Across Moonlight Square the bar of the Joe stood up. Decorated with exotic Hawaiian passages, the bar’s decor described the story of the brawny owner. The drinks were cheap; there were extra beers and dried shrimps. The environment was good and familiar.
Brown Joe was a good man. Everyone liked Brown Joe the Hawaiian. Everyone liked the way he smiled down at you. They liked the way he treated people. Beyond Brown Joe's smile, he made everyone to feel good by giving you the best time in his bar.
It was the same crowd every Tuesday.
Frankie Jones, a heavy truck driver, made his entry.
Robert “Je” Jessup, a contractor for GE Co., followed him. “I’m here!”
“I see you,” Anthony Contreras, a mechanic for Sears, waved to him.
Adrian Chia, a Japanese American veteran, an old timer teacher, waved back at him.
“What’s up, fellows?”
“Livin’!” Norman Collins, a bus driver, replied.
Down to the hallway, Armando Cuervo, a “doctor” of rats, yelled to them.
“How are the old citizens doing?”
“What are we going to drink?” Brown Joe asked Andrew, who at this particular moment stepped into the private circle of friends. He put down the plate filled with peanuts, shrimps, and pork's dried skin.
“How do ya do, Andrew?”
“You look happy, Andrew.”
“Yes. I am!”
“Really happy?” Norman Collins said, fishing a handful of peanuts.
“Yes. I really happy,” he said suddenly. “It's a boy.”
Everyone in the inner circle halted what they were doing. They turned their heads, and then paid attention to Andrew.
“How that happen? You’ve said you couldn't.”
“Well, I just forgot.”
“That you’re an impotent or you weren’t making up?”
“It was a secret, wasn't it?”
“Was that all?” And Norman Collins stretched his neck directly to Andrew. “You must make it easy for us to understand you. You were or you were not? I got that feelin’ you’d told it to us.”
“Yes, Andrew. It sounds fuzzy.”
“I agreed with Je. It sounds uncertain.”
Adrian spoke. “We’re among friends here. So, what’s goin’ on?”
Anthony scrutinised Andrew’s face. “Would you able it or not, big guy?”
With a slow, appraising glance, Frankie judged at him. “Hey! Don’t be shy. We’re among family.”
Armando nodded. “Yes. We are.”
On the opposite site Joe cued to Andrew.
Andrew looked around. He saw each of them stared at him. With a pitiful look of appeal, he stretched his arm and lifted his bottle of Corona. He drank half of it. Slowly, he slid the bottle back onto the surface of the table. “I have that little problem, you know,” he said, "and my wife won’t be seeing much of me, I told her sometimes I could not function a man. We dreamed to have a child and a hundred of them! She was already for me. I’m afraid to tell it. I can do my things,” he paused. He smiled like a saint. “But I hope you guys will understand.”
“Oh yes,” Armando nodded. “That’s all right.”
Frankie smiled at him affectionately. As he understood from which angle Andrew tried to explain his little problem.
Brown Je considered Andrew. “You’re tellin’ us your eggs were not strong enough.”
“For God’s sake Je! What was that?” Brown Joe observed.
“Sorry.” Then as he picked up his glass he added thoughtfully. “I know I’m not good enough about that but your explanation it didn’t add up.”
“Jus’ drops it, Je, please,” Frankie said.
Andrew said quietly, “I know.” And he added incomprehensibly. “You know I love her, and I am good man. That’s how it goes.”
There was a silence.
Armando broke it. “You’re almost right. I fear, you know. To tell you guys I was unable to rise butterflies!”
“I always think you'll make it if you follow Dona’s homemade medicine.”
“Well, Andrew,” Anthony asked. “Still have your rubber?”
“See? You made one.”
“Hell! It's a beautiful news.”
“I remember mine.”
Everyone remembered the first-born boy or girl.
Andrew said, “It blessed. I’m blessed. I got a boy.”
“Well, Andrew, you can have all you want,” Brown Joe said. “This is my bar.”
“No, Joe,” Frankie said, putting a sandwich of greens on the table. “Let's divide it, should we?”
“Why! That'll be unfair,” Anthony said, deposing a roll of dollars on the table. “Timbales!” he said with a Hispanic word means my balls. “This is my show, too.”
