Tuesday, December 16, 2014

All Revved up with No Place to Go (Part 1)

The four slender palms that were reflected in the café store-front parted like a curtain when the Flannerys opened the door and exited onto the patio, and a warm tropical wind surged about the avenue. Mrs. Flannery held down the sun hat on her head while her husband held her waist as if to prevent her, and the hat, from blowing away. They surveyed the tables for a spot to sit and forget about the things they left behind for the two weeks they were to stay in Waikiki. The things they left behind were the things most people leave behind when they travel: Joshua, the husband, had opened his own record store only a month before, on his thirtieth birthday, left it in the incapable hands of a college-aged intern who would work for free, and had to practice each day accepting the possibility that his store might literally “burn to the ground.” The wife, Lindsay, who was a hairdresser, had given up two weeks of income to take the trip, which was already a significant strain on their finances. But, it had been a dream of theirs to visit Hawaii and, determined to have fun, they settled on the patio to take pictures of each other posing with iced drinks in February while making consciously dramatic “Victory” hand gestures.
They intuited, however, that the Victory coffee pictures were just the beginning. Their table faced a busy street that was full of interesting distractions: too-tan surfers on rusty bicycles with nine-foot boards under their arms, gnarly homeless men yelling at bushes and buses, trolleyloads of sleepy-eyed tourists shuffling onto the curb like reluctant spacemen landed on an alien planet. They tried to take pictures of these things too, but they quickly realized that it was impossible to capture it all.
Amid the helter skelter of the street was a tall pale person. You could see him coming from a couple of blocks away, because he had a funny way of walking, sort of the way a lizard walks when it rises to two legs and hurries through the desert head first. He was lean as a tentacle and dressed in a dirty white t-shirt and a pair of tight red-and-black plaid pants that emphasized his leanness. A pair of suspenders hung behind him and a plume of smoke funneled before him as he drew greedily from his cigarette, pedaling along the crowded sidewalk.
The Flannerys hadn’t seen him because an elderly woman in a taupe fisherman’s hat, a pink cotton shirt, and a fanny pack making as if she were entering strong waves in a great hurry, stopped by their table and began twisting at the waist like a lawn sprinkler. She smacked her thighs with her limp hands in a home-grown version of antique calisthenics; the couple couldn’t help but giggle. “What next, Lindz?” Joshua wondered aloud as the dancing granny twisted farther up the avenue.
“Is it crowded in there?” the couple was startled by the hoarse, loud voice—too loud even for a busy street—of the lizard-walking stranger. He was stopped about a bicycle’s length from the Flannerys’ table, and his head was angled so that he might have been asking the bushes against the side of the building.
The stranger brushed his thin salty ginger-red hair with his fingers and squinted one eye as he took a final drag from his cigarette. He extinguished it forcefully on his pants, tucking the butt in his back pocket. “This café is always pretty crowded, and I was thinking about getting myself a pick-me-up but I don’t wanna go in if it’s full of Jap tourists,” he snorted, his eyes wrinkling like dirty white paper.
“It’s pretty crowded,” said Joshua, frowning.
The Ginger Boy held his hand in the shape of a sideways L and cradled his sparsely bearded chin, puffing out his lips and nodding his head as if he were considering a math problem. “Thanks. I’ll probably wait it out then.” He put his hands on his hips and gazed steadily up one end of the street and then the other. He was silent for so long that the couple started to squirm a little in their seats. They were relieved when he finally spoke. “So where are you two from?” he used a loud voice again that made the other people seated on the patio turn and look. “Wait! Let me guess—ok, Seattle! No wait, San Diego. No! Wait, lemme see here—your beard makes me think you gotta be from Portland or Seattle. That’s quite a beard—like a red-bearded pirate! You don’t see many like that around here. And check it out—both gingers!” He pointed a finger at himself, then to Joshua, then back at himself. “All three, actually,” he included Lindsay, who was a lovely strawberry blonde. “All from the same gene pool. I wonder if we’re related, way back when. I bet we are, way back. I thought you two looked familiar.” He chuckled at his own joke, and waited for the couple’s obligatory chuckle before continuing. “So do you mind if I smoke? I know it’s a disgusting habit. I just can’t help myself. I enjoy it—so shoot me. You know what I mean.”
“No, we don’t,” said Joshua. “I mean we don’t mind.” He spun his coffee cup uneasily.
“Southpaw?” asked the Ginger Boy.
“Huh?” responded Joshua.
“I see you’re using your left hand so I guess you’re left-handed.”
“Oh. Yeah. I am.”
“Me too! It’s hard to be left-handed, isn’t it? If I drove a car, I’d never get a manual transmission. Not to mention scissors, golf clubs, just about everything! So where are you two from? You never got to telling me. Mind if I pull up a chair? Thanks. Don’t worry I know you guys are on a honeymoon or something, I just want to rest a minute. I’m coming down from last night.” He tried to light a second cigarette but was having trouble because of the wind.
“We’re from New York,” Lindsay said slowly, minding the intruder’s mounting frustration.

