My experiences there inspired this story.
Special kudos to John, critical friend and my partner-in-crime.
I acknowledge William Blinn as the original creator of "Starsky & Hutch", along with Aaron Spelling, William Goldberg, Joseph Naar, David Soul, Paul Michael Glaser, Bernie Hamilton, Antonio Fargas and Company.
Starsky bolted into the living room, holding a laptop in one hand and running his other hand through his silver-tinged curls. "Hey Hutch, I've just found this great bunch of people on Facebook! Check it out!"
Hutch looked up from the book he was reading and peered over the top of his glasses. "I didn't know you were on Facebook, Starsk."
"I wasn't. But I was readin' some FanFiction-"
"FanFiction. And I got to readin' a story that pulled me in. It was about you and me, and the terrible things that happened when I was kidnapped and brainwashed into killin' ya. Then ya found me, like you always have, and brought me home, like you always do. Except it wasn't like those other times. I had to be re-programmed! Aw Hutch, it tore at my heart, readin' the things I did and said to ya, and how you suffered."
"What happened?" Hutch gulped, agog at what was tumbling out of his friend's mouth.
"It's a long story. You'll hafta read it. But it all came out in the wash. Anyway, I wrote a review of the story, and next thing I know, the writer's suggestin' I join their Facebook Group!"
"How about that."
"Yeah, and they're all women!" Starsky wriggled his eyebrows with a glint in his eye. "You oughta see the stories they write! And you know what the best part is?"
"It's all about us! You and me, me-and-thee!"
"Really! They write Starsky and Hutch FanFiction!"
"About us? Huh!"
"Yeah! Well, Dobey and Huggy Bear are sometimes in there, too. And the people we've known, the scum we've fought and busted, the things that's happened to us." Starsky leaned in confidentially to his friend. "You know, Hutch, a lot more's happened to you than I even knew about!"
"Aw c'mon, Starsk, get serious, will you?" But Hutch looked alarmed despite himself.
"Things've happened to me, too, that I didn't know! And there's somethin' else." Starsky leaned in even more closely to Hutch, peering over his shoulder as if someone might hear. Hutch looked around, too, as Starsky lowered his voice. "Some of those writers put a kinky spin on our relationship. Like, you know what I mean?"
"No," answered Hutch, then parodying Starsky, "I don't know what you mean!"
"Well, don't ya worry your silvery blond head about it," Starsky reassured his friend and quickly changed the subject. "Hey, did I tell ya they think I'm hot? You oughta see the things they write about me when they're not writin' that other funny business. Sunny smile. Super sexy!"
Hutch raised his eyebrows. "Have they seen you lately?"
"They like you, too! You ol' blue eyes, you!"
Hutch lightened up as he began preening himself and fiddling with his hair to cover up his thinning spots. "Yeah? Well, I guess I'm as good as I ever was …"
Paying no mind to Hutch's primp and carry-on, Starsky continued. "So I've asked to join the Facebook Group and I'm waiting to be approved. Do ya s'pose they'll ask for references?"
Ignoring Starsky's question, Hutch scratched his forehead. "Starsk, I just don't see it."
"Well, for openers, you're a man, and you said it was a women's group."
"Yeah, but they don't need to know that. I'm usin' a knot-the-plume. They all do!"
"You know. An alias. Like goin' undercover."
"Oh. A pen name."
"Yeah. Fiery Red."
"My pen name. Fiery Red. As in Fiery Red Torino. I've got one of those miniature mug shot thingamajigs, too. It ain't a picture of me, 'cos that would give me away in a flash! Oh, wait a minute! Wait just one darn minute!"
"If they ask for references, my alias could be a problem!"
"Relax, Starsk. They won't ask for your rap sheet."
"How can you be so sure?"
"Your reputation goes before you."
"Oh." Starsky was reassured and a little chuffed, until he started thinking about Hutch's words some more.
"But Hutch …"
Over breakfast the next day, Starsky told Hutch his good news. "Hey Hutch, I've been approved!"
"Congratulations. It's amazing who they let in," Hutch said with a joking grin.
Starsky smiled back. "Isn't it? And here I am, sittin' with you!"
"They wanna know a little about me. They've got a few questions. Here's the first one. 'Who's your fav guy?' That's an odd question, don't ya think? I mean, why would I have a favorite guy, huh?'
"I think they're talking about us."
"You mean a favorite between you and me?"
"Sure. No contest really, is it?" Hutch puffed himself out.
Starsky gave Hutch a long sideways look. Masking the computer screen Hutch was craning his neck to see, he typed, "Don't make me choose."
Starsky sat back. "There! Next question. 'Do you like FanFic?' That's short for FanFiction, ya know."
"You don't say."
Starsky began to hunt-and-peck his keyboard, reading aloud as he typed, "'Sure. When it's about us, what's not to like!'" Starsky wriggled his shoulders in delight.
"You can't say that, Starsk. You'll blow your cover."
"Oh yeah, I forgot. Well then, I'll just say, 'That's a 10-4,'" typing as he spoke.
"Here's the next question," Starsky moved on. 'Do you write? Tell us about what you've written.' Let's see. I've written police reports. That was like writin' FanFiction sometimes!"
