As the author of the Vasquez and James books, I called a number of the characters together for a meeting because readers had been asking questions—questions I couldn’t answer—and I thought it was time to put their concerns to rest, once and for all. When I called to make arrangements, it seemed at first as if the plan would come off without a hitch. Sonny answered the phone.
“Sure, we’d love to,” Sonny said, after I explained about wanting to do a group interview. “Where did you want to meet?”
“Well, I was hoping you might be willing to come down to my place,” I said. “I’m just down here off Budd Inlet, near the Capitol.”
“Oh, yeah. Love that area! It’s a nice drive down the canal, too, and Kaholo’s never been that way…. I guess I’ll have to take the Merc, since it’s a little bigger. What with two extra men and Bear.”
“Perfect,” I said. “I have a couple of questions for Brian, too, and I’ve got a pretty good sized yard for Bear to investigate.”
Sonny laughed, that sweet, deep, rolling chuckle that always lightened my heart. “Okay, it’s all set, then. And if Bear digs holes I’ll make Luki go out and fill them in.”
But then, a distant, deep, scratchy, grouchy-sounding voice in the background. “Give me the phone, Sonny.”
Sonny must have put a hand over the mouthpiece, because his reply was muffled. “Luki, it’s just Lou. She wants us to meet at her place for an interview.”
“I am quite well aware that Ms. Sylvre is trying once again to manipulate our lives. Just give me the phone, please.”
“Fine. But we’ll talk about this later.” Then, into the receiver again, “Lou, Luki wants to talk to you.”
Next thing I know Luki was on the phone and growling at me. “No, we’re not coming to your house, Ms. Sylvre, and that’s final. We’re finally here at Sonny’s home—”
“Your home, Luki.”
“Right, my home, but that’s between Sonny and me. The point is in the entire plot of Finding Jackie you never let us be home for even a day. We’re here now, trying to recover, and we’re staying here. I mean, who the hell knows where you’ll send us next—could be fucking France or something.”
“Oh, don’t tell me! France? Really?”
I decided it might be wise to try to placate him. “Anyway, that’s fine, Luki. I’ll just come to your place again.”
And so here we were, once again on Sonny’s beautiful land by the Straits of Juan de Fuca, surrounded by forest. This time, though, we’re driven inside by a steady summer rain. It’s just cool enough, off the water in the shadow of the Olympics, to warrant a small fire in the wood stove in the living room, and we’ve gathered round the kitchen table with very good coffee steaming in our cups—except for Brian who has a glass of milk. Luki, to my surprise, is busy finishing up appetizer offerings. Already, we each have fluted, pedestaled, shallow carnival glass dish set before us with something he calls Aloha crisp—pineapple, bacon, nuts, coconut, and only Luki knows what else in there. He sets down a tray of mini-kebobs with pork, peppers, onion, and pineapple, and a mountain of rice-prickly glazed meatballs, each with its own toothpick handle, and finally he sits down in the seat next to me.
Everyone else is digging in and licking lips. Luki is watching me. I’m overwhelmed.
“Is everything all right, Ms. Sylvre? You need something?”
Yes, Luki, I think, I need to figure out how not to cry. “No, everything’s beautiful. I just didn’t expect it, that’s all. Perhaps you should have been a chef?”
An odd look crossed his face, and I wasn’t sure if he was wondering if I could get any stupider, or if he was touched by what I said. Sonny caught his eye, and that’s where Luki was looking when he answered. “My uncle taught me to cook. I enjoy it.”
“Thank you,” I said, remembering my manners.
“You’re welcome, Ms. Sylvre. Can we eat and get this questioning business over with at the same time?”
LS: Okay, guys. I was going to interview you each one at a time, but I’ve decided that we’re all gathered around Luki’s beautiful pu-pu—
Luki: Watch it, Sylvre.
LS: Uh… Anyway we’ll just ask questions of the appropriate person as we come to them. First, a couple of questions from Traci.
Q: Sonny, what is something that you do on purpose to drive Luki nuts? Is it funny to see your favorite bad ass lose his shit over something?
Sonny: (Note that to his credit, Sonny did not look toward Luki to see if it was okay to speak.) Well, Lou and Traci, I hate to start off with a boring answer, but I really can’t think of much I do on purpose, although I do tease him about the bucket loads of sugar he puts in his coffee. And well, when he was in the hospital under the influence of pain medication, he was pretty easy to string along. That was kind of fun. He does kind of get all wound up about things when I change my mind suddenly, stuff like that, and its really cute. (Here, Luki inserted a silent eye roll.) But I don’t do that on purpose, I’m just being me. But, the thing is, I’d never drive him to seriously lose his shit on purpose. He needs to be in control, and it’s really hard on him when he’s not. The only times he’s ever totally lost his cool around me were not good memories. They were painful for both of us.