Monday, December 8, 2014

All Revved up with No Place to Go (Part 2)

“Holy Jesus!” the Ginger Boy exclaimed after he successfully lit his cigarette. “That’s quite a drive! I’m just kidding. Did you guys take Hawaiian Airlines? They have a direct now from JFK which is super-convenient, so I’ve heard. I hear a lot of news, you know. Sometimes it comes in handy. I’m not from here myself, either. But I’m not as far from here as New-fucking-York. Pardon my French, but I figure we’re family from way back so you guys can forgive me. How do you guys like the weather here? Pretty nice, huh? You could almost just live outside if you wanted to.”
“It’s beautiful,” said Lindsay. “It never rains.”
“Sure it does. It absolutely does. I mean there’s a rainy season or whatever, but usually every morning it rains just a little—just enough to clean everything off—dust and dirt and bad stuff from the day before—so that the day can start clean. By the time you wake up in the morning, the rain stops, but not before it cleans the island for you so you can start over again.” He held his cigarette thoughtfully between his thumb and forefinger, staring in the distance as if he were delivering a monologue. “Sometimes it doesn’t rain for a few days though. Hopefully it’ll be like that for you two if that’s what you want.
“So,” he said in a pinched voice, inhaling, “you guys don’t smoke?”
“No, we don’t smoke,” said Lindsay politely.
“That’s good, it’s a disgusting habit,” he repeated. “Do you guys smoke anything else? You know what I’m talking about. This guy knows,” he winked at the husband as he held the smoke in his lungs.
“No. Thanks for the offer, though,” said Joshua.
“That’s too bad. You guys are missing out. The Big Island is renowned for green. Re-fucking-nowned. You guys can read about it on Google when I gotta get going in a minute. Pardon my French again by the way.” He paused and smiled as if recalling a joke. “I must have picked all this French up from this girl I’m seeing. Yeah, I’m seeing this girl—well, not seeing—I mean, we’re ‘friends with benefits’—the best kind. Heh.” He scooted his chair closer to Joshua and poked him with his elbow. “Yeah, I met this girl, she works at the Humane Society, which is part of the attraction since I’m an animal lover. Well, I love dogs and cats. I don’t have any at the moment but I’m hoping to adopt. They mainly have dogs and cats but every once in a while the occasional rabbit pops in. But she had this amazing accent and I that’s how I picked her up. I went up to her—you know, I heard her talking or whatever—and I went up to her and I just point-blank said to her, ‘You have a lovely accent.’” He affected Sean Connery’s voice. “She ate it up. We talked for a while, and it turns out she’s French, like from France, French. Anyway, she told me she thought we’d be great friends. ‘Friends.’” With his cigarette in hand, he made emphatic finger quotes in the air. “I knew what she meant though. We were on the same wavelength.
“But I was a little hesitant about her. Wanna know why?”
“Why?” asked Lindsay.
“Well, I’ve been seeing this other woman—this cougar—this nun who is double my age. How old do you think I look?”
The couple looked at each other agape, hoping that the other would speak.
“Come on, how old?” the Ginger Boy smiled impishly, leaning forward on the back of his chair, which he had flipped wrongways. “Thirty? Thirty-five?”
“Sure. Could be,” said Lindsay without conviction.
“Twenty. I’m twenty years old,” he said. “I look older than I am. I know I do. It’s because I matured pretty quickly. That’s why I got this cougar into me—a priestess-cougar, for that matter. Ever wonder what it’d be like to be with a woman of the cloth? Or a man of the cloth,” he corrected himself to include the wife. “Well I’ll tell you, I’m down on my knees every night to pray. So’s she—down on her knees, I mean.” He once again poked Joshua with his elbow and chuckled. “Nah, I’m only half-joking. I’ll tell you, I stole this money—it wasn’t a lot, it was only twenty dollars—ok, it was a hundred—and I felt bad about it—it doesn’t matter where it was from although that’s a good story too—so I went to confess, you know, at the booth. I’m a recovering Catholic. Ha, ha. After I finished and I got my prayers I was supposed to say, that’s when I saw her. Let me tell you, I saw right through those nun’s clothes, that nun’s hat. I mean figuratively, of course. I mean what she was thinking, right through her hat.” He shook his head as if to try to get a bug out of his hair, or his head, and his earring made a jingling sound.
“Wimple,” said Lindsay.
“What’d you call me?” his eyes bulged and he stopped blinking. She could see the lines of his jaws, hard and angled. Tiny beads of perspiration appeared on her forehead and she stuttered. He threw his head back, howled, and playfully smacked her on the shoulder. “Come on, we’re related way back, sister. I didn’t even hear what you said, really. I just like to have fun with you guys.”
She laughed feebly.
The Ginger Boy pointed to his ear. “You’re probably wondering about my earring. Well, it’s a token. I’m wearing it because, well, we’re in love. Me and the nun, that is. She has the other earring. It shows that we are both one half of the other. Like those ‘Best Friends’ necklaces. Yeah, we’re trying to keep it quiet. Not because I’m embarrassed. No way. She could get in a lot of trouble if anyone found out about us. Our love is kind of forbidden. It’s like Romeo and Juliet or something. Really poetic.” He stopped to take a last drag on his cigarette before putting it out in the same way he had before.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

