22nd August 2012, 01:25 PM #1
As You Like It, Or Chuck Shijima: A Wife, A Waterfall, and William Shakespeare
a/n: I found a draft of this on my computer, and I went through it again, rewriting it. I've always thought Chuck is an under appreciated character. This is my attempt at fixing that.
And I love reviews!
as you like it.
All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And ones man in his time plays seven parts,
His acts being seven ages.
At first the infant,
Mewling and puking in his nurse’s arms.
Chuck was born a sickly child—and the doctors doubted he would ever survive his first breath. He weighed less than a feather and was smaller than the monochrome toaster at his mother’s old house. He was anemic too, practically bright yellow. His mother ordered the doctors to save him, ignoring replies of “You’re wasting your own money!”
He was a fighter; she could feel him kicking hard from the beginning.
Charles for the father; Thomas for her father; Shijima for a long-lost stranger she never knew but in history books, something she carried along with her as well.
He was hooked up to a vast array of tubes and wires, and needles were poked into his feet like it was a pincushion. A plethora of plastics was shoved down his every orifice. Every little movement was charted, graphed, analyzed. Dismayed doctors stood with crossed arms staring hopelessly at the monitor.
He lived. She told them he would.
And then the whining schoolboy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like a snail
Unwillingly to school
“I don’t want to go!” insisted the young boy Charles. “All the other kids make fun of me ‘cause I’m small. Can I just—just stay home today? Please?”
He gave his mother the best Growlithe puppy face he could muster.
“You asked me that yesterday, Chuck. My answer hasn’t changed,” she chided him.
“I didn’t raise you to be a quitter.” Her mother—Chuck’s grandmother—once stated Ms. Shijima was born to be a mother, and, as much as Ms. Shijima hated to admit it, it was true. Old maw-maw, bless her soul, must be laughing in her grave. She practically reprimanded her beloved only son in her sleep. And she secretly wondered if she actually did, considering how horribly often she fretted over the poor child.
“No!” Her voice carried authority stronger than a Diglett’s Arena Trap.
Chuck looked away, sticking out a fat bottom lip. Ms. Shijima sighed and knelt and squeezed his arm. Ripping open his messenger bag—with an eye of the betraying time—she retrieved a pokeball and held it up for him. Blue, white, and black, with a frightening amount of energy, Poliwag emerged and glubbed its name, watching Chuck’s upset face with concern.
“You’re small, but someday you’ll be bigger than all those boys in size—yes—but more importantly, in strength. You have a very loyal pokemon.”
The Poliwag nuzzled Chuck’s skinny arm reassuringly. Chuck smiled faintly at his companion and then stared his mother straight in the eye like he was shooting an arrow.
“I’ll go,” he said. “And I want to be called ‘Charles.’”
His mother laughed as she kissed his forehead and sent him on his way.
And then the lover,
Sighing like a furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress’ eyebrow.
Yes—Chuck decided, after seeing her for all of ten seconds—this waitress chick is definitely the hottest girl around Cianwood.
Her nametag read “Sandy,” but Chuck reasoned that she was much more sophisticated than that. Try Sandra.
He sat at his table for two, just watching her hips sway back and forth as she dropped a tray of Diet Cokes at Table Six. (“Y’all ready to order?”) She wore a skimy, flippy skirt that showcased her teensy bottom and slim waist.
And by no means was Chuck an unattractive dude. Quite the contrary, he began to develop muscles from his wild excursions aboard the ships of Cianwood—pulling ropes, fixing sails to the wind; a seaman’s weight room—although still he could be categorized as “slightly shrimpy.” This girl was obviously a ten. Chuck could score a seven on a good day.
Close enough. She isn’t completely out of my league.
He chuckled to himself. League. Sea-joke.
Then he laughed again. Chuckled. Self-joke.
“Whatcha laughing at, Chuckie?” his fellow tablemate demanded. Oh. Right. Chuck was supposed to be on a date. The girl across the way—Marleigh—appeared outraged. True, he neglected her, and—true—she was kind of cute with her beachy hair and freckles and big, ocean-blue eyes, but she was wholly eclipsed by this work of art in front of him, serving breakfast from eight-‘til-late.
