The four slender palms that were reflected in the café storefront 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 while making consciously dramatic “Victory” hand gestures, which amused them.
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.
Amidst 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, which 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.
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.