All Revved up with No Place to Go (Part 3)

“So, you live in Hawaii now?” asked Joshua, wanting to change the subject.
“No, I live in Alaska,” replied the Ginger Boy, and as Joshua shifted in his seat, the Ginger Boy scrunched up his nose laughing again, looking to Lindsay for affirmation.
“Sure, Einstein! Where else would I live? I live right over there,” he pointed vaguely toward Diamond Head. “I’m not local or anything though. I told you before.”
“Where are you from?” asked Lindsay.
“I’m from Texas. Do you believe me?” he asked with a wide, open-mouth smile. Lindsay smiled sheepishly. “I’m just playing. I’m from Texas. I’ve been living here for a year, give or take. I had to leave for personal reasons though.” He waited to see if the couple would ask him to elaborate. When they didn’t, he took another cigarette from the pack in his pocket and slowly lit it.
Sensing the Ginger Boy expected her to say something, Lindsay said, “So isn’t Hawaii really expensive? We read it’s the second most expensive state. Milk costs a fortune, doesn’t it?”
The Ginger Boy snorted as if he were offended. “What are you talking about? You guys are the ones from New York. Anyway I manage. I do all right, you could say.” He looked over his left shoulder, then his right, his cigarette hanging from his lip like an ugly, pockmarked James Dean. “Wanna know how?”
Again, the couple looked at each other, hoping the other would answer.
“I’m a software developer,” he said, leaning backward in his backward chair. The couple looked relieved. He let them relax for a moment and when it looked like Lindsay was going to speak, he interjected. “Ha, no I’m not! But I can’t lie to you guys. You know me. I’ll tell you the truth.” He leaned in and lowered his voice, trying to create a sense of solidarity between the three. “I’m a drug dealer.”
The couple blinked hard, nonplussed.
“What, now you don’t believe me? It’s the truth. Check this out. “He lifted up his shirt, revealing several long, raised scars on his shoulders, chest, and torso. “You don’t get those at the office, sister.”
“That’s awful!” gasped Lindsay, cupping her hands over her mouth. “How—I mean—are you all right?”
“Me? Look at me! I’m fine, but you should see the other guy—not so fine. In fact,” he looked around and leaned in, “I shot the other guy—four other guys—killed two of ’em. I had nightmares for like a whole week. Don’t worry though, that was a long time ago. I try and keep myself away from that stuff these days. That’s why I’m here.” The Ginger Boy offered his hand to Joshua. “What’s your name, by the way?”
“Josh,” he said, hesitantly taking the Ginger Boy’s sticky, wet hand.
“Get the fuck out! Oh, pardon my French again. You’re not gonna believe this but me too! You guys can call me Jay, though—like the bird. Man, same name and both left-handed. What a coincidence. We totally have to be related, I mean way back. Although, I gotta tell you both when I got these,” he patted his chest where he had shown them his scars, “I lost a lot of blood. I lost tons of blood and I went into a coma. But here’s the thing—and this is amazing—when I woke up—you’re not going to believe this, but when I woke up, I became ambidextrous.” He switched his cigarette from his left hand to his right hand, then back again. “See?”
“That is amazing,” Joshua said with saccharine excitement. He was beginning to get annoyed and that was his way of having fun with the conversation. Ginger Jay pretended not to notice.
“You’re damn right it is. Anyway, I made out in that deal. I mean the deal I had to get rid of those people over,” he said, lowering his voice. “But that’s why I had to leave Texas. It’s a big state, but not that big. I figured they couldn’t find me and the hundred grand here.”
Again, the couple was silent.
“I see you don’t believe me, but look at this bulge in my pocket. That’s not my peen. Ha, ha.”
“That’s just a lot of money,” said Lindsay. “It’s lucky for you they let you get away.”
“Well, they didn’t exactly let me get away. I gave them the slip and there was no way I was going to let them get this back after what I went through to get it.” He nonchalantly reached into his pocket and, to the couple’s amazement, pulled out a wad of large bills. He carefully put them back in his pocket and acted for the benefit of anyone watching as if he had just been reaching for another cigarette, which he put in his mouth and lit.
“Yup, that’s what’s left of the hundred grand. I mean not only that. I came here with a hundred grand and I only have fifty left now.” He fiddled with a faded tattoo on his arm.
“See this?” he pointed to the tattoo, snapping his fingers. “I have my last name tattooed on my arm. You know, in case of emergencies. Can you see it?”
Joshua nodded.
“You can see it, right? Spell it.”
Joshua couldn’t really see the tattoo. It was so poorly done that the ink bled and the letters ran into one another. To make matters worse, Jay’s skin looked as if he had some kind of rash that he had scratched to the point of rubbing it raw. Joshua squinted as he tried to read the tattoo.
“Forget it,” said Jay. “I have too many tattoos for you to waste your time on that one. See this one? This is my birthday. Another one I got in case of an emergency. What about you, tough guy? How old are you? What year were you born in? Where?”
“Where in the year or where in the country?” asked Joshua wryly, and was sorry the instant he heard himself say it.
“Oh,” said Jay, his cigarette in the corner of a tight smile. “Oh. A wise ass, huh?”