“Oh. Uh. Nothing,” Chuck stammered. He smiled sheepishly at Marleigh and studied his plastic menu. “Any idea what you want?”
“Yeah. This thing’s called a—“
A male waiter interrupted her. His nametag identified him as “Jim.”
“What can I get you?”
“Hm,” said Marleigh, flustered. “I’d like a—a House salad. No dressing, please.” She glanced uneasily at Chuck.
“Sure thing!” Jim grinned at her and then swiveled to Chuck. “And you?”
“Surf and turf,” Chuck said, and then muttered, “And Sandy’s number…”
Stupidly, he muttered a little too loudly. Both Jim and Marleigh heard him.
“Normally I let the guys go after her,” Jim started cheerfully. “But I’ll be nice to you, since you got a woman at the moment—”
Marleigh jumped from her seat, disgruntled, slapped Chuck across the hand, grabbed her purse, and snarled, “Fucking jerk.” She spun on a heel and stalked away.
“Or not.” Jim grimaced.
Chuck rubbed the back of his hand gingerly with a rope-burned palm.
“Anyway, Sandy’s engaged. It’s been that way for, like, ever. High school boyfriend. Big guy, too. His dad operates the PokeMart here and a couple others back on the mainland. She’s hot, but sorry bro, you’ve got no chance.”
“We see about that,” grumbled Chuck.
Jim snorted. “So I’m guessing that’s a nix on the salad?”
Chuck trudged into the PokeMart the next day, feeling like a sharpedo out for blood. He even wore his sleeveless “muscle” shirt. Poliwhirl’s ball was in his pocket.
“You Sandy’s fiancée?” he inquired of the large and heavily tattooed man behind the counter, organizing cigarette boxes next to a pile of fancy stationary.
“Naw. I’m his dad,” the man grunted, raising a thick eyebrow. “You lookin’ for ‘im?”
“Should be down th’ aisle on yer left.”
Chuck gave himself a silent pep talk, reminding himself of all the good things he could do, and the fact that Poliwhirl had a sick water gun attack, before he came across the humongous, exponentially larger man stacking potions on a shelf.
“You’re Sandy’s fiancée?”
The man dragged himself up to his full height, and Chuck realized with a pounding heart that he might have bitten off more than he could chew. He probably should have set more in store by Jim.
“Yeah. What of it?”
Arceus, his voice is low, too. Chuck became increasingly aware that this man smelled—no, reeked of cigarette smoke and Axe. His hands balled up in fists, Chuck took a deep breath.
“I said, ‘what of it?’” the man pressed.
Chuck was wide-eyed and silent still as if sewn completely stiff.
“Huh? What’s up? You been checkin’ out my girl?”
Chuck shook his head, inching away slowly.
Now, Chuck was currently raising a fighting Pokemon and would go one to raise several more in the future. For this reason, he had been beaten and bruised and bloodied too many times to count (but as long as he could tell how many fingers the doctor held up, he was fine). He wasn't afraid of punches or kicks. Much. Unfortunately, Sandy’s fiancée decked Chuck so hard that Chuck vomited across the recently polished PokeMart floor.
(He up-chucked. Of course, the play on words wouldn’t be funny until later when his gut didn’t hurt and the crushing embarrassment began to fade.)
Something was undeniably worse about this particular beating—though Chuck couldn’t place it.
“Pussy,” Sandy’s fiancée spat.
He heard a giggle from behind him as Sandy’s fiancée slunk away to his father for a (presumably deserved) high-five. It was Marleigh.
“Okay, so…maybe you aren’t a jerk, per se.” She paused for effect. “You’re more of an idiot.”
Chuck slumped against the nearest store shelf. “Just take me to the damned hospital.”
He would go on to marry this girl Marleigh. And she would go on to tease him mercilessly about this particular incident until death do them part.
Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honor, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon’s mouth.
