“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 confidently, 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 confidentially, “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 hand, which was sticky with sweat.
“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?”
“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 it 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.” He paused thoughtfully. “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?”