All Revved up with No Place to Go (Part 4)

“I was only kidding,” Joshua floundered.
“Ha, no—that’s funny. I like you. I’m a smart ass too. See? We have to be related, I mean way back. Yeah, I’m a smart ass, just like you. You know what I did once? This is related to our being smart asses. Well, to me being a smart ass.
“So I told you about my scars, right? Well, this is even crazier than that story. You’re going to like this. Actually, you’re going to want to close your ears,” he said to Lindsay. “It’s gruesome. I know, I admit it. I’m only half-proud of it, but this has to do with this one guy who snitched on me. I’m not going to tell you his name—”
Jay suddenly stopped talking—a pair of bikini-clad girls walked past who couldn’t have been more than fifteen. He called to them, whistling and trying to get their attention, but they hurried around the corner. He spat on the ground next to him.
“Bitches. That’s fine,” he said, and he pointed to his symbolic earring. “Hey Josh, do you mind if I use your phone? I just lost mine yesterday, so…” he trailed off, scratching a large pimple in the center of his forehead.
“I’d let you, but it’s dead. I forgot to charge it last night. How about you, Lindz? Didn’t you leave your phone in the room?”
“I did,” she said.
“That’s fine. That’s ok. It wasn’t that important that I make the call anyway. I just had to call this Mexican buddy of mine from back home. You know, I told him I’d call him. It’s almost night time there. ¿Hablas español? I’ll bet you do. Ha, ha. I know a little but only for certain things. I can take care of that business after I get my pick-me-up. But first I have to tell you guys about this crazy story. You’re really not going to believe it. You’re just going to have to make up your own minds, but I swear this isn’t for the faint of heart,” he said seriously, looking at Lindsay.
“So there was this guy,” he began. “I thought we were friends, but evidently he was a fucking narc—pardon my French—and he snitched on me. Now this isn’t the only time something like this happened, where I had to do something really bad. But the guys were asking for it. I’m telling you. In fact, over the course of my life—believe it or not—I’ve chopped off eighteen fingers.” Ginger Jay crossed his arms and a profound look settled on his face. “Not all on one hand, though.”
Lindsay snickered.
“Whoa, Josh!” exclaimed Jay, pointing at the wife. “You better look out when you’re asleep— you’ve got a regular psychopath on your hands. I’m serious, here! This is no laughing matter, sweetheart. I hated to have to do it, but it had to be done. I couldn’t see a way out of it.
“You see, when you have a snitch on your hands, you gotta teach him a lesson, or else you’ll end up dead or in jail. I’d rather be dead than in jail, myself. I’ve never been in jail, but I’m already a hard man, and I’m only twenty. Jail would turn me into a monster. Then there’d be no coming back for old Jay-bird. So anyway, I’ve cut off eighteen fingers. But for the guy I’m talking about in this story—the snitch—I really had to teach him a lesson. So do you know what I did?”
The couple shook their heads, unable to anticipate the punchline.
“So I had this guy tied up—it was like a Tarantino movie or something, I swear to Christ—and I cut off each finger, one by one.” He placed one hand on the table and with the other hand he made a chopping gesture on each finger of his first hand. With every stroke he emphasized a word he spoke. “Do you know how sharp a knife has to be to cut through a finger? Let me tell you, it has to be damn sharp. I go fishing all the time and some of these fish are tough to cut through when it’s time to gut them, but a finger, I mean—forget about it! It’s almost like cutting a piece of wood! And I had to cut through eight of ’em. Pretty sickening.”
“Wait,” said Lindsay. “So, why didn’t you just cut off one finger, if you wanted to teach him a lesson?”
