2007-02-09: Brain Tumors Or Ear Bugs?


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Summary: Jane, Rose and Cass meet out on the street right outside Enlightenment Books. Jane's ears hurt when she hears a dog whistle and Rose starts suggesting what could cause pain. Rose applies for a job at the store.

Date It Happened: February 9th, 2007

Brain Tumors or Ear Bugs?

East Village, then Enlightenment Books

Out here on the street, sitting near the store, is a twenty-something woman singing softly and playing her guitar. The empty case is open next to her, in it are a few bills and an assortment of coins tossed in by passersby. The amp is by her right foot, and from the sound of it she appears to have some skill with the instrument. "…woke up this morning, and this summer's gone. Turned on some music to start my day…"

The girl who traipses down the street on which Jane is busking is not at all impressed by this other girl's guitar playing. It could be a competition thing: to her back, she's strapped a fabric guitar case, embroidered with vines, the strap lying diagonally over her winter coat. Her attire is a matter of simple jeans and a long-sleeved top underneath her rich green coat, with two different scarves wrapped around her neck - one rich red, the other cream. No hat protects her head, but she has slipped a pair of earmuffs over her ears, also serving to hold back stray pieces of her messy brown hair that didn't make it into her ponytail. She flicks a scowl to Jane, but says nothing at first, instead opting to make a wide circle around her on her way to the book store.

If Rose is heading to the bookstore, she'll be a little disappointed to find that it's closed. Or, really, that the employee has gone to lunch. There's a laminated sign on the door with a large drawing of a 'yuck' sticker on it and underneath it, written in cursive, is 'Gone for Lunch. Back in 15!'

Her eyes catch the scowl, even as her fingers continue manipulating the Stratocaster's strings. Jane's singing stops, however, and her attention settles on the passing slightly younger woman. "Hey," she calls out, "you play?" A nod is next given to a spot of pavement next to her, as if perhaps to invite joining in. Her expression is neutral, the eyes appear to size up this apparent other musician. "I'm Jane."

"Laaaame." That's Rose's exact reaction as she draws to a stop at the door to the bookstore, leaning forward to stare at the sign at great length. It's almost as if she thinks that by staring at it long enough, it'll change. As she turns back to Jane, stretching her arms out wide to either side, she replies, "Nope. I just carry this thing around in case I get mugged." She mimes swinging something like a golf club, making a sound as it hits an invisible target. "It's pretty disabling. Bonus points if you break a string, too, because that can totally put out an eye."

Luckily for Rose, Cass is wandering down the street, her lunch in a brown paper bag to her side. Bundled up in her coat and page boy hat pushed a little high on her forehead. She's already digging in her messenger bag for the keys to the door. As she's already there, she grabs some loose change that's eternally rattling around in there and drops it absently into Jane's open guitar case and keeps going. Rattling the keys, she makes for the locks on the door, glancing over her shoulder at Rose. The girl is waiting right by her door, after all. "Plus, you would make a lovely sound when you knock your pursuer unconscious. Were you waiting to get in?"

A quiet laugh emerges from Jane's throat in response to Rose's claim, a slight smile breaking out over her lips. "Sarcastic and true at the same time. They really would be good for defense. If need be, you could even do a Pete Townshend imitation across someone's head." The guitarista nods again to the nearby spot, inviting "Sit, play, let's see what you've got." Her fingers continue working the strings, the way she plays indicative of having spent quite some time practicing and studying. Her eyes settle for a moment on the arriving Cass, and a quiet expression of gratitude is offered. "Thanks."

A few seconds later a man runs by, chasing after his escaping dog. He's not quick enough to catch it, and so places a whistle to his lips. No sound emerges from it, apparently, but the dog halts and starts to come back. At about that same time Jane's fingers fall from the strings. One hand goes to cover and rub her right ear, she winces as if in pain.

"Totally," Rose replies appreciatively to Cass as the woman appears, casting a quick grin her way. "On both counts, actually, but the sound thing is just wicked. I've never /actually/ hit anyone with it, 'cause it was a present from my mom, but I figure she'd approve of me using it for self-defense." She's just turning back to Jane to reply as the woman covers her ears, eliciting an expression of… impatient confusion, maybe. One eyebrow raises, the other creeping downwards in a bit of a frown. "Hearing voices, or did your ear hate that last chord as badly as it hurt mine? Your guitar needs to be tuned."

It's only a quick few turns on the locks and Cass has the store unlocked, ready for business again. Pulling off the sign, she opens the door to allow Rose into the store. "I'm sure she would, too. Guitars are replaceable, mostly. Well, sorry about the wait, but falafel pitas were dancing outside my window till I had to just come out an find them." As she's talking, she glances back at Jane just in time to notice her wince of pain. "You alright, miss? I've got some pain killers inside if you need something. Or some hot tea or something."

