Jonathan Jay Somefun blinked at the orange iridescent numbers. The phone rang a second time as the digital readout rolled over to 2:01. Still, he didn’t move. Last time, it was the hospital, but Lola was gone. Fourth ring. Fifth ring. He couldn’t think of anything bad that could be waiting on the other side of the call. His elbow creaked as he stretched to grab the receiver.
“Hey, Dad, I wanted to give you an early Christmas present.”
His oldest son, living in Austria, hadn’t allowed for the time difference. “David? Nothing’s wrong?” He rubbed his eyes and swung his feet over the edge of the bed.
“No, Dad. Everything’s fine. You’re a grandpa for the third time. It’s a boy!”
“A boy? Ah, that’s great, Son. How’s Annie doing?”
“Great. She sends her love and says Merry Christmas. We wanted you to know that Jonathan Derrick Somefun entered the world tonight.”
He opened his mouth in exclamation, but his throat tightened. He swallowed. “Why, son…I’m…well, thanks.”
“He’s got lots of thick black hair and looks just like his grandpa.”
“Let’s hope he grows out of that.”
David laughed. “I’ll let you get back to sleep, Dad. Sure wish we could see you for Christmas.” The sound of a scraping chair. His son cleared his throat. “You have someone special to spend it with, don’t you?”
“You know I do.” Couldn’t let him worry. “Give Annie and little…Jonathan a kiss.”
“Love you, Dad. Bye.”
He set the phone back on the nightstand. Ain’t that something? Another Jonathan Somefun. He chuckled and settled back into bed. Staring into the dark, the contented feeling subsided as he thought about the call in the night a few years back.
Lola had been a good woman. Her orange hair complemented his dark Choctaw skin when she walked next to him. Her plain face wasn’t too wrinkled for a woman nearly sixty. She’d work an extra shift at the hospital now and then, just so she could buy her man fine furnishings. His wardrobe had flourished. And for their one Christmas together, she’d given him a gold bracelet. He crossed his arms over his chest, the metal of the jewelry cool on his skin, and the memory of her smile on that morning warm in his heart.
“You’re my Jonny Jay, and you should dress like uptown,” Lola would tell him. “Las Vegas has never seen such a sight as you. And when you dance, well, I think the Tropicana is going to find out and start a male revue just for you.”
He laughed out loud.
In the eight months they had been married, he’d never even looked at another woman. Lola just might have been the perfect one. No one had known Lola had cancer. Not even Lola. Until she’d passed out working the mid shift in the hospital cafeteria. That had been a Wednesday. She’d died on Sunday.
Las Vegas and Phoenix behind him. L. A. just a memory. Now, in Bullhead City, Arizona...what next? He scrunched deeper under the covers, shrugged his shoulders and head against the pillow, and closed his eyes turning his thoughts to his newborn namesake.
A ringing phone could bring good news at two in the morning.
He’d told his son he wouldn’t be alone for Christmas. We’ll see.
Jonathan jiggled his drink, clinking the ice cubes as he sat on the same stool he’d posed on the last four nights at the Riverside Casino bar. He glanced toward the stage where the band would play later. A drink and a few turns around the dance floor kept a man’s heart in good shape; kept a man’s youth from fading entirely.
“So how’s it hangin’ tonight, Somefun?” The bartender slid a fresh napkin under Jonathan’s glass.
He liked being called Somefun, and he liked the way the bartender paused between some and fun. Women always seemed to call him Jonny, and men usually tagged him JJ.
“Hey, Carl, the night is young, and so am I.”
The bartender laughed. “Are you going to hit the dance floor tonight, Somefun? Show these tourists and river rats how?”
“Damn straight!” He offered a wide grin. “That is, if there’s any decent women in the house tonight.”
Carl leaned his elbows on the bar. “Just how decent does she have to be?”
“Not that decent.”
He found it easy conversing with bartenders. As an underage, Native American kid bar hopping in Los Angeles, engaging the barkeeps had been necessary so they didn’t question his ethnicity. In the 50’s, there had still been some bars that refused to sell whiskey to American Indians. So, Somefun had become Ramirez, passing himself off as a smooth talking Mexican-American. He still carried his fake I. D. pressed between his Social Security card and a picture of his sons when they were four and five.
A woman in her twenties slid onto the stool one over and ordered a Margarita. Carl gave him a wink. He considered moving closer, but only for an instant. He took in the long, blonde hair pulled back in a pink ribbon, slim arms, and clean-scrubbed face. He smelled the scent of lemons through the smoke of the casino. Way too young, he judged. Seventy-six years of experience and his cosmopolitan point of view would overwhelm her.
Jonathan Jay Somefun needs a mature, worldly woman. And maybe this time, one a little tired of seeing the world. The past year with Josephine had worn him down. He hadn’t admitted it at the time. For the sake of his waistline, he cut back on the booze and needed a few more hours of beauty sleep each night. He’d called it his new style, but Josephine had just called him old. He hadn’t cheated on her either. His new style had changed that pattern. But after six months, the dew was off the pumkin. Josephine was no spring chicky. Her makeup reminded him of war paint. And when she’d gone on the warpath, he’d loaded up two suitcases of new clothes and four pairs of leather shoes. The year hadn’t been a total loss. But trying to get over Lola with the likes of Josephine hadn’t been one of his finer moments.
It had been time to leave Phoenix anyway. The atmosphere had sapped his vitality like a leech sucking on blood-starved muscles.
The blonde didn’t look his way, picked up her drink, and headed for the dance floor.
“Need another one?” Carl nodded at his half-empty glass.
“Nah. Not yet.” He gazed out the window behind the bar. The lights from both banks of the river reflected on the black surface in wavy gyrations.
It was a good move, coming to Bullhead City, a town with dry, clean air, stretching sinuously alongside the Colorado River. The casinos of Laughlin littered the banks on the Nevada side. During the day, the barren, rocky shoreline was alive with pleasure boaters and jet-skiers sunning or parking to migrate into the casinos. After the sun burned out, the lights of the gambling houses set the river on fire. Dropping cash at the tables gave them a buzz the fast craft couldn’t supply.
“Hey, Carl, I ever tell you about my boys? David is a minister, and Larry is a lawyer. Raised ‘em myself.” His chest puffed with pride whenever he spoke of his children. “I’m a granddad three times over.”
“Which wife you stay with long enough to get you two kids?”
“Ruby, my first one.”
Carl set two beers on the counter and popped the lids. “How many wives you had, Somefun?”
“Only three. Not so many.”
The bartender stepped away, handed off the beers, and returned. “And how many women you had?”
“Now, Carl, I ain’t one to kiss and tell, but there’s been a sight more of those. And I reckon a few more to go.” He raised his glass in a toast and took a drink.
Carl laughed. “So you left L. A. lookin’ for that next Mrs. Somefun? That one particular beauty?”
“Arizona, L. A., or Timbuktu—they’re all beauties.”To be continued, Chapter Two, tomorrow...