“Yes, my dear. Yes, that’s an excellent question. Why indeed? Well I’ll tell you why. In fact, the snitch asked me the same question. But not before he passed out.” He took a drag on his cigarette and put the butt out on his pants again. “So here I am, I got these fingers all over the goddamn floor, blood all over the place—I mean, all over—I had to get rid of that shirt I was wearing—I really liked that shirt too—and this damned snitch passes out. So I had to wait until he came to. So when he came to, he was like, ‘Whyyy, whyyy?’—I guess what he meant was, why’d I have to cut off all his fingers. So I told him, ‘It’s so I could leave only your thumbs!’
“Of course he didn’t understand. I can tell by the way you’re looking at me that you guys aren’t all with me either, but you’ll get it in a second. So I told him, ‘I left you with your thumbs for a reason, you damned snitch,’ and he didn’t say anything, so I said, ‘It’s so you can stick one in your mouth and the other in your ass, and then switch!’” Jay doubled over, hugging his stomach.
The couple blinked hard and forced a sickened laugh.
“Betcha didn’t see that one coming!” he smacked their shoulders. “Ha! I don’t think he did either, to tell you the truth. Boy, but after that, I had to leave town anyway. He knew some people, although they were probably a bunch of snitches, too.”
A group of tourists came out of the café, speaking in Japanese. Jay watched them until they rounded the corner of the building, heading toward the beach.
“Know what they were talking about?” he asked the couple.
“No,” said Josh. “Do you?”
“You’re damn right I do,” Jay said, flaring his nostrils. “They were talking about their drinks. It’s funny—different kinds of tourists always talk about the same thing, or do the same thing. Japs always say, ‘Oh! How big American drinks are. The smallest size here is the largest size in Japan. Isn’t that funny? Ho ho ho.’ Can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the same group of ’em say the same goddamn thing. On the other hand, Americans do this other thing. Do you know that restaurant over there, Giovanni Pastrami? Well, it’s over there. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen some white people walk by that place and say ‘Giovanni Pastrami!’ in this voice that’s supposed to sound Italian, I guess. I’m of Italian descent myself, so I find that a little offensive. Not really though, I’m only kidding. But they do say it like that.”
“Hm,” said Lindsay, stumped. She glanced sideways at her husband.
“So you’re sure you guys don’t smoke? You’re missing out, trust me.” Jay patted his thigh.
“Positive,” said Joshua. “We’re just going to have to make that sacrifice, unfortunately. Plus, we kind of have to go catch this tour. It’s like you said—honeymoon and all. I’m sure you understand. You know what it’s like to be in love. You love spending time with each other. We’ve gotta make the most of the time we have here. We don’t live in paradise like you do.”
“Fair point, Josh my man,” said Jay. “You make a fair point. I do understand. Your wife is very lucky to have married such a great guy.” He pointed intensely at her and became very serious. “You hold on to him, sweetheart. No funny business. That goes for you too, buddy,” he said, smacking Josh one last time. “Now you two enjoy your trip. Aloha! Mahalo!” he said with operatic enthusiasm.
As soon as Jay closed his mouth, the couple bounded from their seats and hurried away. After watching them turn the corner, Jay rose, grumbling to himself as he entered the front door of the café. He was disappointed that he had spent so much time with them and they hadn’t bought anything, but he thought that he still had the rest of the day to fix that. On the other hand, he did enjoy telling his stories to them, and that was a consolation. He plowed through the café, exited the rear door and walked out of the back entrance to the building on Seaside Avenue, heading toward the beach.
Ordinarily Jay always had to be busy so he was unable to sit still or relax. At that moment, however, he felt exhausted. He walked over to Waikiki Beach so that he could sit in the grass and watch girls in their bathing suits. Only after about ten minutes, he closed his eyes and went to sleep.