"Damn," the seated guitarist remarks as her hands lower. "That whistle really hurt." Jane shakes her head a few times, then glances after man and dog as they go into the distance while rubbing her ear on that side. "It's still ringing." Getting to her feet, she stands watching the claimed cause of her discomfort while absently replying "Tea… could be good."

"Yeah, well. She'd kill me if I used my cello that way," Rose remarks as she steps inside the shop, letting out a low whistle as she gives the store a cursory once-over. Is she mocking Jane, or really just that insensitive? "I hate it when overpriced snack food that'll kill me in twenty years dances outside my window. Especially since I'm on the fifteenth floor. It's like pseudo-burgers are trying to lure me to kill myself." She glances back to Jane with a look of pure disbelief, now. "I didn't hear a whistle."

Cass gives Jane a similarly strange look. "I didn't hear a whistle." Glancing around at the street, she doesn't see anything out of the ordinary, but she shrugs it off an keeps the door open for Jane to enter, too. As soon as their both inside, she comes in, slips the sign into one of the drawers behind the counter and turns back to face both of them. "Maybe they're telling you that you're hungry enough you'd float." She grins and turns back to Jane. About that tea, I've got normal black, earl grey, green…anything in particular?"

She follows them in a few seconds later, after turning away from the path of man and his dog then closing the guitar case to bring it with her. Confusion settles in, she replies "You didn't hear anything?" Her gear is set down just inside the doorway before Jane states "Earl Grey, please. It… it was really loud. Piercing." Her eyes go back and forth between each of the two women, some concern beginning to show in her own, as if she now doubts her own senses.

There's a little bark of alughter from Rose at the suggestion from Cass. "Floating is definitely not an option," she quips in reply, taking one hand and having it crash down onto the other with colourful sound effects for both the falling and the landing. "Maybe you're going deaf. Were you in an explosion or something? That's supposed to make your ears ring for… I don't know. Forever, I guess." As she speaks, Rose wanders the stacks of books, running her fingertips along the spines as she moves.

Cass shakes her head. "Nope. Definitely didn't hear anything." She sounds a little concerned for the woman more than anything else. Standing there for a moment, she studies Jane. Then, she moves into action. "Right. Earl Grey. Gotcha. I'll be right back." Back out from behind the counter and to the Employee door. "Feel free to put your instruments down by the desk if you want. They look heavy." She keeps the door open a bit so she can still talk to the women in her shop. Flipping the switch to one of the plug in water boilers, she pulls out a mug, puts in a tea bag and then turns back to lean in the doorway. She watches Rose and laughs at her sound effects. "I'm not saying that it would be a good idea. Listening to dancing food gets you in trouble. Is there something in particular you're looking for?"

"Thanks," she murmurs, her voice indicating she only half heard what Cass said to her, and the brows furrowed with thought as Jane tries to figure it out in her mind. "I… I'll probably see a doctor later today, have things checked out. No explosions, nothing like that. I just don't understand. Going deaf? Brain tumor?" She leans against one of the shelves and closes her eyes, silent with contemplation as outside the man and dog pass back the way they came. Again the dog gets away, again he raises the whistle and as before no sound emerges. A split second later Jane reopens her eyes and faces the entry door. She rubs her ear slightly, but this time there doesn't seem to be pain. "There it is again, that whistle. Not so close, less loud, but shrill."

"Uh, yeah. Sort of." As she peruses the rows of books, her eyes barely passing over the spines long enough to actually read the titles, Rose shoots a glance back in Cass' direction. Spinning around on one heel, careful not to let the neck of her guitar smack anything, she crosses back to the front of the store and leans over the display to peel the 'Help Wanted' sign out of the window. As she turns back to face Cass, one finger pointed at the sign, she says, "I just didn't want to storm in here and bust out with it first thing since it didn't seem very conducive to a positive response." To Jane, then: "My money's on brain tumor."

The water finishes boiling in only a couple of minutes an Cass pours the hot water over the tea bag and then walks the mug over to Jane. "Watch the burning pain that is not holding onto the handle." She puts it onto the counter so that the woman can pick it up without hurting herself. The second time it happens, it's hard for her to hide her concern at all. "I…still don't hear anything." She looks over at Rose to see if the young girl has any insight and then blinks as she's holding the sign. "Oh! Ah, oh! Right! Excellent. Um, right! Well, let's set up an interview or something." When there's not other customers in the store.

