“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, calling attention 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,” he replied unconvincingly. “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 hands and a profound look settled on his face. “Not all on one hand, though.”
Lindsay snickered involuntarily.
“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 them both playfully. “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 snidely. “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, becoming very serious. “You hold on to him, sweetheart. No funny business. That goes for you too, buddy,” he said, smacking Josh on the shoulder. Now you two enjoy your trip. Aloha! Mahalo!” he said with an 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.