"Careful, lie low."
"I could be a policeman! Just an ordinary cop!"
"Sure, Dick Tracey."
"Well, what do I write?"
"Tell them you have a 302 in progress and will send out an APB Code 2 when done."
"Okay!" Starsky pounded his keyboard with even more gusto, and then added, "'If I need an assist, I'll send out a call Code 3.'"
"And a 187 for what you're doing to that keyboard!" Hutch rejoined.
Starsky softened his typing and posted his answers on the Facebook group's timeline. "T'rific! Now it's time for a Code 7 before it goes cold," he declared as he made a belated but enthusiastic start on breakfast.
At the bowling alley that afternoon with a couple of friends, Starsky had more to share with Hutch about his FanFiction adventures.
"Did I tell ya they drabble?"
"That's no way to talk about their bowling, Starsk," Hutch whispered.
"No, bozo! That FanFiction group I was tellin' ya about. They drabble!"
"What's getting wet and dirty in mud got to do with writing?"
"No-no, genius! A drabble's a short story, like a hundred words, about somethin'. You gotta have somethin' interestin' to write and get straight to the point in writin' it. Kinda like a police report, but shorter and not letting the facts stop ya tellin' a good story."
"And with an appreciative audience," added Hutch.
"I don't know why Dobey didn't like my reports. I read somewhere that a good incident report provides a thorough account of what happened. So if the fiery red Torino, which was candy-apple red and not tomato red, fish-tailed to a screechin' halt and we spilled out of the car and leapt into action, what's wrong with me writin' just that?"
"I like it. It has a colorful ring."
"It'd have made Dobey's readin' our reports a lot more compellin' if he'd let me keep writin' 'em that way."
Hutch smiled wistfully. "You know, Starsk, Dobey will be looking down and enjoying your FanFiction stories when you write them."
That night at dinner, Hutch had a surprise for Starsky.
"Here, Starsk, I've got you something."
"Aw, ya shouldn't have, Hutch," Starsky gasped in surprise. "But I'm glad ya did!" He tore open the present and was moved to see an old-fashioned, two-tiered pencil box, with his initials inscribed on the lid. "Hey, that's beautiful! Thanks, buddy!"
"Open it up."
Starsky slid the top drawer open. "Pencils!"
"And … Open the bottom, go on."
Starsky swiveled the top layer to reveal small bundles of paper in the bottom section. "And a piece of paper!" Hutch finished. "Like when we were with Mr. Mills outside the liquor store hold-up all those years ago."
"And so many other times!"
"I figured it'd go kind of nice in that writer's garret you're setting up. And you can carry it around with you, for when you suddenly get an idea and you want to write it down."
"I'll hafta to find something to tote it in so I can keep it on my person."
A week later, Starsky came bounding out of his writer's garret, juggling a burrito with peanut butter and onions. Gone were the days he could eat a burrito with all the fixings.
"Hey Hutch, I finished my story!"
"Yeah? Good for you!"
"It was a challenge called the 'The Greatest Gift.' It had to be exactly 500 words."
"So what did you write about, Gordo? Your gift to science when they open up your cast iron stomach for the autopsy report?"
"Very funny. You'll see when it gets published. But I'll let you in on a secret. I wrote it as if I was Starsky writin' it!"
"You are Starsky writing it."
"Yeah, but not the made-up Starsky! They don't need to know I'm the real Starsky. It's what they call POV, Hutch."
'"Personally Owned Vehicle?"'
"'Point of View,' dummy!"
"That's what you think."
Another day passed, during which time Starsky haunted his email waiting for news of his story's fate. Finally, notification of his story's publication arrived. Just seeing his story out there filled him with joy and jubilation that spilled out all over the room.
"Hutch, Hutch, here it is! My published story! I'm an author!"
"Let's see it, Hemingway."
Starsky sat down practically on top of Hutch on the couch, laptop between them as they began reading his story on the screen. "'Pencil Box,'" Starsky read aloud. "I called it that 'cos it's about the pencil box ya gave me a coupla weeks ago."
"Oh, that's nice, Starsk," Hutch replied, touched.
"There's these things called writing prompts and challenges. Someone sets a topic and a word count, and you write somethin' about that. Like here! Well, you can see for yourself." Starsky was talking in rapid-fire sentences and waving his hands all over the screen, making it impossible for his friend to see what he'd written. "Here, read that."
"I'm trying to, Starsk," Hutch said as he ducked and weaved around Starsky's flying hands.
"Sorry. I'm feelin', uh, a little bit nervous. I want ya to like it."
"I'll like it, Starsk. We're pals," Hutch said as he put his arm around Starsky's shoulder. "Relax."
"Okay. I'll let ya read it."
Hutch sat back with the laptop and began to read. His excitable friend fidgeted noisily beside him, cracking his knuckles and watching for Hutch's reaction to his story out of the corner of his eye.
"Hey, Starsk?" Hutch finally said.
"Mm? Finished already?"
"No-no. Would you like to get us a couple of beers from the fridge? And maybe some snacks?"
"Oh sure, good idea! Beers and snacks comin' right up!"