All Revved up with No Place to Go (Part 5)

As the sun was setting he woke with a start, as if an alarm sounded in his head. He stood, stretched, and started walking without having any particular destination. When he passed trash cans he looked in them for something to eat, and he eventually found a bag of fast food that had an uneaten sandwich. For dessert, he raided samples from several Honolulu Cookie Company stores along the strip.
Wandering past Tourneu on Kalakaua Avenue, he checked the giant outdoor clock. It was 9:45. That’s good enough, he thought, and headed toward the park.
He approached St. Augustine’s and was seized by a sudden, certain fear: Someone or a group of someones was following him. He hadn’t seen them, but his gut told him that he’d better do something to lose them or they would get him, and his imagination ran wild with what that could mean. He stopped at the pedestrian light with a small crowd of tourists on Ohua Avenue, and when the light turned, he took off down Ohua as fast as he could run. He ducked behind the wall of the church parking lot and waited to see if anyone came after him. No one came.
After a while he began to think that maybe whoever was following him hadn’t given up, but they might be planning to ambush him on the next block. He’d have to outsmart them, then, by cutting through the Marriott and then sneaking around the zoo parking lot. There was a line of bushes that he could hide behind if he had to, and he could figure out an alternative plan if or when it became necessary. He could get a bus along Kapahulu and from there, he would probably be safe.
His plan worked well. He caught the bus at Kapahulu Avenue and transferred at Waialae Avenue. The bus hissed and lowered, and Jay put his foot on the first step. He looked over his shoulder to make sure his pursuer wasn’t just waiting to board with him and then have him cornered, but the only people on the street were a gang of high school students and a couple of families with small children. No one was paying attention to him. He climbed the bus stairs victoriously, unable to suppress a proud grin. As he stood holding the railing, the bus spoke to him. “Aloha, welcome aboard the Route One bus to Hawaii Kai,” it said in a deep, sonorous voice like the hollowed trunk of an old tree. “Please kokua.” After several blocks, Jay pulled the cord next to his hand. A tone sounded and the bus decreed, “Stop requested. Waialae and tenth. Please exit through the rear door.” As the bus labored up the hill, he heard its faint voice. “Aloha,” it said. “Please kokua.”
Stepping onto the street again made him nervous. He crossed Waialae and a man that had been behind him who was talking on a cell phone suddenly pocketed the phone and leapt into the crosswalk toward Jay. Panic rattled his organs and he instinctively broke into a run, sweat pouring down his back and temples. When he had gone about a block, he turned to see that the man was just going to Tamura’s liquor store. He was relieved, and even laughed out loud, but he was shaken.
Jay panted up a gradual hill, passing a series of low, dilapidated single family homes on tiny lots until he reached a section of the neighborhood where a few of the houses were larger and well-maintained. He stopped in front of a tan split-level house with a two-car garage and a high privacy fence. The privacy fence had a built-in gate that was closed and locked, making it difficult to see anything behind the fence except for the iron bars on the windows, which looked recently installed. At a glance, the barred house looked like a prison. Jay lit his last cigarette and the flame-end glowed red in the darkness. The tiny fire illuminated his face like a melting candle.
He stood smoking for a few moments, watching the windows of the prison. They were lit from inside, and he could make out two figures hovering eerily to and fro. Even though he hadn’t been standing there long, Jay began to lose patience and curse to himself, and before he was finished his cigarette he had thrown it to the ground, still burning, and stomped on it as if he were trying to stamp a hole in the street.
Approaching the side of the fence that was closer to the top of the hill, he silently hoisted himself up and over the barrier, landing on the other side. A motion lamp detected and blinded him. Fortunately, he knew the layout of the yard and slipped into the cover of a hopseed bush that had been planted as an additional privacy barrier. He followed the perimeter of the house, sneaking beneath more barred windows, until he reached a large auxilliary building, which served as a type of shed, in the far corner. He opened the lock with a key he stored in a sealed section of his wallet and gently shut the door.
The shed was air-conditioned, spacious, and organized, and although it was dark, the myriad of stars that powdered the night sky stained the interior a dusty blue by way of a large skylight. Since he could only vaguely perceive the dim outline of shapes—an easy chair, a TV, a stereo, a mini-fridge—he inched slowly toward the shelves on the far wall, careful not to upset anything. After a few paces, he felt the sharp crunch of broken glass beneath his slippers. Although he wasn’t hurt or cut, his ears grew hot and he clenched his teeth to stanch an angry, noisy outburst.
When he reached the shelves on the other side, he felt systematically for the spot he wanted. He first tapped the shelf in front of his face, then swatted gently at the air lower, lower, until he reached the shelf at his abdomen. This shelf, he knew, held a series of crates with old LPs in them. One, two, three, four crates he counted, and then he thumbed through the contents of the fourth crate. One, two, three…when he reached record number fifteen, he removed it, his chest heaving. He turned, felt his way to the easy chair, and threw himself into it.
Still certain that he had been followed, Ginger Jay darted his eyes about the dark room as he prepared to empty the contents of the record sleeve, when a large decorative frame holding a sheet of cracked glass set in the corner opposite him caught his attention. The skylight lit the corner enough for him to see that the frame held a body portrait image of a handsome young man seated in a chair.