"I…" Jane starts to speak, but words fail her, although the lips move a few more times. She glances at the tea and walks toward it, taking the mug by that handle carefully and blowing across the surface to cool it. "Definitely a trip to the doctor. Soon."

There's a grin on Rose's face as she replaces the sign in the window, just in case any other hopefuls might see it. Sure, the thought crossed her mind to hold onto it, but that's not exactly the first impression she wants to make. "You could just skip the whole tedious interview thing and hire me on the spot," she says with a smirk, settling down onto the sill with the pillow and pulling her guitar case from her back. "Don't worry, Norah. I bet you don't /really/ have a brain tumor. Oh, oh! It could be some little bug that got into your ear canal--" This is about where her emphatic hand gestures pick up again. "--and now it's just buzzing around in there, freaked out that it's never going to see its little bug babies again."

Cass gives Rose a sort of warning look when she keeps torturing the poor Jane. There's not really any bite in it since she's just a kid goofing off, but Jane does look pretty unnerved by the experience. "Not exactly your best 'hiring' behavior." Coming around the corner, Cass approaches Jane. "I'm not a doctor or anything, but I can tell you if you've got bugs in your ears. Really, you should set up an appointment with a doctor ASAP. Especially if it's hurting you." On her over to Jane, she smiles at Rose. "As for you, can you stop by the store tomorrow? We're technically closed, so we can have some time to talk. Are you free at about noon?"

"Yeah," the woman answers, taking a small sip of her tea, eyes settling on Cass. Her head tilts to one side, Jane asks "You can tell if a bug flew into an ear?" Curiosity registers, she seems not much disturbed by Rose's mocking. Concern over what's happened is stronger in her mind than being angry about that, by the expression she displays.

That seems to snap Rose back to attention, and she clears her throat a little, averting her eyes. "Sorry," she says, but it's mostly to Cass, rather than to Jane. "You don't have bugs in your ears. I was just making that up. I think I read on Snopes that it was just an urban legend, anyway. Seriously, though, you should get it checked out. 'Cause I didn't hear any whistle, and I'm pretty sure that hearing things like that is a sign of something, uh… bad."

"I can tell you if there's a bug in your ear now," Cass corrects. "I went to med school for a couple of years. Plus, I should be able to hear the wings buzzing around in your ear canal." She pauses. "Okay, that last one was a joke. Sort of." She's not really being as helpful as she'd like. If Rose's behavior has knocked her out of the running, it hasn't shown at all. Assuming the apology is for Jane and not directed at her, she doesn't respond, however, she nods in agreement to what she says after that. "Definitely."

"Yeah," Jane nods to Rose, lowering the teacup. "I got to the something bad part a long time ago. Keep up, would you? Her eyes roll a bit, and attention shifts to Cass. "You went to med school? Where'd you study? Me… I'm a musician and…" her voice quiets some before finishing, "a lawyer. M. Jane Forrest, Juris Doctor." Another sip of her tea is taken and on finding it cooled enough to drink comfortably she downs it more quickly.

Drawing her head back at the woman's sudden snippiness, Rose frowns slightly. She manages not to say anything, thought it takes every bit of self-discipline she has (and her teeth clamping down on her lower lip), as she rises from the windowsill. The guitar is swung over her shoulder again, the pillows rearranged to look as they did when she first saw them. "Noon tomorrow's cool," she says belatedly, speaking only to Cass, before she moves away from the windowsill. Oh, she's not leaving, but she is going to wander down the stacks to eavesdrop without being subject to Jane.

"Only for two years." Seeing that she doesn't need to examine anyone, Cass heads back behind her counter. "Columbia. You?" Glancing at Jane's sudden verbal attack, she graces her with a frown. "Woah now. You're in a store called Enlightenment Books, keep it calm." Seeing Rose's mental battle to keep her mouth shut warms her expression up a bit though and wins the girl not a few points in her favor of being hired. "That sounds lovely."

"I'm calm," Jane assures, her focus settling on Cass. "Just don't want to let her think I can be made fun of and not notice or answer back, y'know? I kind of wish I'd been able to be like her more at that age. And school. I went to Yale. So we're both Ivy Leaguers." A momentary glance is sent down the aisle she saw Rose head down, then she looks back toward Cass. "Next time you see her, recommend anytime she writes music she should have it notarized as hers, then mail it to herself and leave the envelope sealed. That, and never to sign any contract without a lawyer checking it out."

Slipping past the pair of women, Rose seems to be prepared to leave this time. There's no indication that she heard anything Jane said, nor does she make any comment before she reaches the door. The earmuffs are slipped back over her ears, scarves wrapped tighter around her neck, strap of her guitar case adjusted. When she's ready, she waves a gloved hand to wave and calls, "Tomorrow at noon. Date with DESTINY." With a swift grin - meant only for Cass, thank you very much - she pushes through the door and heads down the street again.

