Nizwa Knox-Jones ~ Or Best Offer

 

I did too much for her, but Pnina emailed to say the lamps would be ten dol­lars for the pair and she had to have them.  Small, steel, bed­side lamps with cat-print shades.  Pnina had asked me to exe­cute the deal, because she wasn’t very hap­py about dri­ving, even on cool, calm, sun­ny Sunday morn­ings.

Imagine it, Pnina,” I said, “Having a big fat ice cream sand­wich for break­fast, a hot cof­fee to-go, and hit­ting the road on a frosty, sun­ny Sunday.  That’s heav­en.  That’s what the Lord’s Day is all about.”

The Interstate is crazy with church traf­fic.”

Not ear­ly.  Not at sev­en or eight,” I said.  But the real thing was the Interstate itself, even emp­ty.  “But, hey,” I said.

If you can’t meet her, don’t wor­ry about it.”

Nope, that’s fine — we can meet.  I got a spot in mind.  We’ll meet at the CVS on the hill.”

She lives clos­er to Fort Worth, Keller maybe.”

I thought this was a Denton deal,” I said.

No.”

We shall meet upon the Pilot Knob,” I said, as a joke.  No laugh­ter fol­lowed.  Pnina knew very lit­tle local geog­ra­phy.

I took along Zbigniew Brzezinski, my lazy semi- Shih Tzu, and she slept all the way to Haslet. We got to where we were going, to find the meet­up to be a half-work­ing gas sta­tion.  One half was gray ruins with melt­ed pumps and yel­low police tape pop­ping in the west­er­ly wind.

A yel­low jeep pulled up, too close.  The dri­ver motioned for me to roll down the win­dow.  She was young, and wore big­gish eye­glass­es with flu­o­res­cent dots paint­ed on the frames.  “Hey there,” she said.

Hi.  You got the lamps?”

Lamps?”

The red lamps,” I said.  “From the Internet.”

No, I ain’t your lamp lady.  I’m pulling you over to ask you about your Satanic cross.”

She was talk­ing about the suppeda­neum bumper stick­er I sport.  “That’s from my church.  It’s just a kin­da Russian cross.”

That don’t look Russian.  There’s a line run­ning through it, like to cut out Jesus.  He’s been cut out a’goddamn–nough.”

That’s not what it’s about.  Hey, I’m just wait­ing on some­body with some lamps.”

She rolled up her win­dow and start­ed mess­ing with her phone.

Z-Big gnawed a hind paw.  I turned on the radio.

In a while, there pulled in a dual­ly-axled work truck haul­ing a trail­er with three trac­tor tires.  Guy parked by the ashy ruins, and trot­ted over to the Jesus lady to talk.  He was a slim, cordy fel­low, with a lame left arm.  She point­ed at me.

I cranked up the engine, just in case an escape were called for.  He came over, and I rolled down the pas­sen­ger win­dow, just half-way.  “Yes?” I said.

Hey ma’am, I’m sor­ry.  My sister’s all kinds of daffy.  But I’m going to pre­tend to talk you out of join­ing Satanism, and she’ll dri­ve on her mer­ry way in a minute.”

I’m just here to meet some­body about a lamp.  Two lamps.”

Well, I’m sor­ry.  None of my busi­ness if you’re Satanic.  I dat­ed a Wiccan, so I’m cool with all that.”  He glanced down my blouse and toward my legs.

Well, no big deal,” I said.

Yeah?  Good.  Cool.  But, hey, I guess I got­ta go.  I’m run­ning down to Haslet.”  He thumped the roof of my car with his good hand a cou­ple times in a friend­ly way.

I thought this was Haslet,” I said.

Outskirts,” he said.  He trot­ted back over to the yel­low jeep and talked to his sis­ter, and she kissed his cheek.  She shook her fin­ger at me before dri­ving off.  He saun­tered into the gas sta­tion store, and he had a white ban­dana in his back pock­et.

I wait­ed, but nobody else pulled up to show inter­est in meet­ing.  I called Pnina.

You get them?” she said.

Nope.  Nobody showed.”

I wait­ed there for a while, and waved to the guy when he came back out, but he didn’t notice.  He backed out and rolled past the pumps, and I honked my horn.  I ran over and gave him my email address.

Pnina had a colonoscopy sched­uled for that next Tuesday, and her con­fi­dence in Über fell through at the last minute, so I went over to her place and she met me by the clot of bougainvil­lea bush­es in the dog park.

I hope you print­ed direc­tions,” she said.  “It’s com­pli­cat­ed, get­ting there.”

She got in and held Z-Big in her lap, and we start­ed prowl­ing the streets.  I rolled down the win­dows and turned up the Enya, real loud.  Pnina sunk down low in her seat and crossed her arms, like to pout about it.

My ride, my rules,” I said, and we worked our way into a grav­el exchange near a fal­low field with black smok­ing ponds.

A big frack­ing oper­a­tion off-gassing on an east­ern hill, there near the express­way.  We got back on the big road, then got off, then gamed our way through the park­ing lot rows zoned in lite indus­try.  We saw an opos­sum prowl­ing the edge of a hedgerow, slow­ly and shak­i­ly, as if stoned.

This is it!” she hollered, and I turned off the music.  “This is it,” she whis­pered to Z-big, and gave her stout pat on the rump.

Not look­ing so colono­scop­ic, Pnina.  Not look­ing good.”  The place had white let­ters paint­ed on the door, and a card­board lep­rechaun in the mylar-ed win­dow with a sign that said SPECIAL.

This is it, too.  It’s a dis­count place.”

She checked in and I sat by the water foun­tain.  “Well,” I said when Pnina sat down beside me, a lit­tle too close, “What do they think they’ll find?”

Dunno yet.  Just explorato­ry.  My oth­er doc said I had to.”

Okay.  Well, how about that lamp prob­lem?  Buy any lamps yet?”

Got no lamps.  I don’t want to fall into the retail sham.  Just poke around on the resale sites, and you’d be sur­prised who you can meet.”  She told me about all the great peo­ple she had met.  “You look around and just about everybody’s online,” she said.  “People look at me, and they don’t know I’m online, but I’m on it.”

Yeah,” I said.  “And you like it.”

I sure do.”

Pnina died a few days lat­er (unre­lat­ed to the colonoscopy — turns out she had oth­er prob­lems), and her sis­ter asked me to say some­thing at the ser­vice.

But I got on the Internet and found a pro­fes­sion­al speak­er named Miranda and gave her some notes about Pnina’s likes and dis­likes.  I offered to bring in my priest, but turns out Pnina thought my church was Satanic, too; she’d just been being nice to me, all that time.

Miranda showed up in a smart pur­ple and black dress, and she car­ried her­self like a sur­geon or a diplo­mat.  When it was time, I nod­ded and Miranda mount­ed the daïs.

Pnina loved squir­rels,” she said, “But was not squir­rel­ly.”  Everyone applaud­ed.

I bought a lit­tle lamp online.

I turned it on and laid on the car­pet under its chili-red light, and tugged Z-Big’s toy rac­coon away from her, and refreshed my inbox, but there were no new mes­sages.

~

Nizwa Knox-Jones is a name of a librar­i­an from the Gulf South who lives now in North Texas.  Knox-Jones went to school all the way through twelfth, then more, and got in a lite fight in Taipei (just got punched in the neck – didn’t even real­ly know what to do except get punched in the neck).  Allies at @woodye­vans and Casino Versus Japan (Bravo Cadets).