All Revved up with No Place to Go (Part 6)

“It’s you! You’re the one who was following me!” cried Jay. The only part of the body he could make out was the face, and the face said nothing. “What are you looking at, anyway?”
“You. I don’t like you anymore,” the handsome face said.
“Nobody asked you, so mind your own business.”
“Why’d you do those things?”
“I don’t even know what you’re talking about.”
“You can trick other people but you can’t trick me. You know what I’m talking about.”
Jay paused, unsure what the handsome face was getting at. As he sat thinking, his whole body twitched with a sudden, violent realization, as if he had been waked from a dream, and he knew what the face had meant. “Oh no no no,” he whined in protest. “You don’t understand! I didn’t—”
“Look, I’m not accusing you of anything. I’m not here for that,” said the handsome face. “I’m here because you want me to be here. We can do whatever you want to do.”
Jay’s eyes glassed over. “I don’t want you to be disappointed in me,” he said weakly. “I’m not ready. I can’t do it.”
“When will you be ready?”
“I don’t know. Tomorrow. Just shut up for a second,” Jay said, getting nasty. He clenched his eyes shut, then relaxed them. He hoped when he looked again at the face in the chair it would be gone. It wasn't gone, but it wasn’t the same face, either. It flickered like fire and was hard to see. He was scared. “You better get the hell out of here, I’m doing something. There’s something I’m—” he shut his eyes again and compulsively tapped his temples with his fingers.
“I know what you’re doing. Relax. Put on your music,” the voice sounded choppy, a vibration speaking to him through a fan.
“This is why I told you to shut up. I can be ready. You need to shut up. I can’t even come here without you being here. You weren’t here when I got here and then you just show up. You’re the goddamn Devil.”
“Kind of,” said the vibration.
“What do you want from me?” sniffed Jay.
“I want you to put your music on and relax. That’s all. Then you can just sit there and we can talk about it.”
Jay eyed the vibrating fiend with suspicion, but he obeyed. The needle hit, and hurried agitated piano opened into a singer who sang a fiery wicked wasteland and a lost boy who found perfect love that wouldn't last, and the song made him feel hot, like he was that boy in a fiery wasteland. He slumped into the chair. He started to cry, and he felt silly about it. He didn’t really know why he was crying.
“Feel better now?” the vibration affected concern.
Jay closed his eyes and shook his head again but the vibration was too loud and he could still hear it. He sat for a long time with his eyes closed and the voice continued to howl and chatter.
The heat caused Jay’s neck to itch. He scratched but it wasn’t satisfying. The itch moved, so he followed it around to his ear. He scratched until his earring came out in his hand, and there was blood under his nails. He threw the earring across the room and turned his attention to the record sleeve, which he flipped upside-down. There was a beautiful, musical rustling, like metallic leaves.
Damp with sweat, he fell off the chair, palming the shadowy ground for the contents of the sleeve—a piece of aluminum foil, a small plastic container, and a bubble tea straw. He held the straw in his teeth and flattened the foil with his trembling red fingers. Unsealing the plastic, he emptied it onto the foil, listening for the soft familiar sound, like sand hurled about by the wind. Saliva wet the corners of his mouth as he adjusted the straw, and lowering his head over the foil he lit the underside. The little shards on the foil liquefied, running like a tear toward him. He chased the tear down the sheet of foil, violently inhaling, then holding the foil level and violently exhaling. He did it again, inhaling and exhaling. He did it a third time and gagged from the smoke, which tasted like burnt rust.
In an instant he felt so strong that he wanted to run outside and knock the world down so that he could build it back up again. He shook his head, searching for something to accomplish.
“Who turned on the light?” he asked aloud. The room was illuminated. “Was it you?” he said to the vibration. The vibration wasn’t there. Jay bit his fingernail like a dog searching for a parasite in its fur.
He started to cry again, and this time he knew why—he felt guilty. He danced where he stood, unable to stand still. Holding his face in his hand, he mumbled to himself. “OhgodohgodohgodwhatamIgonnadoIamgoingtohellIamgoingtodieohmygodwhat—” he broke off. Then suddenly he threw his fist in the air, pointing his finger. “I got it!” he screamed. “I can get on my knees,” he said, huffing and panting. He found it hard because he was starting to feel claustrophobic. He felt the shed shrink around him, or else he grew. Once on his knees, he looked up through the skylight and held his hands over his head, moving his mouth. He felt that the faster he moved his mouth, the more productive his prayer would be, but he couldn’t form words, he just garbled nonsense. He finally was able to articulate two words: SAVE ME. He trembled, and waited.
An angry car horn sounded several times from down the street, then nearer, then nearer until it sounded like it was going to crash through the skylight. Instead, it spoke.
“‘Ala!” boomed the new voice. Wide eyed and afraid, Jay stood and listened. “Listen to me. You must listen to Akua, son,” commanded the new voice. The voice was deep and familiar and comforting. It was a voice he felt that he heard every day of his life, but he couldn't place it. “Son: Please kokua.”
“Save me!” Jay cried out to the familiar voice, although he didn’t feel at that exact moment that he wanted to be saved. In fact, he wanted whoever was talking to him to go away.
“Please. Kokua. I will not forsake you, son,” the voice said to him, “and I won’t condemn you, either. That’s the best I can do. The rest is up to you. I've told you what you have to do.”
“That’s right. That’s fucking right!" Jay really felt that he understood now. “I can do it. I’m going to live. I’m not going to die. I’m going to live. I’m going to live!” he repeated again and again. He felt a great force in his chest, or in his head. It gathered in him like rumbling lava. “You watch, God!” he called to the sky. A neighbor’s dog barked. “I’m not going to let you down! I’m going to change—e ola au i ke Akua!”
He ran out of the shed to the street to the four way stop, spiraling wildly in each direction, as if he could see to the very end of each street, as if he had suddenly gotten a bit of the Divine Providence. “I’ve gotta go tell that red headed couple! I’ve gotta tell them! We might be related! Josh!” he called in a kind of ecstasy, his voice cracking as he raced down the hill toward Waikiki.