“Enough for me,” Adrian said. He came close to Andrew. He slid some monies onto the surface of the table. “It's a boy. I'm afraid I haven't none. Just three girls and a hell of noises!”
“Let's go, Joe,” Je cried. “All for that, eh?”
Norman Collins said euphorically. “Yep!”
“To the boy,” Armando said as he retrieved a dozen of hundred bills and tried to decorate with them Andrew's chest. He couldn't. “Who has pins?”
From the second group Myra got to her feet. “I got pins.” She approached Andrew. “Congratulations!”
They started to put monies on Andrew's chest.
“Joe, bring in.”
“Tequila, beers, and more dries,” Adrian Chia corrected.
“Tequila, beers and more dries are coming right away,” Brown Joe repeated.
“How it goes?”
“I did not plan it,” Andrew said awkwardly. “It just happened when I start to swallow these green seeds with water given me by Dona. First, there was a sensation of growth, as though I have nothing in mind but the purity of a man that has begun to mount up. My wife was thrilled and she told me I feel happy as finally I would become a real one. I smiled. She smiled back. And you guys know how God work!”
“Yeah. Sometimes he is an onrushing beast but He reckons do His righteous job,” Je said, drinking.
“Amen!” Adrian made a cross with the fingers across his face.
“Yessir!” Frankie echoed.
“Oh yes!” Armand said as he dropped some tequila drops in the floor. “Salud!”
Norman brought a pendant from his beefy neck and kissed it devotedly. “Jesus is Good!”
Brown Joe brought thirty-six beers and twelve bottles of tequila and a basket of peanut and shrimp. To their surprise, they came on a Russian caviar's plate.
“Good Lord! Is this comin’ from Russia?”
“No, from Hawaii!” Brown Joe passed the drinks.
Andrew took his beer.
Frankie poured tequila into his small glass. He moistened on the back of his hand below the index finger and then poured on the salt. He licked the salt off his hand and drank. He sucked the salt from the palm and then squeezed a half lemon all the way into his mouth. “Goddamn! It's good!” he said. “Who will be the next on lines?”
“In bringin' babies?”
“Who follow me?”
Adrian drank from his bottle of beer and when he slid down the bottle on the table it was half empty. Then he lifted the tiny small glass contained tequila and he swallowed it.
Robert “Je” Jessup picked up the small glass and drank. It was then Armando Cuervo, Norman Collins, Anthony Contreras, Frankie, and finally Chia. The rotation started now from Adrian Chia, etc.
Andrew felt the heat of the alcohol and he began to talk. Not happy talk but the way a drunkard was talking. Painful talk. As the drunkard people did when a dozen of beers had begun to make them to do funny things.
“She tried hard this time, 'know?” He looked at Brown Joe who was drinking a glass of milk. He smiled at him as a father of five. “He’s an angel.” He produced his mobile from his jacket and showed to them the picture of the boy.
Anthony was the first to grasp the cellular phone. “Oh! What a tinnier thing!” “Let me, Tony,” Norman took the mobile from him. “He’s just a goat’s babe ready to run!”
Frankie leaned over Norman’s right shoulder. “Reckon he looks like you!”
Andrew nodded. “Well not! He’s the same like his mum.”
Armando got up and he took the cellular. “Hell no! He’s a bony like you.”
Je could not wait as he approached Armando but Armand handed the telephone to Brown Joe. He looked closely at Andrew. “It could tell. I saw her once and I got doubt he’s lookin’ like Andrew.”
Je finally looked at the picture of Andrew’s boy on the digital camera. “No way, folks! That’s mum’s features.”
“It does not matter.”
“You right, Joe. He’s part of both.”
They raised their glasses or bottles.
“To the Angel Boy!”
“Who has the cigars?”
“Somebody has forgotten the cigars?”
“It's my culture,” Andrew said. “But we can have cigarettes.”
“It's not the same. It's the cigars!”
They raised their glasses or bottles up.
“To the cigars then!”
Armando Cuervo got up. Balanced himself he turned and moved to the door.
“Hey, Cuevo, what the hell you are goin’ man?”
“Get the cigars, old man!”
Coming out of the bar he walked to an Iranian shop that was located at Tamarind. He reached the section of International Cuban Cigars. He grasped three boxes of cigars.