So the skinny mess grew up. At age twenty, he had some serious muscle to his name (and some serious facial hair, too—Marleigh like it). His Poliwhirl evolved into a Poliwrath with the assistance of a water stone he received from his mother one Christmas. He rotated through a team of several other Pokemon he acquired over the years—through travel on land, on sea, through friendship, through trade: Machoke, Primeape, Hitmontop to name a few. He fought his way into gym leadership in Cianwood City when the position became available.
“I’m going to change a couple things ‘round this place,” he informed his wife, voice gushing with pride. “The old wrestling mats and sweaty punching bags are out the door. Screw tradition! I’m building myself a waterfall, dammit!”
“In the middle of the gym?” Marleigh wondered.
“In the middle of the gym,” he confirmed.
He kissed her cheek, and he went on to build himself a waterfall, dammit!
He accepted several trainers for his gym—ambitious battle girls and zealous black belts. Of these new trainees, two caught his eye as absolute stand-outs in all forms—of land, of sea, everything in between. One was very young—twelve at most—and liked to use surfer lingo, such as “hangin’ ten” and “gnarly, dude,” with which twenty-two year old Chuck wasn’t familiar and thus didn’t appreciate. The kid’s name was Brawly, and his parents dropped him off all the way from Hoenn on the weekends, claiming his prodigy status.
The other hailed from Cianwood, eighteen years old and as burly as Chuck—though lacking the serious facial hair—Bruno showed incredible promise and, more importantly, incredible discipline. The recruit actually drank Chuck’s morning protein shakes without complaint. Marleigh told Chuck that Brawly hid the cups behind the gym’s back-up generator.
(“Those are nasty!” Brawly insisted once confronted. “I tasted, like, bacon in mine, and I’m a vegetarian, man!” To which Bruno chimed in, “Everything’s better with bacon!”)
Another year or so later, Brawly (regretfully) became a teenager and Bruno rooted further into adulthood by the day. Chuck suggested a trip by sea to break them both in. Bruno, spewing enthusiasm, wanted to see the world and all it had to offer. Brawly agreed, provided they land in a town with “righteous waves.”
They set sail a week after Chuck’s twenty-fourth birthday.
“What am I going to do without you?” Marleigh complained to her husband.
Their boat had her blessing.
“Where to first, Captain?” Bruno stuck his head out over the port side of the boat, watching the Wingull call out to their faraway families.
“I toldja, you don’t need to call me that. Chuck’ll do just fine,” Chuck reminded him.
He had since dropped the “Charles” act when he grew a mustache and stopped wearing a shirt, because—as Marleigh dutifully pointed out—“Charles” was a name that implied politeness he didn’t own.
(His mother had been telling him this for years, but he had been in denial.)
“We’re headed to Canalave first. We’ll get directions to Iron Island from there. I remember the leader Byron from one of the League shindigs. Nice guy, nice son, nice shovel.”
To which, a queasy Brawly replied, “Nice.”
A day or two passed. Brawly was impressively seasick, and Bruno was impressively quiet. His soldiers had been (relatively) hardworking, Chuck mused. He docked by a small island just outside of Sinnoh for the night, examined his supply of super rods.
Yes, the fish would be biting tonight.
It was while Chuck mulled over the idea of Brawly in possession of a rather large hook that he heard the boys chatting in their cabin.
Curious, Chuck leaned against the Plexiglas door and eavesdropped, careful to quiet his breathing. After all, fighters had the best senses of all.
The surrounding, expanding, suffocating sea was surprisingly calm.
“…intend to go far,” Bruno said. “I have a lot to learn, I know. But I can do it! I’m good enough. I’ve always wanted to join the Elite Four. It’s just…” He trailed off, as though contemplating whether he should indulge such a risqué secret to a reliable ear like Brawly.
“I wonder whether I should train elsewhere if I want to excel.”
“Whaddya mean? Leave Chuck?”
