Everyone likes to read. Right? I mean reading is the best thing, right? Well honestly I can think of a couple of things that are better, but they normally take less time. At least for me, they take less time than reading a book.
Now to change the subject. As far as weather is concerned, I like warm to hot weather more than cold. I can live with comfort in both. It’s just that when cold weather rolls around something usually happens that gripes my ass. An example of that is a starter that goes out. The next day we received eight inches to a foot of snow. It then becomes a very high probability that I’ll be lying down in the snow with an inevitable steady drip running down my neck or into my eye. So uncomfortable. It is equally true that during hot weather I’ll find a gob of sweat stinging my eye, but to me, that is much preferred over the obnoxious cold drip.
We are now experiencing a hot summer where I live. Take one step outdoors and it feels like a jungle, high humidity, a plethora of bugs, and living about ten seconds before becoming stinky and sweaty. Doesn’t that sound spectacular?
Here’s a great idea. How about during our free time we stay inside with the air conditioning running. Just stay inside and read a book. Hell if you don’t like the cold of winter, stay inside then and read. You could do that in any climate, any weather. It’s cheap and easy as long as you can read.
Here. I’ll go out on a limb. If you are reading this you can read a book.
I remember a time during my teenage years when we passed books around so everyone could enjoy them. Normally though, we all skipped to the parts that were underlined, you know, the good parts. There were usually a lot of them in the chosen tomes. Harold Robbins had bunches of such passages as did Sidney Sheldon. I’m sure it’s like the youth of today with their selfie sharing, except today they use themselves and the pictures never die or go away. With ours, we spurred our libidos with imagination as to what everything looked like.
Ah, to sit in a comfortable place, whether it be cool while escaping the heat, or, warm and cozy beside a wonderful fire. Someplace relaxing to read a book, let it absorb you like a sponge so you can live through the crises of the book, experience the rising action to the climax (not usually having to do with the underlined parts noted above) and on to the resolution. Follow the whole thing with an ending where everyone can either breath easy, or weep in sorrow and live with satisfaction in their memory of the excellence of the story.
Now that is living!
How about reading the first chapter of my next novel?
The Great Zero Sum
AJ Colton strolled into the pub and sat at the bar. Several people watched – the two assholes nearby, the half Korean woman near the door, the two women by the DJ. From long habit, he sized them up, and not only the people who watched, but also measured the skill of those around him. His skill at it hadn’t faded since the Army. His savvy had saved him more than once, and he did not intend to change. Besides, the bartender had a great ass.
He sniffed the inside air.
Most saloons had a background aroma of puke and piss. Certainly, this one catered more to tourists, wanted them to come back to spend their money. Even smells fresh. Like linen, for God’s sake.
The air outside had cooled since the sunset. It always did on the Big Island, but it fit his windbreaker, not that he needed to cover up to keep warm. The weather didn’t have an effect on him until the temperature became extreme, but the jacket hid his shoulder holster.
He glanced at the arm he rested on the bar. It was thicker than most, and he gave it a decent scratch as he sat there. He was more solidly built than the average man. At five foot nine he carried a little more in his waist than what he should, but muscle and bone made most of his body. Fat content didn’t matter to him anyway. He knew what he could do; that’s what mattered.
He surveyed the room again and playfully tapped a fingernail on the polished wood. The splotchy lighting gave some portion of privacy for the couple in the corner with either wrestling or love on their minds, and it gave others enough light to be semi-rowdy. The place was mostly quiet action wise, comfortable, although he could feel the vibration of the background music with his shoulders.
The bartender walked to him, her breasts swaying as she moved. “What can I get you?” Her husky voice probably came from having to constantly talk above the music. She leaned downward to clean a glass or two, and if it was an attempt to offer him a view of her cleavage he took it. The loose curls in her dark hair framed her oval face. Large, almond-shaped doe eyes stared at him, that look of innocence. Her large Polynesian lips smiled under her broad nose.
