by Southy

©November 2005


Jim came home to find Blair with his laptop on the kitchen table, wires and cords stretched to the wall. His roommate’s mouth was in a frown as he studied the screen, having not even bothered to look up in greeting.

“What’s wrong?” Jim asked, heading for the refrigerator.

Now Blair looked up. “Huh? Oh, I’m just reading these posts from this list.”

List. One of those computer-age words where people with a supposedly common interest got together to bitch and moan with each other – and argue with each other – about their supposed common interest. 

At the suggestion of a Cascade PD therapist, Jim had joined a list for cops who had killed on the job. He got fed up after two days, because he didn’t feel any kind of common bond with those officers. He’d wanted to move on; they seemed to want their guilt about their shootings to run their lives.

Not that Jim didn’t have guilt, but the desire to not wallow in it prevailed. Besides, he’d never been much of a “let’s all talk about how we feel” kind of person – even across cyberspace.

“What is it?” Jim asked conversationally as he reached for a beer. “A list for finding girls?”

“No,” Blair scowled, eyes on the screen. “It’s a list for people in the field of anthropology. There’s this one guy, Frederick Aslow, who thinks he’s The Last Word on all things anthropological. He’s, like, a million years old and, as far as he’s concerned, anyone under the age of 60 has no idea what they’re talking about.”

Jim grinned as he took a sip. “Like you?”

Blair snorted, glancing up at him briefly. “Me and nearly all the other 800 people on the list. Of course, there’s a few Aslow worshippers who are just as snooty as he is about putting everyone in their place.”

“Seems like, with those kind of odds, the rest of you could run circles around him and his cronies.”

Blair grit his teeth and finally looked up. “It’s not like that in cyperspace. Besides, he’s been on the list so long that most people are too chicken to say anything, even though they get insulted too.”

“Or maybe they have better things to do with their time,” Jim offered, feeling reasonable.

“Jim,” Blair huffed, “anthropology is my field. I’m not going to sit by and let some holier-than-thou fossil tell me that I don’t know what I’m talking about. Besides,” he added after a breath, “you know he wouldn’t be such an asshole if he had to confront any of us in person.”

Jim sat with his hip on the counter. “Hmm. Asshole,” he repeated blandly.

“Well, he is!”

“And a coward to boot.”

“Hey, if the shoe fits.”

“Chief,” Jim nodded toward Blair’s hand, “you’re making a fist.”

Blair uncurled his hand while his eyes returned to the screen. “Jim, I’m telling you, the rest of us make very logical, calm arguments about why we disagree with him about different things, and he comes back with this brick wall mentality that refuses to budge from his outdated theories. And then he talks way down to us. And his cronies join in.”

Blair suddenly grinned at the screen. “My friend Becky just posted to a private list that a few of us are on. She says, ‘Can you believe that Asshole Aslow is at it again?’” He looked up at Jim. “See? It’s not just my opinion that Aslow is an asshole.” He continued to read, “ ‘How far up his ass do you think Jenkins’ tongue goes?’” With a glance at Jim, “Jenkins is one of his cronies who worships everything Aslow says.”

“Asshole Aslow,” Jim reminded.

“Yeah, Asshole Aslow.”

“And Jerk Jensen.”

“Jenkins,” Blair corrected with a chuckle.

Jim carried his beer to the living room. “I don’t know, Chief. It’s a bit disconcerting to see you with all this hostility. Seems to me, it would make more sense to just ignore the guy. If none of you validated him by paying attention to what he says, then he would go silent pretty fast, don't you think?”

Blair’s hand curled again. “Jim, if someone put on the internet that Jim Ellison is a fucked up cop who doesn’t know what he’s doing, would you just shrug and go ‘oh, well’ – and let the rest of the world believe it? Especially if that statement came from somebody respected in law enforcement?”

That was an interesting dilemma, he had to admit. “I guess I’d prefer that my actions speak for themselves. Really, Chief, it’s hard to convince anyone of anything with mere words.”

“Still, the public is so swayed by anything it hears or reads that it’s been proven historically that anyone in the public eye – even if they aren’t a celebrity – is committing career suicide to let any kind of slander go unchallenged. At least, if you refute something negative said about you, the average person has to consider that your side might have some merit – even if you don’t have a fucking book printed fifty years ago to fall back on, like your accuser.”

Jim took a large swig, then, “Asshole Aslow published a book fifty years ago?”

“Yeah. And he brings that up over and over, every chance he gets. It’s not like it’s even in print anymore. But he acts like it’s some sort of godforsaken bible that all anthropologists are supposed to worship.” Derisive snort. “If he wasn’t so insecure about being respected after all these years, he wouldn’t feel the need to bring it up so often.” He looked up a Jim. “It’s really kind of sad and pathetic, when you think about it.”

Jim put the empty bottle aside and teased, “Obviously, not so sad and pathetic that you have any sympathy for him.”

Blair’s eyes were back on the screen as he typed. “Actually, I do feel sorry for him on one level. But on other levels, he pisses me off so much that I just feel I want to shake him silly and – just once – have him acknowledge that any of the rest of us might possibly, maybe, kind of, sort of, have a point.”

“Doesn’t sound like that’s going to happen.”

“Unfortunately, no.”

“Then why don’t you just let it go? This list is just for anthropologists, not the public, right? And if most of the 800 of you know that Aslow is an asshole, then none of you need to defend yourselves to each other.”

Blair’s teeth grit as he continued to type. “It’s the principle of the thing, Jim.”

Jim waved his hands. “I see I’m not going to get past the Sandburg brick wall on this.” He reached for his keys, “How about we change the subject and I treat you to dinner?”

Blair kept typing and didn’t look up. “Let me finish this email to Becky.” Wicked snort. “From now on, I’ll refer to Jenkins as Jerk Jenkins.”

Jim put his hands on his hips. “I’m feeling a real urge here to take that laptop away from you. This isn’t your best side.”

“Almost done,” Blair said, typing faster.

“While we’re at dinner? No talk of Asshole Aslow or Jerk Jenkins.”

Still typing, Blair said, “He doesn’t believe in sentinels, Jim.”


“As far as he’s concerned, you don’t exist.” Blair stabbed at a key and then lowered the cover. “There.” He stood and trotted over to the coat rack. “Where are we going?”

“What do you mean he doesn’t believe in sentinels? After all your research and Burton’s book?”

Blair put on his coat. “Aslow thinks Burton is an asshole.”

Jim’s fist curled around his keys. “He’s an asshole.” He opened the door for Blair.

Blair grinned up at him. “Remember, Jim, no talk of assholes or jerks during dinner.”


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