Jethro was standing on the sidewalk, attired in something that was recognizably a corporal's uniform with its two stripes. It owed something to the Spanish-American war and to armies other than that of the Confederacy, but that couldn't be helped. The winos were all around him, but they hardly noticed his eccentric dress. In efforts to convince them that they had DT's, Jethro sometimes went out at night with his coat collar turned up to his hat, suddenly turning on them with a wolf's mask over his face. They cared little what outlandish costumes he wore as long as he didn't frighten them.
Colonel Bubba C. Huggett arrived in a taxi. The broad cavalry hat looked odd on a man who was so obviously an infantryman, but it was clear that he believed himself to be on the point of victory. Jethro saluted and said,
"The position has been secured, sir. Fourth floor on the left."
Colonel Huggett only nodded as he went in the open door. The stairs
were old, worn, and creaky, but Jethro went up quietly while the
colonel pounded along a flight above him. When Jethro reached his
apartment, he went quickly to a rear closet and climbed carefully on to
a box. His head was then at eye-level to a series of holes he had
secretly bored to overlook Melissa's apartment.
As she heard Colonel Huggett approach, Melissa readied herself with an excited and almost exalted apprehension. She knew that it should matter more than it did that her visitor was only Colonel Huggett. It wasn't normal to be so focussed on oneself that it hardly mattered who the other person was. She also knew that people of that sort often went into the theatre. Her mother, for example, had been quite an accomplished amateur actress in her youth.
Melissa had herself signed up for a drama course, but it soon became clear that she had no talent. And, anyway, she didn't really much care whether the audience numbered one or one thousand. Moreover, her "acting", which doubled as therapy, was personal, and even dangerous, in a way in which a part in a play could hardly be.
Having decided against the civil war outfit, Melissa was in a black Edwardian dress. It was almost half a century too late, but skirts were still long, and, even though it was English, she felt much more Teutonic than she would have in a wide skirt and flowered hat. To the subdued elegance of the dress, with its high collar and long sleeves, Melissa had added black pumps, little silver earrings, and a small close- fitting black hat that was also Edwardian.
When she answered the door and saw the surprise on Colonel Huggett's face, Melissa asked him, in German, whether he had come for her aunt's funeral. Amazingly, he replied, in quite good German, that his forces had just taken the city, and that he was commandeering the building. Melissa replied that that was all very well, but that she must leave immediately. Picking up her umbrella, she made to move around him. Colonel Huggett put out his arm to stop her.
Despite being constrained by her costume, Melissa could have dealt with the colonel in a purely physical sense. She had practised judo maneuvers thousands of times with Jethro, and had used them in earnest on more than one occasion. While the tight skirt prevented the leg sweep which was a part of O Soto Gari, and which would have deposited the colonel on his rear, a spinning Ippon Seonage, with a nice dip of the knees and a straight back, would have taken him over her head dropped him on almost any part of his anatomy she chose, not excluding his head. While his out-stretched arm particularly encouraged Ippon Seonage, it was, of course, out of character. Indeed, Melissa's German teacher had once told her that no German would ever condescend to learn anything from any Japanese.
Backing up obediantly with wonder and uncertainty on her face, Melissa fluttered her hands in a way that her drama teacher wouldn't have liked. Whatever her dramatic failings, Colonel Huggett seemed undeterred and said,
"There's rioting in the streets. It isn't safe for you to go out."
Melissa's object, on these occasions, was to merge one of her own fantasies with something which would be therapeutic for the client. It sometimes took some imagination. In this case, Melissa began by imagining herself to be seventeen and asked,
"What should I do, then?"
"Your aunt's funeral will have to be postponed, at least until tomorrow. If you stay right here, I'll protect you."
Melissa smiled shyly as she recalled her own situation at seventeen. She had already been expelled from a Catholic boarding school, largely on account of her attitude toward the Virgin Mary. Melissa had held, first, that the Virgin should be revered for her virginity. That was fine. She then claimed that all women should emulate the Virgin and remain virgins themselves, always and under all circumstances. That caused the nuns to become nervous. Melissa had then argued that the Virgin was a victim of a divine plot to ruin her reputation and disrupt her high-minded marriage. When Melissa went on to suggest that the Virgin should have retaliated with an abortion, an extraordinary amount of emotion had been set loose.
The next school had been basically Protestant and much more permissive. Far from wanting to shock the principal, a Mr. Armstrong, Melissa had conceived a romantic passion for him. This passion was, as usual, restricted by the virginity parameters. But it allowed for a good deal else.