About “All Revved up with No Place to Go”

Everyone has places they frequent, and one of the places I like to go on the weekends is a coffee shop in Waikiki, mainly because there’s always a lot going on and it’s nice to sit down with nothing to do and watch everyone run around like madmen. The only problem with going to Waikiki to relax is that I will often get approached by some oddball. Each oddball has a different oddball reason for approaching (someone they think is) a tourist, and I don’t know those reasons. This story, however, imagines a reason for one of those oddballs.Meth started to be a problem in Hawaii a few decades ago, and it still is, as far as I can tell from my own observations. I don’t know if they do this every year, but in the parking level vestibule at the Capitol building I’ve seen displays of artwork done by pretty young kids illustrating what happens when you so much as try meth. I don’t know if this campaign to educate children is only in Hawaii or if it’s across the U.S., but there’s a slogan associated with it: “Not even once.” It’s also sad and scary when some young crust/gutterpunk (or just some regular person) comes up to you on the street with a jacked set of teeth and looks 10 or even 20 years older than they probably are and is out of their mind—they can’t find the beach or the mountains or the street that they’re on, or they are talking and don’t make any sense at all.
Ginger Jay hasn’t quite got to that point yet, but that’s kind of at the center of things. I know it is probably very disorienting to read, but hopefully he is a character who is intriguing enough to capture your attention for as long as it takes to read the story. That happens, you know—sometimes an oddball will talk and talk and you listen for a while until you realize you should probably be scared and run away, or everything he or she is telling you seems questionable to the point where it's not worth listening, even if it's to try to help. It happened to the Flannerys, it has happened to me, and maybe in reading the story you’ll feel like it has happened to you, too.