“Are they legit?” He deposited the boxes of cigars on the counter.
“Yeah, C’evo! They are!”
The Iranian Harom looked at him.
“Boy or girl?” he asked as he scanned the boxes.
“It’s a boy!”
“Good livin’ him!” he said. “This will be my gift.” He moved to right. He opened a cabinet as he retrieved an extra box from the Ohio-Cuban Import Cigars. He tossed the box before Armando. “Give it to him.”
“I will tell that to Andrew.”
“Just give me $30 dollars.”
Armando paid and then waved towards the Iranian. Moving out of the shop he walked to Brown Joe's bar. He ambled to the private table.
“Got them Armando?”
“Yeah man. I got the cigars” He deposited the boxes down on the table. “Ah, Iranian gave you one free.”
“Don't say it?”
“But they’re not Cuban cigars.”
“No, Iranian cigars.”
“I thought they were coming from Ohio?”
“What is the difference?”
“The Cuban cigar names! That’s the difference!”
“What the hell!”
“How are these cigars?”
“Don't ask. Lit it. Smoke it.”
Andrew felt to talk more. He felt now to cry. And then he began to cry.
They looked straight past him and sighed to Brown Joe.
They stared at him. Their tears were coming too.
“Oh. I'm so sentimental when I saw people cryin’,” Je said. “It’s my age I guess.”
“It's not difficult to be a father.”
“Be a mom, perhaps.”
Andrew spoke. Spasm of irritation crossing his face. His words sounded bitterly set. They looked at each other. They looked at him. They did not understand his anger. “She gave him her life. Her life for him.”
“You said what, Andrew?”
His eyes haunted by inner pain he briefly told them that Dr. Christianson had asked his lovely wife to consider that pregnancy. She did not know what was going to happen at the last moments but she wanted to see him effervescent at last. A family. A cry boy rumbled around the house and to make a lot of noise. Andrew’s wife was amused but she held Andrew’s hand and smiled at him. “She was so sportive and she looked like a puppy bud in spring. How grooving she was! How facetious we were! I knew God will be there with her until the end. So I put off my fear and kissed her. That was the last moment I saw her when they took her that room.”
A silence fell. It was like a drop of lava in full steam had fallen from their head and cascaded it over their shoulders and chest.
They stared at him. They raised their eyebrow in a questioning slant. They were kind of confused, a little aback.
“What did you mean?”
“I told her I couldn't let her,” he said, deepening himself in a hue of shame. “I told her I love her. That there must be another way to handle this pregnancy. She mentioned some conversations we had a long time ago. It was a conversation between husband and wife, you know. She told me it was time to have a family and she asked me what was my problem. That time I was afraid to tell her that there was a little I must deal with myself. Je was alright. You know I’m not good enough to lie, don’t you? She was very patient with me. Now I was able and ready to see how providence has paid us. To have a family, you know. To a woman I love. Everyone knew it would be fatal. I was still pushing her and pushing her that it all would be alright. I was seeing me only, and here I am about to call myself a coward.” And he was crying and he was drinking and he was talking a little more in a rushing way. “I didn't know she would give her life for him...for my own egoism. I was supposed to stop Dr. Nancy Christianson, tell them not to go further but I didn’t.”
“You meant she gave her life.”
“I cannot figure it out until the last moment.”
There were more silent moments. And there were more tears.
Brown Joe swallowed his saliva. He was utterly unable to control himself. He took a medium glass underneath the counter and filled it with tequila. He drank it in one tip.
“Hey, Andrew, let's forget it, uh?”
“I can't,” Andrew said. He got up. He looked at them. His face bathed with tears. “I just can't man. It was like I kill her.”
“Don’t say that.”
“It’s the truth. I killed her.”
They saw him walking to the exit. They saw Myra getting up and saying something to Andrew that they could not hear. They saw Andrew nodding as Myra close to him.
“Bye, Andrew,” Brown Joe said.
He didn't reply.
They saw him rising his arm and then it fell on Myra's shoulder. A few minutes later Andrew and Myra were gone.
George Zamalea's work has appeared in Taft College, Spectrum, and Indiana Voice Journal. He lives in Rosamond, California, with wife, and children. His Twitter is @GeorgeZamalea