Mr. Armstrong had, unfortunately, been quite restrained and proper in his relations with even the most enthusiastic of the female students. However, imagining herself being summoned to the principal's office, Melissa was now about to make good Mr. Armstrong's deficiencies with the help of Colonel Huggett. The similarity in appearance and personality was minimal, but it would have to do. Mr. Armstrong hadn't actually spanked anyone, but Colonel Huggett was, after all, taking a paternalistic tone. If one were saucy with him, one might find oneself bent over a chair with one's skirts flipped up to facilitate the sort of discipline which would surely appeal to an officer with such fluency in German. It was just then that Melissa hit a wall.
At the point at which she usually became excited, she now felt revulsion, both for the role and for Colonel Huggett. She might have remained silent for some time if he hadn't instructed her to take off her dress. Suddenly remembering that she was a professional psychologist, she began to comply.
Whatever her fantasies, and whatever she was encouraging, intentionally or otherwise, in her client, Melissa had grounds for thinking herself in control of the situation. In some of her phsyiology courses, and in her subsequent research, she had come to know quite a lot about the male sexual function. There was little danger of penetration because her hand techniques were so good that her client could be satisfied, as many times as might be indicated in the therapeutic situation, without the occurrence of carnal commerce, strictly defined.
Things never got that far with Colonel Huggett. Melissa was still in one layer of Edwardian underclothing, not to mention her hat, when Jethro burst in the door and shouted,
"Colonel, the enemy's counter-attacking. His cavalry is charging down Vine Street, sir."
Colonel Huggett, who had begun to show some signs of inebriation, wasn't quick off the mark. In his first attempt to wheel and meet the Union attack, he fell flat on his face. However, Jethro, acting the part of the faithful corporal who can be relied on, both in battle and in more intimate circumstances, helped him up and led him down the stairs. Leaning out of the window, Melissa heard Jethro loudly instruct the bemused taxi driver to charge through the barricades and beware of ambushes.
It was then that Mortimer went on one of his rampages. While he had never bitten anyone, he would run wildly around the apartments barking hysterically and biting unlikely objects. He had once broken the blade of a steak knife in two, and even a sturdily bound book was zeroed in one bite.
This turned out to be a vertical rampage in which Mortimer ran up and down all four flights, terrorizing the residents and sometimes snapping the bannister spokes with his jaws. Melissa kicked off her shoes and ran down a flight in the hope of collaring him. At the same time, Bobby, who was good with Mortimer, was chasing him upstairs. All three met on the third floor landing, and, when Melissa saw the shocked look on Bobby's face, she explained,
"We're having a costume party upstairs."
She doubted that Bobby knew what a costume party was, but he said nothing as Melissa led the seething Mortimer up the stairs.
Even after she had subdued Mortimer with his favorite rubber turtle, which he handled quite gently, Jethro took a long time in coming up. He evidently knew what was in store for him.
Melissa suspected that it was Jethro's warped sense of humor that had caused him to burst in, but she wasn't quite sure. In the former case she would be very angry. If not, it all depended. Unfortunately, conditional anger was a lot less satisfying than actual fury, particularly when she also had an urge to replace her aborted game with Colonel Huggett with a related one with Jethro. In this, if he were properly apologetic, she would take the dominant role of an authoritarian schoolmistress of eccentric dress who was dealing with a bad little boy.
When Melissa heard Jethro come lumbering up the stairs, she put her shoes back on. Then, standing particularly straight, she said,
"I can't possibly conduct therapy sessions if you, with your unpredictable and misguided humor, are likely to come bursting in at any moment."
Jethro pointed out that he had never done it before. Melissa continued,
"I don't like to keep pointing out that I'm paying the bills, but, if your contributions are going to be negative, I just can't manage. I'm sure that's a lost client."
"It's hard for me to sit there imagining what might be going on."
On the few occasions on which Jethro said such things, Melissa questioned his sincerity. As she did so now, she lost track of her schoolmistress fantasy. Then, noting inwardly that he always spoiled her fantasies, she wondered if he might possibly be sincere. After all, most men would be sexually jealous in such a situation. Was Jethro really so very different? She replied,
"I never had any idea that you cared."
"I've always cared."
"How could you stand it, then?"
"It's been hard."
"I could arrange these things elsewhere."
"But, then, I wouldn't be on hand if anything goes wrong. With me here, all you have to do is yell."
"It is safer for me. But I don't want to make it too hard for you."
Melissa, forgetting to be a schoolmistress, walked swiftly to Jethro and threw her arms around him.