Shawn had just gone on break from the internet café he worked at. The work was easy, the pay was good, and it wasn’t what his dad wanted for him. That was enough. Here in Haleyville, Alabama (“Where 9-1-1 began!”), there was almost nothing that reminded him of Santa Barbara.
Today the streets were relatively crowded. It was expected as today was the start of the 9-1-1 Heritage Day festival. There were merchandise and game booths set up all along the street.
“Hey!” A voice called out, Shawn turned not really expecting them to be talking to him. To his surprise he found a rather tall Goth kid, junior in high school is brain supplied as he caught a glimpse of a student ID, made taller by a spiked Mohawk, and sporting what looked like a nose ring and much more body jewelry, staring right at him menacingly.
“I didn’t do it.” He said reflexively. “I mean,” he gulped, “is there a problem?” The kid laughed. Okay, so there was no problem apparently.
“Do you always try to avoid blame like that?” The kid’s mouth quirked up in a grin. “Doesn’t seem like it’s that effective of a method.”
“Yeah well…” Shawn shrugged. “What did you want again?”
“Oh right!” The kid’s tone suggested that he was just remembering something, but his body language remained neutral. Weird. The kid brandished two post cards in his face.
“I’m on this road trip, have been for a while. There are some people back home that I want to keep in the loop.”
“So call them.”
“I said I want to keep them in the loop, not let them rant at me for leaving.” He quirked his head. That was eerily close to why he didn’t want to call Gus. He needed to figure out what he wanted before he let his friend ask why he left.
“So I figured post cards. They know what I’m up to, and I don’t have to list a return address.” That was… kind of brilliant. “Just I don’t want to send them something that has no personality to it, so which one do you think is more me?”
He stared at the cards thoughtfully. One had a “Home of 9-1-1” written on it made of emergency responders, and the equipment. The other had a picture of a school house on it. He was about to ask where the kid had gotten the cards, when the kid tugged the school house one away.
“Never mind, he’ll probably like this one better.” The kid turned to walk away.
“Hey wait!” Shawn called, “What about…”
“Keep it Shawn. Your friend wants to hear from you.”
When Shawn tried to find him later, he couldn’t. No one else could remember a Goth kid there. The thing was, Shawn mused, the kid was right. At least now he had a story to tell Gus.
There had been another one. That made 4 in the two months he had been there. The news advertised a reward for any information leading to arrest. He knew that it was connected through the bakery. He remembered seeing them all as he made his way to his modeling job. How cool was that? He modeled now. At least, his feet did.
Now though, he was sitting, writing another postcard to Gus, gushing about his latest career moves. The park was nice, and kids were out playing. It was a great way to waste his day off. Especially since no one really wanted to go somewhere with a guy they just met these days. He knew that it was all connected to the bakery, but he couldn’t prove it at all. He had no connection to the bakery and…
A ball hit him on the ankle.
“Excuse me.” A little blonde girl called. She was missing some of her front teeth, and wearing the most ridiculous fuzzy pink antenna on top of blonde curls. “Can I have my ball back?” He blinked in surprise.
“You’re ball? It’s…” he looked down, the ball was right next to him, but he could have sworn it had hit his ankles.
“You look distracted Mister, do you need to talk?”
“Didn’t your parent’s ever tell you not to talk to strangers?”
“Nope, my family is based on support and forgiveness. You look like you need some help. You’re not a stranger either! I’ve seen you hang around the park, so I’m not scared.” This was true, he thought as the tiny blonde climbed onto the bench next to him.
“Even with these girls going missing?”
“You’re not scared.”
“I’m not a girl.”
“But you know something.” The matter of fact way the kid spoke drove home a point that he had realized on the trip. Kids could be very eerily observant, while being so innocent and naïve.
“I think I might. But no one will believe me.”
“You don’t know unless you try.”
“Unfortunately I do.”
“You should always tell people if you think you know something!” The kid was almost angry at his despair, but she reigned herself in. “If I went missing, I think I would want anyone who thought they knew anything to tell someone. The police have to follow up on the tips too!” She was grinning again. “’sides sometimes you can get paid for doing it.”
Shawn thought on this for a moment.
“So you think that I should tell the police?” He queried. She nodded, antenna bobbing. “Why do you think I would care about what the girls would have wanted?” She pulled the ball into her arms as she jumped off the bench, and whirled to look at him. Her blue eyes were strangely old and serious.
“You’re a good person Shawn. You were worried about me talking to a strange man. You care about everybody, and you can help the girls get some peace to move on. If you make the call they’ll listen, you can even be anonymous if you want.”