Q: Luki, Traci’s question for you is this: what is your favorite part of everyday life that you share with Sonny? Something that is small & simple that you never would have thought as being enjoyable.
Luki: (Luki looks at Sonny, eyes perceptibly wide with surprise, and when Sonny smiles at him, kebob juice dripping from his chin, Luki actually, clearly smiles back. It’s beautiful. Then Luki turns to me, ready to answer.) Ms. Sylvre, Traci has asked a very good question. Problem is it’s so hard to choose just one. I love seeing him next to me if by some miracle I wake up before he does; I love hearing the rattle of his looms when he’s working; I love seeing him go for his quick dip in the cold straits in the morning; I even love his off key singing as long as he’s in another room. But I guess if I have t choose a favorite, it would be our walks on the beach in the late afternoon, just the two of us and Bear. I can’t say why. It just makes me feel… maybe happy.
Q: Bluesimplicity has a a question for both of you, Luki and Sonny. What’s the most surprising thing you’ve each learned about yourself now that your married?
Sonny: This might sound silly, but I’ve been surprised to find out that I was lonely out here, before.
Luki: This is maybe cheating a bit, because I think I learned it before we were actually married, but it shocked the hell out of me to find out I like sleeping—I mean actually sleeping—with the man I love. I never had anybody sleep in my bed before Sonny.
Q: Jackie M. has questions for everybody. First, Sonny, she’d like to know how long you’re going to… um, now these are her words, okay? Not mine. How long are you going to let Luki make you wait for kids.
Sonny: Um… I never thought about kids, Jackie. I mean, I enjoy them. I just can’t see me… Well, I had Delsyn with me, of course, but I don’t think I did that great of a job. I had help, thank heaven, but… I never asked Luki about this either. Oh my god. How could I have married the man and never even thought about asking him…
Luki: Hey, baby. It’s okay. The nice reader didn’t mean any harm. Listen we’ll talk about it later, if you want, but there’s no problem here. ‘Kay?
Sonny: ‘Kay. I love you, Luki.
Q: Well, I’m sorry that turned out to be a much tougher question than I expected. Um, but while we’re on the subject—”
Luki: We’re not.
Q: Amy wants to know whether there are children in your future, Luki?
Luki: After you just made Sonny so miserable, you’re going to ask that? (Luki’s eyes are really quite disturbing when he’s glaring right at you. I almost peed.)
LS: Don’t shoot the messenger? (I meant that literally)
Kaholo: Now, Luki.
Luki: Alright, fine. I’m sure Amy meant no harm either. And just to shut up the subject, I’ll try to answer, for my part anyway. Here’s the thing. I have no idea how to be a father. Where would I ever have learned? If Sonny decides he wants kids, I’ll try to make myself into a parent, but although one part of me would love to raise a child, the greater share of my intelligence tells me that wouldn’t be kind. My mother—I know she was wonderful, especially before she got sick, but I barely remember that. And my father, well, I would never want to do that to a child. (I glance at Sonny and see he is nearly in tears. He reaches over and lays a hand on Luki’s shoulder. Luki doesn’t answer the look, but he does put his hand over Sonny’s and give it a squeeze.)
Brian: You had Kaholo.
Luki: (To my surprise, Luki doesn’t scold Brian or give him a fear-inspiring look, and Kaholo doesn’t respond. When Luki speaks, it’s to Brian.) Brian, Kaholo is the most wonderful uncle anyone can hope for, but he’s not my father. My dad loved me, but you know, that isn’t enough.
Q: Okay, Luki, on a lighter note, I hope, Jackie also wants to know if you might ever learn grass dancing to surprise Sonny?
Luki: (Bursts out in actual laughter.)
Kaholo: You know Luki did dance, when he was young, before…things happened. He was still learning but he was pretty good at it. If the readers want to go this You Tube video, it’s the kind of dancing he was learning:
Q: Kaholo that actually brings me to Jackie’s question for you. She’s wondering when you are going to find a nice woman and settle down.
Kaholo: Well, I am pretty settled down, and (He laughs his deep, bass laugh, and bobs his bushy eyebrows.) I do know some ‘nice’ women.
