The year is 1994.
“Hey, do you wanna play table tennis?” says Starsky one morning.
“Wh- what?” says Hutch, aghast.
“Table tennis? You know... with the table. And the tennis.” Starsky mimes serving Hutch a ping-pong ball. Hutch stares at him. “I was gonna play with Cal, but he ditched me. You gotta keep your hand in, Hutch. I’ll beat you easy.”
“Hutch,” says Starsky seriously. “I don’t mean to be insensitive or anything, but can I serve now?”
Hutch hiccoughs and Starsky sighs and pats him gently on the chest. “It’s okay, pal,” he says soothingly. “I’m right here.”
“Don’t you – ” Hutch starts, coughing to clear away a sob. “Don’t you think it’s a little soon?”
“It’s been almost twenty years!”
Hutch sniffs again, and Starsky sits down next to him, their backs to the wall. He flips the paddle in his hands and as he does so, the ball escapes his fingers and skitters away across the floor. Hutch winces at the sound.
“Okay,” says Starsky when Hutch shows no sign of revitalising his game. “No table tennis. You wanna get food?”
“Yeah.” Hutch still sounds choked, and it’s all Starsky can do not to raise his eyes skyward. Next time, he’ll just ask Cal or Pete.