He put his hand down as he watched her walk away. She was right, he could always call in anonymously, and it wouldn’t hurt the investigation because he was right. In some ways kids were the brightest people of all.
3. Spring Break
The Wiener mobile was one of the funner jobs (more fun? If the superlative was funnest, didn’t that make it funner?). He always met a wide range of people, and he didn’t actually have too long of hours. Most of the hours he did have were his to goof off in. So it was alright to take an early lunch, leaving the giant hot dog parked in the bus area of the picnic spot he chose. He took the time to pull out a new postcard. Gus needed to be kept up to date after all. He still wasn’t sure if he wanted to tell Gus about his most recent tip, the case had involved prairie dogs that had been let out of the zoo for a distraction, and Gus still didn’t do well with prairie dogs.
“Do you mind if I sit?” A polite voice asked. Shawn waved his assent to the (white male, late teens, blue jeans, soft brown jacket, dark , short poofy hair, 5’7”) kid, and of course now his dad’s training would kick in, he thought he had stopped profiling people like that, apparently not. “Thanks.” Shawn didn’t pay much attention, more enthralled with his story to Gus getting wilder with each sentence.
The kid finished his sandwich before starting to talk. Shawn, skills honed through years of being talked at by Gus, his dad, and almost every authority figure in between, tuned him out.
“…it’s still got to be kind of weird by yourself.” Shawn realized there was a pause in the kid’s speech and retraced the conversation.
“I guess, never really thought about it myself.” That seemed to satisfy the kid, although he didn’t quite look like he believed Shawn.
“You must have friends, don’t you get lonely?”
“Well, sure, but you grow up, grow apart. You go to find yourself, they go to college. You send them postcards and never call, they find new friends and forget about you.” Okay, so maybe it had been awhile since he had seen Gus, and maybe he was worried that he might have gotten replaced. Everybody had always said he was a bad influence on Gus, which he was, and that Gus would be so much better if he would just leave him alone, which he probably would. The last part might have just been Gus’ senior girlfriend though, but let’s be realistic, there was no way Gus would want to be friends. Shawn had gotten Gus into more trouble than anyone else, and now he only communicated one way occasionally. If he was Gus, he totally would have ditched Shawn Spenser by now.
“Yeah, but they could spend a lot of that time with their new friends worrying about you.” The kid had the gall to chuckle at some private joke. “Maybe they would want to spend some time getting to know who you’ve found, spring break is coming up.” Shawn scrunched his brow in confusion before realizing the extended metaphor.
“I think Gus would rather spend time on a beach, than in a giant hot-dog.”
“The truck is mobile.” The kid pointed out, packing up and moving to his car, which must have been parked right next to the tables, because he could hear the kid opening the driver-side door. “He could do both. You should think about it Shawn.”
Shawn was too busy staring at his post-card contemplatively to look at the car.
When Gus went back to Santa Barbara (only after extorting a promise for “Some phone calls Shawn. What if I want a souvenir, or specialty honey?”) two weeks later, Shawn felt lighter than he had in a long time. Gus had a great break (“Only after the second arrest Shawn! Why did you want me to hold the duck anyway? You’re lucky they didn’t press charges.”) and when he unpacked he would find pictures of their adventures, and the reason the duck was imperative to the scheme.
He was doing an interview with a local public access channel. Why his boss chose him was anybody’s guess. Then again his boss probably had better things to do, and he was the only other one on shift at the time. Still he could talk someone’s ear off, and custom skateboards were hardly a boring topic, though the interviewer had just asked about his past work experience, so he must have exhausted the topic already.
He spun most of his own work history into his persona’s (just saying that he went by “Dude” in the store) tale. He took in the interviewer, there was something about him. Tall, medium length dark hair, with a very prominent nose, he couldn’t really place it. He kind of looked like that analyst from 24, but they weren’t really in a great tv location. Arcadia didn’t exactly make for great scenery. He shrugged it off, he’d be moving on soon enough. The police force had bad vibes.
“Do you ever feel like you’re in a rut?”
“Nnnnooooo.” He pulled the word out, “why would I?”
“You said you spend 3 months, at most, in a town before moving on. From this angle it looks like you have a pattern, and just stick to it, even if something does catch you’re interest you don’t stay.” He shrugged. Shawn felt wary now.
“Aren’t you here to talk about skateboards?” He pushed, “why all the questions about me?”
“We’ve been done for a while, the cameramen all went home. I was just curious.”
“It doesn’t matter; I’m leaving in a few days anyway, already put in my notice.” He walked the guy to the front of the shop.”
“You need to try something else Shawn. Wandering around the world isn’t working.”