His green eyes lifted from the direct view. With a sideways nod and an ornery grin, he said, “Whiskey, neat.” His voice was quiet, but the crispness of it punched through the ambient noise. Rarely had he ever had to raise his voice, even when pissed.
She spun, probably to give him another good view of her posterior, grabbed two bottles, and continued around. “House or premium?”
Again, he grinned at her Guernsey-jiggle. She had the good stuff in hand. Well, a great way to up-sell booze. He pointed at the premium bottle and then to the bar before him. Another tap on the wood.
A loud whoop behind him and his eyes snapped to the mirror behind the bartender. Colton snorted, A drunk trying to get laid. It wasn’t one of the potential troublemakers he’d spotted when he stepped through the door. Still, his ears kept track of the drunk as he moved through the room until he came into view.
Soft island music replaced the classic rock stuff. The bartender set his drink in front of him. He dug out a wad of money and slid a bill toward her. “Keep it.”
Her head bobbed. “Sure. Thanks.” The money disappeared into her hand that in turn dipped into her jeans with a push and a shove. A little dance too. They were tight, pleasantly sexy.
She placed her elbows on the bar and let a slow grin spread across her face. “Where you from, kane? Haven’t seen you before.” Her eyes lingered on his.
He returned the grin as he discreetly rearranged himself on the stool. She’d gotten his blood to flow south. “I’m a local guy, kama’aina. Live down the road a piece.” Probably should’ve said, ‘down the road a ways,’ not a piece. She’ll think I’m a horndog.
Her eyes switched to sultry and she wiggled her butt in a tease. “Well I guess I don’t have to pretend to be enthralled with where you’re from, do I?”
“Nope.” The husky voice accented the look in her eyes. I guess she didn’t mind the pun.
Music cranked again. Colton threw his shot back and twisted to his left with a heavier lean on the bar.
She popped the bar lightly with her hand. “Be right back,” then she took off to fill up another patron’s glass at the end of the bar.
He squinted as he watched. Yeah, a great ass. As she started back his focus changed. Those are impressive too.
Something darted across the room barely inside Colton’s vision. He didn’t let it bother him. He knew who it was and kept his eyes on the bartender.
A tap on the bar behind him and Colton glanced into the mirror. A scar-faced man sat on the stool behind him, an inane grin on his face, stared at a man who wore a faded baseball cap directly on the other side of Colton. Scarface nodded slowly.
The bartender appeared again in front of Colton. He’d been busy and hadn’t tracked her. Her fresh odor alerted him – hibiscus. She slid another drink toward him. “Name’s Lynda.” She pronounced it like Lida with an “N” sound slid, almost hidden, in the middle.
A gentle smile covered Colton’s face except for his eyes; they remained unchanged. He pointed at the drink, “Thanks, Lynda. Name’s Ron Eli.” She nodded and gave him a shaka with her hand. He continued, “Looking for a man. Goes by Alex. Long blond hair. Plays like he’s the local-color guy. Beach bum.”
“Lot of those around.”
“I know, but this guy is a real ass. Hangs around the cove down the beach. The one with the sign, “beware, sharks.”
She nodded again. “Know the place. Don’t know him. Wait, there was a goofy guy.”
A tap on his shoulder from behind and Colton held up his hand. He glanced into the mirror and dismissed it. The guy with the scar and lazy smile. He turned back to Lynda. “Sorry, got distracted. You were saying?”
Before she could begin again, there was another couple of taps.
“Excuse me a sec.” Colton swiveled to face the man with the scar. The man looked rougher than the scar – a couple of teeth gone, and his nose looked to have been broken two or three times, perhaps self-set at least once.
“Hey listen, brah. I’m busy here. Don’t interrupt, it’s Lolo.” He’d said it quietly like always but his voice carried.
Again the man smiled. But this time he appeared to be a simpleton. “‘S alright, brah. Got a message from Alex.”
