Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Twenty to a Pack

   From Orlando to Honolulu via Los Angeles is a long way. 
   By the time we’d sorted ourselves out at the airport we didn't arrive at our Waikiki hotel until 11PM. We were kindly received and shown to our room. Saucy Boy (a nickname for my wife) quickly unpacked and put away her things. 
   “I don’t like people touching my things,” she said as she unpacked.
   “That’s not what you said last night!” I boasted. 
   “You!” she laughed. “Don’t you ever think of anything else?”
   Believe me, with Saucy Boy, it’s difficult not to. 
   “Good!” she answered, and we embraced.
   Then she made us gin and tonics. Within minutes Saucy Boy can work miracles in any kitchen. And a good gin and tonic is a miracle of sorts, don’t you think? Her eyes sparkled as she handed me the drink. She loves to travel. It’s when she’s happiest. 
   With our stuff put away and drinks in our hands, we felt at home on our travels.
   Ah, those gins hit the spot and eased out some of the kinks! 
   We stepped through the sliding door. The night was warm. I bumped my head against a tree limb that overhung the patio, and we laughed. We sat in chairs beside the pool and spoke of things we hadn’t spoken of in a long time. After awhile we dropped into a comfortable silence, both of us staring into the shimmering black water of the hotel swimming pool. 
   It was well after 2am. They had turned off the pool lights hours ago. I lifted my tired eyes from the water. 
   “I need some sleep,” I said. 
   Saucy Boy did too. Her sparkling eyes had dimmed and were slowly closing.
   “C’mon,” she said. 
   We returned to our room, undressed and fell into bed.
   “What the…?” I asked.
   “Ice-maker,” explained Saucy Boy.
   “KA-BOING!” The ice-making machine next to our room was making ice. “KA-THUMP!” it groaned. I lay awake and listened to it. Where does all that ice go, I wondered? “KA-TWANG!” it croaked. Saucy Boy had closed her eyes and looked to be asleep. What had they done to cool their libations in times before ice machines, I wondered? “KA-BOOM!” it crashed. Saucy Boy didn’t move. Once she was asleep she could sleep through anything. “KA-PHOOEY!” it sputtered. What is it about some machinery that it must be loud to get the job done?
   Ha! Ha! We humans are often guilty of that. 
   “KA-THUMP!” it coughed. It continued to rattle and sputter and crash through the night.
   Somehow, I fell asleep…

   I was awake before daylight thinking about breakfast.
   But before food, a smoke. 
   You cannot smoke within and around buildings in Hawaii, so I got up and threw on some clothes and went out. Saucy Boy was asleep so I left her in bed. The ice machine was silent, so I left it there too. Within a few minutes I was puffing contentedly along as I ambled toward the all-night Denny’s. 
   A pair of drunken young men lurched up from the opposite direction. 
   “Got a spare smoke?” asked one. 
   I was startled and without thinking I answered “No.” Which was pretty stupid considering I was smoking at the time. My answer also surprised me. Why had I refused?
   Why is it so difficult to be a kind person all the time, or even most of the time, or even more than barely some of the time? 
   “There’s twenty to a pack, asshole!” said his friend. He was very intoxicated and slurred out his words with a grand gesture more to the street and the towering hotels all around us, rather than at me, the actual asshole.
   How bitter this retort rang in my ears! 
   “Hey guys,” I answered. “Hold on a minute.”
   We stood together and shared a smoke. Extracting one for later, I handed over the packet, telling them to keep it.
   “Mahalo plenty, man,” they said as they walked on. 
   Mahalo means thank you in Hawaiian.
   “Sure,” I answered. “Aloha!” 
   They waved and turned back on their way. 
   I watched them go with a smile on my face. Phew, I thought, that was a close one! I had almost been that worst of bastards, a cheapskate bastard. Funny how life throws up these cosmic moments. You’re walking down the street minding your own business when suddenly wham! 
   Hey You! To be or not to be! Are you a decent human being capable of sharing, or are you something else? Time to choose! 
   “Show us what you’re made of!” demand the gods, and they lean in, ready for a laugh.
   For a moment my soul balanced on the edge.
   Then the wise man said, “There’s twenty to a pack, asshole!”
   Bringing me back to my senses.

   That day Saucy Boy and I sunbathed on the beach in front of the Royal Hawaiian. That’s a hotel, not a person, by the way. The ocean was warm and clean. We splashed and played in the surf. Later, we ambled up the beach and stopped for a beer to cool off. On the ground by some giant bamboo I found a small, overturned bird’s nest and gave it to Saucy Boy. 
   (She brought it home carefully wrapped in her luggage and has it to this day.) 
   At sunset, sitting together under a Banyan tree with a wonderful view of Diamond Head, we sipped $15 Mai-Tais and watched the waves rolling in. It was very romantic, but we couldn't drink long at those prices, so we left to walk the beach hand in hand. 
   As darkness fell we were on the beach, watching Venus rise out of the crashing ocean. A sliver of moon hung in the sky over our shoulders.
  Later we swam in the hotel pool together. Petals fell in graceful arcs from the nearby plumeria trees. Some of the petals landed in the water. One of them stuck to Saucy Boy’s shoulder, perfect and pink against her smooth brown skin.
   After swimming we went to our room. 
   There we kissed and made love. 
   Soon afterwards we fell asleep, not hearing a sound from our mechanical ice-making neighbor, as if it understood that tonight, right next door, the night was young and the stars were old. 
   Shhhh, nighty-night, little tourists. 


  1. Great story and memory, Sam.

    "A journey is a person itself; no two are alike." - John Steinbeck

    1. Thank you. I like your Steinbeck quote. He's one of my favorites. Please look for more Rusty stories and tell your friends!