Q: Listen, Kaholo, I have a question here for Josh. Can we get him on the phone, do you think? (There’s a little fussing, Josh is in Nebraska with Jackie, who is still, understandably hospitalized, getting some intensive therapy. When he comes on the line, on speaker, I ask him Jackie’s question.) Josh, a reader named Jackie M. wants to know what you see yourself doing in the future, careerwise. Do you think you will follow in Luki’s footsteps?
Josh: No. Not in Luki’s footsteps. I don’t have whatever it is that takes. Right now I just want to get me and Jackie through high school—I’m almost done. Then I want to get a job, something physical. I like tools and things, and working outside.
LS: Thanks, Josh. You remind me of my brother. And speaking of brothers, Jackie M. also wants to get a message to your brother Jackie. She says, “I hope you work it all out, sweets.”
Josh: Tell her thank you, okay. I gotta get back. I’ll tell him.
Q: Carol wants you two, Sonny and Luki, to sum each other up in one word.
Luki: What the fu…?
Sonny: Honey that’s probably true but it’s more than one word.
LS: Stop it, you two. Carol is serious and it’s a very god question. But I don’t want you to influence each others answers. So I’m passing each of you a sticky note to write your answers. (It took them no time at all, they both scribbled their answers quickly and passed them back. Sonny’s said, “everything.” Luki’s, surprisingly said, ”sanctuary.”)
Q: Okay, moving along. (It had grown pin-drop quiet.) Amy also asked why you trim your toenails before sex, Sonny. She thinks it’s weird.
Sonny: (Sonny happened to be standing pouring more coffee, and his free hand went straight to his hip in indignation.) Not weird at all. I don’t want to scratch Luki with my toenails. You would do well to be considerate in that fashion as well, Amy!
Q: And that sort of leads us right into the next question, which Lisa couldn’t resist asking, she says. Luki, how long did it take for you to realize that when Sonny’s hand goes to his hip, you’re in big trouble?
Luki: (A surprised laugh bubbles out, even though Luki isn’t smiling.) Well, just look at him. It didn’t take me any time at all. I mean, formidable, right?
Q: Well this one, too, then, Luki, from Lisa. What’s the one thing Sonny does without even realizing he’s doing it that takes your breath away?
Luki: That’s hard to answer! There’s something during sex, but I’m pretty sure he knows. And then, well, there’s… oh, wait. He calls me ‘husband’. (Sonny turns purple and Luki’s chewing his lip.) I hope now that he knows he won’t stop, or become self-conscious. I love him so much.
Q: (I clear my throat and surreptitiously wipe my eyes.) Brian, this one is from Lisa for you, okay?
Brian: (Looks surprised.) Oh, okay.
LS: If you could wish for one thing and have that wish come true, what would it be?
Brian: (Smiling.) That’s easy. I would wish for Jackie Vasquez to be whole, healthy, and happy.
Q: Kaholo, the question for you is, what about Luki are you most proud of?
Kaholo: The question is difficult because I can think of nothing about him that doesn’t make me feel proud. But I guess we’re usually proud of those we love for doing things that are both good and difficult for them. The hardest thing, and also probably the best thing, that Luki has ever done, to my knowledge is learn to let Sonny love him. That wouldn’t be hard for everyone, but for him, monumental. And, proud? God yes I’m proud of Luki everyday. (Luki scratches head, clears his throat, chews his lip, and looks everywhere but at somebody. So suddenly he almost knocks his chair over, he gets up and says Bear needs a walk. As soon as he and Bear stepped out, Kaholo nodded and spoke up again.) Mission accomplished, eh?
Q: Sonny, Lisa wants to know what’s the most challenging thing about loving Luki?
Sonny: I have to name two things, sorry. I can’t pick one. First, he has a hard time accepting help no matter how badly he needs it. Second… well, sometimes I know he’s hurting, usually because of some memory or whatever, but he usually won’t share it. I just have to be there with him and trust that he knows that if he wants to tell, I’ll listen. Those are hard times.
Q: Sonny, one more, much easier, I hope. (Just then the screen door banged lightly and a damp Bear trotted past on his way to the fireside. Luki poured coffee for anyone who needed it before sitting down—even got Brian another glass of milk. He seemed completely recovered and made it a point to run a hand along Sonny’s shoulder on his way to his chair. He said nothing, so I went on with the question.) Lasha wants to know, Sonny, if you had it to do over again, big Hawaiian wedding, or Vegas.
Sonny: Oh, definitely Hawaii. I would do it again, and again, and again. It was wonderful.
Q: Sonny, I have two more questions for you. For this first one I’m going to have use my time turner and then wipe everyone’s memories, afterward.