Cass readjusts one of the clips in her hair so that it holds her hair better. "No, I know. I meant for both ends. Well, you're really the Ivy Leaguer. I never finished. It was way too constricting for me." Following her gaze down to where Rose went, she nods. "Well, I'll see if I can slip it in, but a 'by the way, here's some legal advice' in the middle of an interview is kind of awkward." She doesn't have to wait long till Rose comes back into view and exits in her dramatic fashion. "I await destiny, then." She returns Rose's grin with a sincere one of her own before turning back to Jane. "So, what kind of law do you practice?"

Only the shortest of glances is sent Rose's way as she exits, and Jane is back to facing Cass. "I focused on corporate and trademark law," the guitarist answers with a chuckle, "since I really wanted to just be a musician. My parents kept pushing, though, and I realized being able to understand contracts and such might be an advantage above and beyond keeping them happy. I passed the bar in Connecticut and New York, but I don't really practice law. Don't want to, but can if the mood strikes."

Once Rose is gone, Cass goes back to paying attention to Jane. "That makes sense. And I understand the parents pushing thing. My dad is still trying to make me go back to med school, but I keep trying to tell him it's a waste of his money. I don't want to be a doctor." Picking up a stray book, she heads over to a bookshelf and slides it into the right spot. "But having a spare law degree must come in pretty handy. Yale's a hard school to go through for a law degree you don't really want."

"It has its uses," Jane offers. "Like being able to help fellow musicians avoid getting ripped off by recording contracts, I can read them and give free advice. There aren't many Ivy League attorneys willing to do that. Certainly a lot fewer than need us." Her face clouds over for a moment, she softly adds "If, that is, I don't die from a brain tumor at twenty-six."

Cass gives Jane a shake of her head. "I'm no professional, but I don't think you have a brain tumor. Have you had double vision or loss of vision in one eye? Numbness in one of your limbs? Speech difficulty? Another sign is loss of hearing, not hearing whistles. So, I think you're safe. I would still have a doctor check you out." Thinking something over, she heads for her desk. "You know, my dad's a doctor. He's coming into town this coming week, I think. If you'd like I could give you his number and he could check you out."

"That… that'd be good," Jane replies quietly. "It was really weird. That man and his dog ran by, he lifted something to his mouth, and that's when I heard that whistle the first time. When it happened again, they were both heading back the way they came." She pauses a moment to think, apparently, before adding "I wonder if I'm going deaf. Beethoven still wrote great stuff after that. Of course, I also have that law degree. Could turn out to be a really good decision."

Cass rummages through the desk for a bit till she comes up with a card for her father. It's a typical white card with the name 'Dr. Aldric, MD.' and his phone number on it. "Oh! Wow, I'm sorry, I still don't think I've introduced myself. I'm Cass Aldric. I own the store. Anyway, yeah. Just give my dad a call. He comes into the city a lot, so I'm sure he wouldn't mind seeing you. You can just tell him I sent you." As she listens to what Jane describes, her brow furrows. "Like, a dog whistle? You heard a dog whistle? People going deaf normally hear ringing, not whistling. And it grows persistent. Plus, you'd have trouble hearing me right now, too."

Taking the card and listening, Jane nods slowly. "Thanks, Cass. It… yes, it must've been a dog whistle I heard. But…" her head shakes, "that's impossible. Human ears aren't that sharp." Her eyes study the card, she finishes off the cup of tea and sets it back down. "There was ringing, though, after the whistle. Like the sound lingered, the way it does when you hear something loud and high pitched up close."

Cass closes the drawers she opened and neatens things up on the counter a bit. "Not a problem." Once everything has been done, she keeps her attention all on Jane again. "Hm. Yeah. I…don't know what to tell you. It might have been something else. It might have been…I don't even know. Some people can hear better than others. I haven't heard of anyone hearing a dog whistle before but, I guess it's not out of the realm of possibility."

Her brow furrows. "Neither have I. It… doesn't make any sense, at all. My god, I really hope this isn't going to happen anytime I see people walking their dogs. And hospitals, clinics, where they do ultrasound procedures. That might really be notfun." Jane collects her guitar, case, and amp, making ready to head out.

Cass collects Jane's mug belatedly and keeps a hold of it instead of heading straight back for the employee room. "I hope not, either. Maybe you're just having a really good hearing day." She smiles. "Anyway, good luck with that and with my father."

"Thanks, Cass" she replies, and moments later she exits, the door closing behind her.

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