“I will someday. Is sooner better than later?” Bruno hesitated for a beat. Chuck heard the floorboards of the boat crack, and his hot breath caught in his throat. But the racking ended as soon as it began, as though Bruno merely shifted into a more comfortable position. “He’s not a very good teacher or a fighter. I won’t ever reach my truest potential here; that’s for sure. I wonder if I should join up with Marshal in Unova. You’ve heard of him, right? He’s an up-and-coming talent about my age. He’s just be instated into their Elite Four—not to mention, he’s got a few heavyweight championships under his belt…”
As Bruno went on, Chuck felt a sudden pinch of anger jolt through his chest like a pinprick. He remained quiet, though, in case they had more to say on the matter. Perhaps they would like to amend their previous words?
“I like Chuck,” Brawly replied. “We’re tight, y’know? We’re, like, brothers.”
‘That’s just…” Bruno searched for the right word, “swell. Yes, Chuck’s an honorable man and everything. His kindness to me will be remembered. The problem is still that he’s simply not good enough. I’m better than him now, and I’ll continue to develop.”
In that moment, Chuck considered whether or not Bruno was able to swim. Finally deciding that he didn’t care (unsurprisingly), he burst through the door, grabbed the built young man around the waist—Bruno was unable to protect himself in his shock—and hoisted him overboard.
To Bruno’s uncomfortable (and wet) protests, Chuck bitterly said, “It’s a small boat, kid.”
Brawly watched, awe-struck. “You’re hardcore, Chuck!”
“Yeah,” Chuck acknowledged, running a hand through his hair. “You think it’d be too cruel to just leave him here?”
With Bruno back in tow (having climbed back on and practically shivered his skin off in the freezing night air), Chuck sat by himself at the wheel of the boat and thought, Is there really no room for improvement? Have I plateaued at last?
He remembered his mother: “You’ll be bigger than all those boys in size…but more importantly, in strength.”
Weakness had no place in his body, for there was no room to accommodate such sluggish presence, such an unwelcome guest. No vacancies. No. From now on, he would lose it from sweat that drained like a fountain from his pores.
…Starting once he got back.
And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lined,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise sews and modern instances;
And so he plays his part.
“It’s about time I dragged out from your waterfall,” Marleigh said with a huff. “You’ll take out your back that way. It’s stupid.”
“Everyone’s a critic,” Chuck grumbled, toweling himself off. They stood in the kitchen. Marleigh clucked her tongue.
She asked, “So…who beat you this time?”
“Why do you always assume I lost? Maybe I just—I just wanted a break or something.”
“Please. I know you better than that.”
“Fine,” he said, adjusting the drawstring on his pants. “Fine. Three of ‘em in the past few days, and they’re all from the same damn place: New Bark. That place hardly has a spot on the map!” He gesticulated wildly for emphasis. “Poliwrath can barely move now, the poor guy’s so exhausted. It’s just one after the other. I get floored; I heal up, only to be floored again!” He paused. “All three of ‘em’ll go far; there’s no question. It’s humiliating, though! I might get inspected now. They’ll think I’m losing my touch!”
Marleigh pursed her lips. “Real good trainers, then?”
She thought for a moment then picked up the newspaper—The Johto Sun. “Was this one of them?” She displayed the full-color photo to her husband, of a boy with a shock of crimson hair scowling at someone behind the camera, fuzzy, as though in dangerous movement. The headline read, “Thief on the loose, stole Pokemon in New Bark.”
Chuck squinted at it. “Could be. The third one sure looked a lot like that.”
“Interesting.” Marleigh paged through the paper some more. “Oh, they announced the new Johto Elite Four. Agatha’s retiring.”
“Is Bruno still there?”
Marleigh and Chuck lay in bed that night, and Chuck had inklings of thoughts battering the cages of his mind like a turbulent sea. Marleigh could tell, too; frustration was written like script upon his face.
“Don’t get me wrong; I love your muscles but…you spend too long under that waterfall. You come up looking like a prune and—and…it’s starting to get weird. It’s like you wanna make that waterfall your second wife or something. Like I have competition."
Chuck remained silent for a while. “You think I like my waterfall too much?”
“More than most people.”
“More than you?”
Marleigh didn’t respond.
“I love you, Mar—“
“I slept with one of your black belts!” she cut him off.
