The boys stand in the slim shade of the plaza’s only tree.
“Pretty dead, man.” Tranh leans between his handlebars and spits. “Pretty boring.”
“They’ll unlock it soon,” says Nguyen. “They have to. What happened to your mask?”
“Too fucking hot.” Tranh pats his pocket. “Any cop sees me, I’ll say I’m sorry and put it back on.”
“My old man was talking about the war last night,” says Nguyen. “How they’d ride Hondas through the town and snatch cameras from the GIs. Said Saigon was hopping then. Dangerous, though.”
“Now it’s safe and boring,” says Tranh. “Too fucking bad.”
We never hit it big-big, just semi-big.
The A&R guy saw us pack a house in Cleveland and signed us to a three-record deal, calling us a “cross between ACDC and the Doors,” whatever that meant.
We spent our entire advance on gear and drugs in two months.
Three singles kissed the top ten, only to drift down to obscurity.
You can sometimes hear them on the oldies channel.
We had to pay back the advance, take day jobs.
Through it all, we never gave up.
Same five guys, older and fatter, but still able to rock the house down.
Dad woke me at three AM, tapping on my bedroom window.
“Come on,” he said. “I have a surprise.”
I didn’t ask if he’d talked to mom about it.
By that point I didn’t care.
Now I live here in Kailua, a one-bedroom apartment a thousand feet from the ocean.
I swim all day.
The water is always perfect, calm and inviting.
It’s summer now, but Dad says in the fall I’ll be going to school.
I met some of the kids at the St. Anthony’s rec center on Kalaheo, but they don’t trust me yet because I’m a mainlander.
When the boys were born she’d refused vaccinations. “They are human beings who have agency just like the rest of us,” she told the doctor. “They should be able to choose what goes into their bodies.”
After the divorce, she’d moved to Elum from the Seattle suburbs. The boys were three and five.
Because of their lack of vaccinations, homeschooling was the only option. She tried for a while, but soon she was letting the boys run wild through the woods.
Later, she told the sheriff it simply hadn’t occurred to her to ask Benjamin where his little brother was.
Lugs disabled the alarm with the magnet points and I slipped the lock and we were in.
“Nice place,” I said, looking around. “You ever eat here?”
“You fucking kidding?” he said, unscrewing the cap off of the jerrycan and dripping homemade napalm across a row of booths. “All my money goes to the track.”
“I came here once,” I said, “when I was kid. I dated this rich girl. Her father wanted to take my measure.”
“Yeah? How’d that work out?”
“Not so hot,” I said as I uncapped the flares.
“Gonna be hot now,” smiled lugs. “You ready?”
Oi, what’s Wanker on about this time? Bugger’s as flighty as a sparrow in a barn.
He spent six months on the chips cart idea, only to throw it over when he found he’d need a health permit.
I told him, “Wanker, it’s food. What did you bloody expect?”
He just got chuff and slammed out of the flat without another word.
Next it was breeding them big dogs, mastiffs. That one was a bleeding shambles.
So now, it’s street photography. I guess he nicked a camera somewheres and thinks that’s all there is to it.
Taking photos of streets.
Uncle Trash said they called us second-story men because people used to live above the stores where they worked during the day.
We’d go up the fire escape to the roof, then across to a neighboring building, down another fire escape. We wore coveralls with names on them. Nobody bothers two guys in coveralls even when they see them on a rooftop.
I carried one of those slim prybars to slip in the window sash. We’d get through five, six places a day. Find the jewelry, the cash, then leave the place neat a pin.
Even fed a cat once.
Ramón’s eyes were red-rimmed from lack of sleep as he conned the cruiser between the channel markers.
Chipita set a steaming mug of coffee at his elbow and squeezed his shoulder. “What can I do to help?”
“Look for a sign that says Harbor Master or Marina Office. We want to get a slip near the middle where it’s crowded.”
She nodded. “I’ll tell them we’re looking to store it for the winter, maybe.”
He started laughing, the tension making it almost maniacal. “Except that it’s May, Chipi.”
She laughed too, then grew somber. “Will we be safe here?”
“It’s the damned landline. I don’t know why he can’t get a cellphone like every other human being.”
“Jim. We’re talking about a man who wouldn’t buy a television with a remote control. Remember when he was forced to because they no longer made TVs without them?”
“Yeah, I remember. He smashed it with a hammer.”
“Same as he did with the iPhone you gave him last year.”
“But that damned landline is going to ruin him. He must have lost twenty thousand to the Nigerians.”
“Closer to thirty. But he’s stubborn. Can’t tell him anything.”
“Don’t I know it.”
Elmore said to leave the boring parts out.
King says when you get in a fog to put the pedal down and drive right on through.
Patterson says the outline is everything,
Lish says it’s about one beautiful sentence after another,
Hemingway said to sit down and bleed.
I say fuck ’em all.
Stories happen to people who can tell ’em.
Sure, there’s craft.
Grammar, cadence, dialogue.
Remember, people get hooked by different stuff.
Twilight was shit, but that didn’t stop millions from reading it.
The difference between a writer and a wannabe?
The doing of the thing.