He closed the door in the guy’s face. Shawn didn’t have to put up with that stuff, and he wouldn’t. Even if he had found a job at the bookstore down the road and taken it, that didn’t mean that the interviewer was right. That he was getting tired of not finding a place.
He wasn’t the only employee at the bookstore. There was a girl, Joan, whose boyfriend always pretended to be high and called her “Jane.” It was mundane, and nice. The store was surprisingly busy, except at the end of the day.
Joan’s boyfriend was here, needing help finding a book he only wanted to tell Joan about (which was a complete lie, but the kid wasn’t going anywhere until he talked to her so there wasn’t really any harm), so he went to find her. She was at the table with an older lady in whispered conversation. Joan was confused and the old lady, small and pale with chin length gray hair and overly large glasses, was obviously the one in charge of the conversation.
“Joan, you’re boyfriend’s here, says he needs to talk to you.” He interrupted, confusion, realization and frustration moseyed across her face.
“Adam.” She said mostly to herself. “Hey could you…”
“Go on Joan,” the old lady said, “I want to talk to this young man for a bit.” That wasn’t weird at all, he thought as Joan confirmed the statement with the lady before bolting to her beau. “Sit down.” The old lady said, wearily, “This old lady has something she needs to get off of her chest, and you’re a more appropriate audience.” He sat, concerned now.
“I’m going to tell you a story, and then you’re going to think about it.” She said brokering no argument. Not that Shawn knew what he was supposed to be arguing anyway. “You look like a boy who left his parent’s early.”
“It was completely legal, and I want nothing to do with it anymore.” He said getting ready to leave.
“I had a son like you, and I want to tell you about him.” She stated, sadness creeping into her tone. He sat back, and took a breath. This was about her, not about him, she was grieving and the least he could do was let her pretend for a little while.
“He was headstrong, mischievous, easily jealous, but compassionate.”
“We sound so much alike.” He proclaimed with false enthusiasm. She glared. “Sorry.”
“He always wanted what was best for me, to keep me from pain. I wanted him to see the world like I did. I wanted him to see how sometimes the things that brought me pain, made me happy. So I worked with him, for a long time, trying to show him what I saw. He felt that I was just pushing my beliefs onto him. He was so mad that I couldn’t see it his way, that I would always have the pain, as some of the things I loved, destroyed others. He wanted me to start over, or at least not try to make him into me. He left with a lot of hate, and anger. I didn’t realize that I had hurt him so much. I miss him dearly, love him dearly, and I made so many mistakes. He did too. I haven’t seen him in a long time. I want him to know that I am sorry that I tried to make him into me. Don’t be too hard on him Shawn; he’s been so hard on himself.
He never heard her leave.
+1. Go Home
He sat at that table for a long time, thinking about all the things that had happened. He had been so angry at his dad. He had said things he didn’t mean, but did Henry Spencer feel the same way? His father had pushed, and pushed, angry and disappointed. His father couldn’t understand how much he hated knowing everything. He might have been rash in leaving, in leaving everything. Getting as far away from his gifts as he could, as much as they kept. Coming. Back. Oh, God. He needed a sign, a clue as to what to do next.
“It’s time to go home Shawn.” Joan said, interrupting his thoughts, kind of.
“What, Joanie?” He asked making his voice sound amused. How had she known, that was what he was thinking of? Maybe he just misheard though.
“It’s time to go home.” She said, more confident, but confused at his response. So he had heard correctly. It was a sign. It was time to face his demons about the town, about his father. He had been trying to outrun his gifts. He had let them define him for too long. The solution was easy, he was more than his gifts, and he could easily live without them. It was time to go home.
“Yeah,” He smiled. “Yeah it is, thanks God. Can you put in my resignation?”
“What are you talking about?” She asked as he strode to the door. “Where are you going?”
“Santa Barbara,” he replied, pulling on his helmet and kicking the stand to his bike back. “Like you said, it’s time to go home. Thanks for everything. I gotta say, I never thought God would want a boyfriend.” He winked. “Or have such cute skirts, don’t worry no one would ever believe me if I told.”
Shawn Spencer road off into the night, never once looking back to the stunned teenage form of Joan Girardi, sputtering in front of a bookstore.
He never heard the outraged shout of “He thought I was YOU!” nor the soft chuckle of a reply. He was on his way home.
Years later in the office of Psych, Shawn Spencer had finally found himself, mostly. He helped the dead move on, and kept a firm belief in God. He riffled through the mail, alone in the office, and choked on the soda he had been drinking.
When Gus came in later he didn’t notice the addition to Shawn’s desk, a framed postcard with a picture of a schoolhouse. He would never know the simple message on the back.
You’re welcome- G
Who knew God had a sense of humor?