Chuck sprang up in bed and banged his head on the wall. “What?!”
“You never came home. I get lonely, alright? Jeez.”
Chuck stared at her incredulously, rubbing at what felt like the roots of his thirty-sixth concussion, and she burst out laughing.
“I’m kidding, Chuck. But that got your attention, eh?”
“Calm down,” she said, breathless from the laughter. “I just want you to come home more often, okay? I need you around to lift heavy things and scare away bug Pokemon and—er, you get it.”
Chuck collapsed onto his back again, irked. “I’ll see what I can do.”
Marleigh wasn’t kidding. When Chuck didn’t get his act together right away, she handed out his number left and right to all the trainers she saw popping out of his gym. His PokeGear would ring off the hook on Wednesdays. He tried to ignore it.
But it was hard to avoid the unwanted strangers once she began to offer them HM02 and they would knock on his door at ungodly hours of the day.
In the game of getting people to do things, his wife was the supreme overlord. He would have to cry “Uncle!” and concede victory—otherwise, he’d risk more trespassers and late-night random drunk-dials.
He made an effort, of course. And he started looking after his black belts a little more suspiciously, just in case.
A new battle girl from Sinnoh decided to join his gym. Brawly met her a while back and invited her, claiming that Chuck was “the best bro around.”
She was utterly out of her mind, Chuck found out. She wouldn’t stop fighting even if her opponent was beating the living crap out of her.
“That’s real determination,” Chuck remarked. “You’re insane, and you could make a lower weight class.”
The girl smiled shyly.
“What’s your name?” he questioned.
She was a fighting prodigy, it turned out, but she was only so-so at battling. Chuck flattened her easily whenever Poliwrath was called out, and she’d stare up at him in awe as Brawly cheered from the sidelines, her hair soaking wet from one of Poliwrath’s more powerful Hydro Pumps.
When at last, Brawly and Maylene had to leave, Chuck was devastated. He didn’t have anyone to take their place. Sure, there were plenty of prospects, but none with as much (or perhaps too much) personality as Maylene, Brawly, and the other one. (Chuck refused to mention Bruno anymore. It made him want to break cinder blocks with his forehead, but the last time he tried that, Marleigh had to rush him to Cianwood’s ER for severe head trauma—his thirty-seventh concussion.)
For a long time, the waterfall lingered shut off, and Marleigh was ecstatic. But Chuck so clearly wasn’t, and she decided to approach him about retirement.
The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slippered pantaloons,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side,
His youthful hose, well-saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk-shank; and his big manly voice
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound.
The world changed from whence Chuck remembered it, and he only really noticed when he woke up on his sixty-fifth birthday.
He dragged himself out of bed, which jolted Marleigh awake. (She was an extremely light sleeper, which conflicted horribly with her grouchiness when roused too early.)
She blinked a few times, then she croaked, “You’re getting old, Charles,” and tried to drown herself in the linen pillows.
He wasn’t a gym leader anymore; he hadn’t been for years—after some kid elected by the Elite Four had been dropped in his place like a baby from a stork. Chuck was pushed off the cliff of retirement before he had a chance to learn what 403W’s—or whatever the hell retirement funds are called—were. And it’s not like Marleigh was a fountain of knowledge in this subject area, either.
But most importantly, Chuck became a “Charles.”
“As you know,” Marleigh began over breakfast toast, “Baoba’s been dead for quite some time and—“
“The late Warden. You two were drinking buddies back in the day?”
Chuck’s expression was blank. Marleigh snapped him over the hand with her cereal spoon.
“Ow,” he complained, and then it hit him. “Oh, right. That Baoba.”
“Anyhoo, he left it in the hands of Champion Lyra. But she’s been itching to travel abroad and can’t take care of it now. She wants to know if you’d take it over.”
“She said you’re conveniently located, and you love Pokemon.”
“Huh,” Chuck mulled it over. “When’d you find this out?”
“She called yesterday!” Marleigh snapped impatiently. “For Pete’s sake, Charles, is this twenty questions?”