Kaholo: What’s a time turner?
Brian: You have a time turner?
Luki: Where in the hell did you get a time turner?
Sonny: Wipe our memories?
(I put the time turner on the table, holding onto it with one hand to stop inquisitive or bratty grabbing, and told everyone to hold on to me. They grumbled and bitched, but they did it and that was a weird feeling in itself. Then I turned the turner, a lot, so that we ended up roughly 5.333 years in the future, after Luki’s cancer.)
Q: Sonny, Lisa asks, if you could weave a tapestry of Luki’s illness, chemo, and recovery, what colors would you use, and what would the image be?
Sonny: It would be so hard to crunch that whole experience down into one tapestry. Probably, I wouldn’t. But if I did, the colors would be, I think the ordinary colors of life. I weave pictorial tapestries, and this one would be no exception. The primary image would be a road, or a path, I think. In the foreground it would be dark, muted, winter. The dimension would be wide rather than tall. There would be obstacles, there might be comfortable resting places. But at some point the road would fork and one side would lead back into desolation, while the other would lead back into life. Not glory, but the colors of sunrise on the straits, out here. I suppose.
(I brought us back with the time turner, and wiped memories succinctly.)
Luki: Why are we all sad and don’t know why? And I asked you before, where did you get a time turner?
LS: Dumbledore of course.
Q: Now if you don’t mind I have one more question Sonny. Anne wants to know something about your weaving.
Sonny: (Scrunches his eyebrows.) Seems familiar.
LS: (I clear my throat.) Anyway, Anne says, “I love the description of colors in your weaving and how you see colors. Now that you and Luki are married, what colors would you use to weave a piece that represents both of you together?
Sonny: Oh, what a sweet question. I think Anne and I would get along well. Hard to answer though. There would be a certain amount of simple comfort to it—maybe the deep blue of the sky around here in autumn, maybe for the refreshing and always surprising wakefulness, awareness that there is between us, that bright, light gold of morning on the water. But there would be fire too! I don’t weave with red anymore, but deep to bright oranges and yellows and the blue that you sometimes see at the base of a flame. Finally, the cool moonlight meadow where one comes to rest. The colors are “almost colors.” Silver light.
LS: Oh that’s beautiful, Sonny. Thanks. I have just—”
Luki: No. Absolutely not. (He’s actually holding his hand up right in my face.) It just so happens, Ms. La-di-dah Sylvre, that I too have been in touch with Jackie M. and Lisa. So we’re going to get some straight answers from you! First, when is there going to be another book in the series?
LS: Hopefully this year. I’m waiting to hear from the publisher. And let me tell you, Mr. La-di-dah Vasquez, you are not having much fun in that book.
Luki: Why you little—
Kaholo and Sonny: Luki!
Luki: Fine. Well listen to what else Jackie wants to know. If you could learn a skill from Sonny or me, would you want to be the… hm hm, hardass… Luki Vasquez, or would you be the artistic Sonny Bly.
LS: It’s a difficult choice. Sonny is, I’m sure you’ll agree, so extraordinary. And I’ve done some art things and enjoyed them. But I could never live up to that beauty and grace. No, I’d like to play with guns for a living and know how to knock someone over with a finger or a mean look. I’d like to be a Luki Vasquez.
Luki: Of course you would. Well, one more. Lisa wants to know what is the one thing that happened as you’ve been writing the series that completely shocked you when you wrote it because you didn’t see it coming.
LS: I cannot pick one thing, sorry Lisa and Luki. The characters have surprised me at every turn. There is one thing that was most surprising to me, but it hasn’t yet been published, so I’m going to keep mum on that one. In the meantime, I’ll name something about Sonny, and something about Luki. In regard to Sonny, when he revealed his history, including but not limited to the stint in prison, it left me completely confounded. For Luki, I think I’d have to say the bit that is revealed about his youthful forays into the world of man-sex in Finding Jackie. In both those cases, I spent some time arguing before I agreed they needed to be in the story.
Luki: I knew I shouldn’t have told you that shit. You just ran with it didn’t you?
LS: Luki, it made the story make more sense. And it made me love you more. So shut up. I have one more question from Lisa for both you and Sonny. Where do you go from here?
(They answer at the same time)
Luki: To get a hamburger.
(Sonny’s mouth opens, and his hand rests on his hip.)
Luki: After bed, I mean. Or before if you prefer. Or hell, we can get the hamburger and have hamburgers in bed… Or no hamburger… Or… Whatever you want sweetie, really….