An Island Away, Excerpt 1

Chapter 1: Charlie and his cat, Screwball, are on his balcony, looking over the town of San Nicolaas, Aruba, the principal setting for my novel, An Island Away.

Charlie lived in a place where the illegal was legal, where the immoral was moral, and where some people’s fantasies were other people’s realities. So, he lived every day in anticipation of the fantastic. And why not? It was the night before his birthday, the start of another year in a place where anything could happen.

…a little further on….

A car rolled beneath his balcony, flashed its signal, and turned right. Charlie watched his lifelong friend Sam park at the end of the block. He couldn’t help but smile at the man’s reliability and persistence. No one but Sam took the time to make his birthday a grand affair. Unfortunately, and despite Charlie’s constant warnings, Sam fell prey to indomitable emotions with regard to the girls working in San Nicolaas and frequently found himself miserably heartbroken, a condition Charlie studiously avoided.

“Thanks to Sam, we’re in for a nice time,” Charlie said to Screwball. “Unless something else comes up. You never know. Eh? Let’s hope we have a party and something else.”

The cat shifted on the parapet, licked his forepaw, and once again put his head upon it.

Something else? Charlie asked himself. What could it be? Well, this town was named San Nicolaas and not for the Jolly Old Saint Nicolas the Americans called Santa Claus. Nonetheless, the town gave its gifts (such as they were) to one and all, Charlie included. Christmas was every night of the week, every day of the year, with the exception of the actual Christmas Day, New Year’s, Carnival Saturday, and Easter Sunday. And on those days, too, an enterprising man need only walk the lane known as Rembrandtstraat, peek into the caged halls leading to the rooms upstaris, and call out. Someone would unlock the door, lead the man ┬áinside, and provide the service of the oldest profession. The experience could be another meaningless act, or it might change somebody’s life. As he knew, the outcome depended on the man, the woman, and the people in between.

Charlie stubbed out his cigarette and looked over the street one more time. “Welcome to San Nicolaas,” he said, “We’re open for business.”