"Take your time."
With Krakatoa out of the room, Hutch read his friend's story in peace.
By: Fiery Red.
Notes. I wrote this story in response to "The Greatest Gift" writing challenge, to be 500 words exactly. I wrote it as if I was Starsky speakin' it – I think that's what's called POV. My friend had another whole meaning for POV, but I set him straight.
Dedicated to the Big Blond Blintz.
I have one of those wooden, double-decker pencil boxes – you know, the kind with a top level that has a slidin' lid and swivels out on a little hinge to get to the bottom level. It has compartments inside to keep my writin' implements all organized.
My pal Hutch gave me the pencil box after I told him I'd joined a S&H Fan-Fiction writing group. It's made from redwood, the sort that comes from sequoias up north here on the west coast. Hutch told me all about those trees. What he doesn't know about trees and wood would fit on a pinhead. I swear he was a lumberjack in a previous life! He told me all about the long-livin', evergreen qualities of the trees and the wood and how they're resistant to decay – somethin' like Hutch and me!
He then started getting' into the whole birds-and-bees thing about how the trees reproduce with or without any foolin' around. He was usin' big words that were hard to follow and sounded a bit dirty. I don't wanna write about it here, 'cos this story is gen-rated.
Hutch put eraser-tipped pencils and a pencil sharpener in the top of the box, and small bundles of writing paper in the bottom. I can take the box with me anywhere, carryin' it in my old gun holster and pullin' it out when I get inspired. Gives "quick draw" a whole other meanin'!
The pencil box is a bit like Hutch. He and I have been best friends for the most part of 50 years now. Like my pencil box, I can take Hutch almost anywhere. Like Hutch, the box is antique-lookin' in a refined kinda way, and all woodsy. With them both sometimes, I hafta work at opening the top drawer 'cos it gets a bit stuck, dependin' on the weather or whatever. I prod here and there until things get movin' again. It's worth the effort for what you find inside. Occasionally, the swivel thing on my box can get a little unhinged, and if you push it too hard, it can fly off the handle – like, well, ya know. But with a little spray of WD-40, all's as smooth as Hutch's singin' voice on a summer day.
You'll never know what treasures you'll find in the bottom of the box. Those bundles of notepaper Hutch put in there got me to thinkin' about how him and me are like pencil and writin' paper – we go together and one's not much good without the other. Hutch began reminiscin' about the times we needed a pencil and a piece of paper when we used to be on the beat. Like that time with Mr. Mills all those years ago.
Hutch remembers details like that. He has all our stories in his heart and I'm gonna write 'em out, with my two pencil boxes right here by my side. The redwood and Hutch, my Big Blond Blintz. 'Cos those two boxes, they're my greatest gift.
"Well, what did ya think?" Starsky asked anxiously. Hutch didn't respond. "Hey? What's the matter? You didn't like it?"
"I don't know what to say, Starsky," Hutch quietly replied. Starsky wasn't sure if he heard his friend's voice catch a little as he looked down at the floor.
"It's terrible, isn't it? Ya can tell me."
"It's not that …" Hutch's voice trailed away.
"Bad?" Starsky finished. "Did I upset ya? Hey, Hutch, I didn't really mean you're like some old wooden box."
"Starsk, it's not that," Hutch replied as he looked up at Starsky with watery eyes. "Your story's beautiful. It's just beautiful. Aw, come here."
And the Big Blond Blintz gave his earnest Hemingway a great big hug. That was all the kudos Starsky needed as he leaned into his pal with a grin on his face and gladness in his heart.
"So what will you write next, Starsk?" Hutch inquired the next day.
"I was thinkin' about the time we did that laundromat bust, and you had me take off my clothes for the washin' machine, and I had to make the bust wearin' nothin' but my Adidas and gun and a sheet wrapped around me like a nappy. What do ya think?"
"Then I was thinkin' about writin' about our stakeouts. Like that time we had to stay inside the Torino, and we took turns keepin' watch while one of us slept in the back, and we got all tangled up with each other."
"You don't think that might sound a bit like, you know what I mean?"
"You got a point. I don't think some of those FanFic writers need any encouragin' in that direction."
"Well, you could stick to our more straightforward crime busts," Hutch suggested.
"Like breaking up the satanic cult at Pine Lake," Starsky pitched in.
"Or solving the mystery of the voodoo killings on Playboy Island," Hutch countered.
"That's right! And disposin' of five tickin' bombs in sixteen minutes on the ocean liner," cried
Starsky, warming enthusiastically to the subject.
"What about the time you saved the city from the plague?" Hutch offered.
"Yeah! I could call it 'Panic on the Streets!'"
"I think that name's been taken, Starsk."
"I got it, Hutch, I got it! The time we went undercover as actors on Stage 17! That's the one I'll write next!"
"Don't forget my bit."
"Hey, would I do that to ya?"
"Well then, let's get to it."
Police codes used in the story:
302 – a Federal report
APB – All Points Bulletin
Code 2 – Lights, no siren
Code 3 – Lights and siren
Code 7 – Meal break
187 – Homicide (That's a dead body – or in this case, a dead keyboard.)