Body and Spirit
AUTHOR'S NOTE: I was inspired to write this (by certain people, naming no names, but thanks, Deb K., Debbie R., Pam, E, and Susan...!) in the course of chatting about Cowley and another character, Inspector Morse (originally from a series of novels, but much better on the TV). For those who don't know Morse, he's a Chief Inspector who solves crimes in Oxford with the able assistance of his loyal Sergeant Lewis.
We were talking a bit about how Cowley and Morse might get along...
The strains of 'The Pearl Fishers' filled the sitting room, reaching a powerful crescendo, enveloping the two men in a swirl of music. Curtains were snugly drawn against the chilly night. The lamp's light touched Cowley's thinning hair with a fiery glow as he leaned back on the well-padded sofa, his bad leg comfortably outstretched. His companion sat in silence next to him, letting the opera have its way for the moment, his white head bowed in contemplation.
At last the music swept to a grand conclusion. Morse slowly rose to retrieve the beloved record and slip it into its dust jacket, replacing it with a quieter piece, violins and woodwinds weaving a peaceful spell. He returned to the sofa and settled next to Cowley again.
"Body," Morse said firmly, taking up the argument where they had left off.
"Eh?" Cowley lifted his head. "Are ye back on that again?"
Morse waved one hand expansively. "You can't tell me you never notice a fine body, George."
Cowley's response was a lifted brow. "Of course I notice." A reminiscent twinkle lit his eyes, and his face in the lamplight was smoothed of care. "I appreciate a good body as much as the next man."
"I don't know," Morse said, putting a relaxed arm along the back of the sofa. "After all, I'm the next man." His voice, low and rich, held a hint of challenge.
"And you don't think I share your... appetites, is that it?"
Morse leaned toward Cowley, studying him closely with the insolent affection of long acquaintance. "No," he said at last. "No, I don't think you do."
Cowley laughed at that. "Perhaps not, Morse. Aye, perhaps not." He closed his eyes for a moment. "Spirit, that's my weakness."
"Fire," Morse said, his tone softening.
"Mm." Cowley's eyes opened, fixed on Morse's craggy face. "I look for fire. Depend on it. It keeps me warm."
Morse cocked his head, soft white hair ruffled. "You like getting burnt," he said.
"I do," Cowley answered without hesitation. He rested one hand on his own chest. "I like to feel it right here. Glowing. Hot as a coal."
"While I prefer strength of a more mellow sort. A powerful body to hold and savor. Big and dependable." Morse glanced away loftily. "Longer-lasting, too."
"Longer-lasting?" Cowley asked incredulously. "Not the way you go about it, surely. You forget, I've seen you."
Morse glanced back at him. "Longer-lasting than you, at least," he said quickly, defensively.
But Cowley was shaking his head. "No, let's have none of that, now. I haven't gone daft just yet, Morse. I've seen the way you grab for that body like a drowning man. As for myself, I know how to appreciate an attractive spirit. Slowly."
"Slowly." Morse rolled his eyes. "If slowly means 'in the tiniest ways, twenty times a day.' You only wish you could take hold of what you love like I do, George."
"Do I indeed?"
"I'm sure of it."
The two men sat quietly for another span of minutes, two pairs of wise blue eyes focused unseeingly on separate thoughts, separate lives, separate loves.
"I've known you a damn long time," Cowley said at last, his voice reflective. "And we've never yet been able to agree on this."
Morse nodded, stretching and rising. "I don't think we ever will."
Cowley said, with a small, fond grin, "Then we'll just agree to disagree. Again. As always."
"You take the high road and I take the low road?" Morse asked, matching the grin. "Or perhaps the other way 'round?"
"Here then." Morse turned away for a moment. "Separate but side by side, let us celebrate our loves."
Cowley straightened up expectantly. Morse returned to settle by him, shoulder touching his shoulder. Cowley took what Morse offered him. And side by side, smiling, they each lifted a glass.
"To the spirit of pure malt scotch," said Cowley.
"To the body of real ale," said Morse.
And they drank.
-- THE END --