“You know the man you lookin’ for.”
Colton stared for a couple of seconds. “I have this girl, this wahine with a great ‘okole ….”
The man’s eyes flicked to Lynda’s posterior and nodded. “It is a nice ass. But, brah, you need this message.”
Colton swiveled all the way around and ran his hand over his blond buzz cut. “Okay.” He held up his hand, palm toward himself, and wiggled his fingers. “Message.”
The man with the scar reached over and tapped on the bar. “Message is – fuck off.”
Colton’s eyes glinted in the low light for a nanosecond. He leaned forward, picked up the man’s arm and pushed it back to the man’s chest. “Mahalo for that. That message is for you. Get out.” He turned back to Lynda who was at work down the bar.
Scarface grabbed his shoulder and yanked.
Colton turned so quickly that the man almost fell off his stool. He stared at Scarface for a second, grabbed the man’s shirt, and picked him up. Together they marched out of the bar. Scarface didn’t want the help.
Once outside, the darkness was splotchy. Light shone on them from the windows, and the gibbous moonlight filtered through the palms. Colton dropped his support. The man staggered for balance on the gravel. “What’d you do that for, brah? I was jus–”
“We both know what you wanted to try. Now, leave me alone. Call it a night.” He headed back to the bar, stopped, and turned back around. “Tell Alex I’ll find him.” He shrugged, “Easy to spot a haole drifting around on the beach.”
“You are one dumb son-of-a-bitch, brah.”
“Why? Because of–”
A ferocious kick connected to Colton’s back. He rolled to deflect it and lessen the pain. Before he could turn, the man in the baseball cap came into view with a dance, ready to spar. Colton spun on his feet. Scarface snapped out a telescopic baton, miraculously found his balance, and struck. Colton’s shoulder felt like a taser hit it, electric numbness ran down his left arm.
Mister baseball cap rushed in but Colton immobilized him with a kick in the crotch. He centered on Scarface. Colton stripped his jacket off and moved his arm to get some use back. A little Gene Kelly footwork while he wrapped his jacket around his left forearm, and then he bounced with a loud chuckle. Scarface stared at the pistol still holstered under Colton’s arm, and a goof-ball smile spread over his face.
The two circled. Colton’s eyes tracked the baton as the man giggled with an occasional feint to the side. With each feint, Colton steadied himself. Scarface danced in and out of the available light.
“Don’t reach for that gun, asshole.”
Colton’s eyes pierced the night, “Don’t need too.” He slowly circled.
The baton pointed to Scarface’s right, the tip higher than the handle. He slipped in close.
Colton recognized experience in the man. Gone was the man’s dumbass grin and crinkly eyes. Fighting focus replaced it.
Colton drew in a long breath.
Colton stepped wide, his protected forearm dropped in front of himself, and as the baton shot upwards towards his head he leaned back. The night-stick missed. The breeze still fanned the air and Colton struck like a snake, his right arm darted forward, grabbed Scarface’s neck and squeezed his larynx, hard.
The glare from Scarface’s eyes almost lit the night.
Colton held out his hand for the baton.
The man squeaked out a strained, “Fuck you.”
Colton shrugged and pinched harder. The pressure changed the glare to a panic. The baton dropped to the gravel, and Colton kicked it away. He forced Scarface to his knees and pushed him onward to his butt. Colton snatched the baton, and whispered loudly, “You ready to leave me alone?”
The man nodded.
Colton punched hard, another broken nose, and the man collapsed to the gravel of the parking lot. Colton donned his jacket, snicked the baton closed and put it in his pocket. He strolled back toward the bar. As he walked by the last tree on the way he stopped for a brief look around.
An intense spin, he pulled the baton out and snapped it open. A duck behind the nearby tree and a dull whack sounded above the waves. A soft hum to himself while he dragged a slumped man free of the brush. Then with a grunt, Colton hefted the blond man over his shoulder and toted him to his car.