Chuck dug into his cream-of-wheat. “Sorry. Tell her I’ll think it over.”
“She needs an answer quickly.”
“I’ll think it over,” Chuck repeated.
Being a Charles implied that he had to man up a bit on his own—more responsibilities and fewer impressive bouts of facial hair growth. He started signing checks as Charles and—after a two hour long conversation with people from his debit service (seventy-five percent of which was hold music)—that was there to stay.
He would only be remembered as “Chuck” by those who recalled his legacy—or those who forgot he went by “Charles” now. (The latter included his wife…or maybe she was just trying to spite him.)
“How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could Chuck Shijima--?”
Chuck grinned at his wife. “I’m taking the job.”
“Oh wait, a woodchuck can’t Charles wood, now can it?”
He growled, “Don’t make me question it.”
She grinned in return. “I’ll let them know.”
He ended up spending ample amounts of time at the Safari Zone, feeding Pokeblocks and Poffins to the plethora of wild Pokemon that lived in the place. It was taxing labor for a retired man of sixty-five, but Chuck found it extremely rewarding, seeing the looks on ten year olds faces as they exited the place, cradling Safari Balls with new found partners in their arms and on their belts.
He stayed at the Safari Zone for the rest of his life, too—divvying his time between maintenance of the facility, visiting old friends, and playing card games with his wife.
Marleigh reached the age during which she could stop gasping when she read the obituary and spied a familiar name. (“Oh, I was in his algebra class.” “I think we played bingo together once…” “I beat her up when she checked out my boyfriend junior year.”)
Chuck raised an eyebrow when she mentioned former boyfriends.
“It’s okay,” she assured him. “I saw his obituary last year.”
Poliwrath aged right along with Chuck, its water attacks becoming less and less powerful as time went on. Its legs shook when it trudged along beside Chuck in walks around Cianwood. It saddened Chuck, reminded him that time was passing horrifyingly quickly. He tried to fight it as best he could—he’d been labeled a fighter from day one for a reason after all—but it was a battle he was destined to lose.
Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.
Marleigh Shijima leaned against her cane and felt the rush of a crisp morning breeze caress her leathery, ancient skin. Vapor from a nearby waterfall splashed and rechristened the air, gave off the scent of clarity. She could sense his spirit even then, in the coursing stream, the emotion of trees whose branches groaned and shook with the passing gales, the cries of rocks pounded over and over again by the force of falling water.
Bruno propped a bouquet of wildflowers along the stream’s bank and backed away, as if afraid of supernatural retaliation.
“Brawly and Maylene couldn’t make it,” Bruno said solemnly. “They sent their condolences…”
Marleigh waved it away. “It’s fine. He’d understand.”
The wind whipped through Bruno’s hair, sent a shiver through his withering body along his bending spine.
Marleigh shook her head. “He never hated you.”
“Hm?” Bruno doubted this.
“He wanted to be you, and that’s that. I think he’d appreciate you coming here,” Marleigh smiled sadly. “It’s very kind.”
Bruno nodded, and the pair gazed at the waterfall having its way with the rest of the Earth, demonstrating its strength for all to see.
24th August 2012, 05:32 AM #2
Feeling of being watched
Re: As You Like It, Or Chuck Shijima: A Wife, A Waterfall, and William Shakespeare
Really enjoyable read. Nice to see a fic on a lesser explored character (it took me a while to remember who Chuck actually was ). The tie-in of the associated fighting trainers was well done and I thought expressed appropriately. Finely written with good use of pokemon related expressions and humour in general.
24th August 2012, 08:43 AM #3
Re: As You Like It, Or Chuck Shijima: A Wife, A Waterfall, and William Shakespeare
Thank you so much for your review!
My headcanon is that gym leaders from a certain type all know each other. They go to conventions and meetings together. They read about one another in celebrity magazines and watch each other's battles on TV. Some are best friends and some...not so much. There's admiration, but a lot of jealousy too.
I'd imagine the fighting trainers discuss their specific style a lot as well. Chuck seems like he'd be into Judo - Maylene, not so much.
Hah. I'll stop rambling.