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Tiger, Tiger

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One possible world. A world that could be brought about.



"April's doing okay. But Ted doesn't want to do visiting hours when anyone else is doing them. I think being in prison reminds him of bad times," James told Dr. Emily.

"I don't want them to see, you see," said Ted. "They don't understand anything."

"I think maybe the other prisoners make him remember some .. bad childhood events, maybe. I think. ..I guess they don't want to talk about the fact that they've done wrong, too. So they make someone else who's kind of different from them out to be the whole bad guy."

Emily nodded with open sympathy. "How do you feel about Ted and April's situation, James - if I may ask?"

There was a lull in the conversation after James turned off the dictophone. They wouldn't get through all of his interview questions for 'The Making of Brigsby Bear Adventures the Movie' today, but that was okay.

"I don't feel guilty," he said in a quiet voice.

"Well, I guess it's time to go," said Ted, tapping a non-existent watch on his wrist and glancing up at the clock on the windowless gunmetal wall.

"Why is that?" asked Emily.

"And may our minds be stronger tomorrow," said James, wondering why Ted's shaken hand had become that limp fish he'd trained James so ardently out of, and why he'd let go too soon.

"There are things I can do to help them feel better."

James scraped his chair close up to Ted's. He reached out his arms to awkwardly fold them around Ted's upper back. The prison warden's hands remained impassively clasped in front of his body, and Ted's arms hung weighed down at his sides. Only gradually did the man reach up to encircle James' chest in a tentative clasp.

"Ah, okay," said Emily. A veiled note of concern: thin, like the mosquito-net under-curtains on the yellow-lit walls. "What things can you do?"

"Just, like.. Brigsby stuff.." James glanced down at the full tissue box.

And then Ted's arms moved: down, until he was hugging low around James' hips, and James was being drawn closer until he could feel a heavy heartbeat beneath the too-warm chest pressed too close against his own. And from face down on James' shoulder, close to James' ear, came a kind of quiet, plaintive, sick-aching call: "James.. kiss me.."

That wasn't Ted's voice. But it wasn't Brigsby or Sun Snatcher, either. James wasn't sure what to do with it. The prison warden in dark glasses was standing in the blurry distant corner - back straight as a robot, but James knew his eyes were pointing towards them.

"..Brigsby stuff?"
James kissed the man on the forehead, above and between his eyes.

And Ted rose - like a sunflower: pressing lips now, to James' lower jaw. To his cheeks. The corners of his mouth, and he was.. breathing.. as if James' air was oxygen through a filtra-mask. James didn't freeze; the warden might come and hurt Dad to see James freeze at kissing sounds and Dad's open mouth, so he just -

"Good boy.." Held in place, while Dad - Ted - did not kiss the inside of his mouth or the front of his lips. "Good boy.." Just his cheeks, and his neck, and the corners of his mouth; just there. "James.." Holding his name, in that strange voice, like a charm, and holding James' hips tighter. "Sweet boy.. patient - patient boy.." His thumbs pressed underneath James' sweatpants waistband, went downwards. A chilled and wormlike knot coagulated in James' insides.

Pressing underneath James' underwear, to where his lymph nodes were. Pressing on his lymph nodes, as to check if he was sick, just the joints of his fingers just touching his private parts -

The knot released: as a hitched breath, a tense cough through closed eyes and closed teeth.

Clacking footsteps on the grey plastic floor, and Ted's clasp tight around him loosened away.

And Ted cringed away: away from the warden, away from James. He was grabbed at the shoulder, pulled back; he raised his hands above his head protectively; he was handcuffed. "Stop it." Eyes closed, to the warden. That voice, again; childlike not-Brigsby. "No more." Wet in his eyes, wet welling up and pricking at James' wide eyes.

The next time they'd meet, they'd be back in the place where the chairs were stuck to the floor and there were other visitors around.

"..I don't really feel like talking about this, right now," he said to Dr. Emily. "Maybe later."