Colton clicked open the trunk and dropped his human package inside. He trussed the man’s legs together with a roll of heavy-duty tape, did the same to his arms. Another piece of tape over the man’s mouth served as a gag.
He slammed the trunk lid down followed by a quick tug to ensure it locked.
The night breeze off the ocean felt great. He picked his jacket up and enjoyed the cool as he strode calmly back toward the bar. After only two or three steps another man attacked from behind a close-by banyan tree. A third man dashed from the side of the bar.
Punches flew, Colton took some with his face and chest, but he retaliated with elbows and knees. The biggest man of the two sent a massive punch to Colton’s solar plexus, dropped him, and took the 9mm.
Together the two men dragged Colton around back of the building.
As they turned the corner the darkness multiplied. There was no incidental light from the windows and a cloud hid the moon. They dumped him on his back. The big thug raised Colon’s 9mm and aimed for Colton’s head.
Colton didn’t know what the men could see, but he slowly moved his hands toward his head like giving up. He even reached behind his head as though lacing his fingers, but he didn’t stop. Between his shoulder blades, his fingers teased the dirk sheathed there. Once firmly in his hands, he yanked it. As quick as a mongoose on a cobra he buried the dirk in the big man’s calf and rolled.
The gunshot muffled the man’s scream. Colton scrambled behind a kiawe bush and froze. The two men searched; the bigger man, now with a limp, swore loudly and waved the pistol like it was a metal detector. “Where’d the asshole go, brah?”
No answer came from the smaller man, and it was too dark for Colton to see if he pointed, so he kept still. The dark would hide him just as well.
The bigger man stumbled over a box and thudded into the ground. The 9mm clattered on gravel. “Goddamn it! Now I lost the damn pistol.” He stood, his head on a swivel, searching. Moments later, the two men had worked their way to the banyan tree.
Colton sneaked from behind his bush and picked up a solid piece of kiawe. He inched around the large banyan trunk, his club held high. Both enemies stumbled like drunken morons. Alex? Can’t do better than these guys? Clearly, they had never worked in the dark before, certainly not together. Now back around to the front of the bar, their eyes continually gazed toward the windows, and each time they did the light destroyed more night vision. He walked right up behind them, clunked them both on the neck in the nerve center below their jaws. They hit the ground almost at the same time.
Colton focused his senses through the night, letting his whole body search for other attackers. Satisfied there were no more, he retrieved his 9mm, his dirk, and the baton. Then he climbed into his vehicle and drove away.
Not far down the road he found a secluded place by a heiau, an ancient religious site, and parked. As soon as the trunk lid rose he whacked the man inside again, hard enough to daze if needed but not enough to draw blood. He pulled out a set of waders, slipped into them, and then hefted the man onto his back like a backpack.
It was only a short walk to the heiau and then he faced the ocean. After a formal nod, he descended the ancient stairway into the water. About waist deep he let the man slide off his back. Holding the man’s wrist Colton watched him float in the calm seawater. Then he clubbed the blond man with the baton hard enough to draw blood and let him sink. Then he left.
As he stepped free of the water he turned and first saw a fin cut through the water. Thirty seconds later, after he’d climbed back up to the heiau, gazing at the water for a last look, the feeding frenzy was well underway. He watched for a minute, and then he trekked back to his car.
Guess you won’t hurt any more kids now, asshole.
Minutes later he pulled up in front of the pub, walked in the door, and sat at the bar. Lynda’s face lit up, doe eyes wide. She waved him ahead with her hand down by her hip.
“Thought you had some trouble there and wouldn’t be back.”
“Naw. Just a couple of pissants. How about a …” He noticed the shot she’d slipped before him. “Thanks. What time you get off, wahine?
“You really are kama’ina, using Hawai’ian for girl.” She scratched the bar with her fingernails. “’bout an hour.”
“Mind if I wait?”
“Na, brah. You can wait.