An hour later Jet sat on a bench
across the street from Old Man Cordins Jewelry Store, absently leafing through a
copy of the Weekly World Scene someone had politely left for him. It was bad enough
people thought you had to like your relativeswhich didnt make sense to Jet
since they were, after all, nothing more than people youre forced to be in
contact with regardless of whether you like them or notbut friends are supposed to
be different. With friends you can choose whether to see them a little, a lot, or never
again. Unless, of course, youre twelve years old and they live in your neighborhood.
Then, like them or not, theyre your friends.
Had Jet been paying more
attention to the copy of the Weekly World Scene he held in his hands, and less on
how much we wished his brother would vanish off the face of the earth, he would have
noticed a two paragraph article buried on page 34, right next to an ad for "Miracle
Popthe only cola blessed by Benedictine monks":
SHOPPERS LEFT HOLDING THE BAG Unsuspecting patrons
of a grocery store were up in arms after a super sleazy shopping snub. After paying dearly
for their Wheaties, the food foragers were told the mis-management wouldn't supply them
with grocery bags. Instructed to load up their arms and toss hubby's dinner in the back
seat of the car like yesterday's trash, the usually placid produce purchasers demanded
boxes and trash bags, only to be told "No dice".
They didnt have any. The night before, a robber with a sense of humoror a
paper bag fetishbroke in and stole them all. The sorry sack stealer left thousands
of dollars and every loaf of bread in the place, preferring brown grocery bags to red
peppers and greenbacks. Is this any way to bring home the bacon?
As it was, his attention was
diverted not by the article but by Old Man Cordin, who was doing a balancing act in the
front window of his store. Hed been showing a brand new shipment of jewelry to Jem
Marconi, whose son Ralph had just been hiding in the closet with Job. A new shipment of
jewelry was as exciting for Jem as it was for Cordin, though for quite a different reason.
For Cordin, getting a package of jewelry in the mail was like Christmashe got to
open lots of little envelopes and wrappers, each containing another glittering, sparkling
present. But even better, he could turn around and sell these Christmas presents without
having to explain to Aunt Martha why the armadillo urn she gave him was nowhere to be seen
when she came for a visit.
Jem, on the other hand, just
liked jewelry. She'd been coming into Cordin's store at least twice a week for years,
always making the jeweler show her each new item that had come in since her last visit.
Jem made it her business to know Cordin's inventory inside and out. Yet in all those
visits she had yet to purchase anything
. "Is this a ukulele?"
she asked, pointing to a charm in the front window.
"I believe it's a guitar.
But its not new."
"It looks like a ukulele to
me," she said. "It's small enough to be one."
"Let me check," Old Man
Cordin said as he leaned into the front window to retrieve it.
He was so intent on not
disturbing the cluttered display with his hand that he forgot about his new shoes with
their too-slick, unscuffed soles. His left foot started sliding out from under him. Afraid
he was about to completely lose his footing and crash through the front window, he let
himself tumble into the display, sprawling across the jewelry which appeared to be
haphazardly placed but was in fact the result of hours of careful, though misguided,
thought. When he climbed out of the window, embarrassed but unhurt, it looked like a
tornado had set down in his display. Actually it looked better than before.
"Here it is, Mrs.
Marconi," he said, dusting himself off and trying not to look shaken in spite of his
twitching calf muscles.
"Hmmm, you were right,"
Jem muttered to herself. "It is a guitar."
When Old Man Cordin slipped in
the window hed instinctively thrown his hands out to break his fall. As his left
hand slid down the glass, his onyx pinky ringwhich he bought at Rice's Jewelry Store
because they sold a better class of merchandisescraped along the old flaky paint on
the front window. Three more letters had been eliminated, so the sign now read:
Watches * Rings * Go
d Bought and Sold
Precious and Semi-P ious Jew s
Had Jackson Robert seen this
change he would have thought it was aimed at him, for contrary to what anyone else
thought, he still liked to consider himself a semi-pious Jew. Erta, on the other hand,
would have thought this was rather generous, since according to the teachings of the Quite
Reverend John Joseph Matthew Paul III, Jews were indeed the Chosen People, chosen only to
be Jewsnothing more, nothing lessso being semi-pious was about as far as their
delusional religion could allow them to go in the heavenly scheme of things. Had Job seen
the sign he would have ignored it, instead wondering how much the Timex self-winding watch
sitting on top of the clutter cost and why he hadn't gotten one for his last birthday,
since he'd repeatedly asked for it. And Jet? He figured half a pious was probably better
than no pious at all.
* * * * * *
"Id better be heading
home," Jet thought as he walked down the street in front of J&A Clothiers, a
small shop which sold men's clothing on the left side and women's clothing on the right.
It was getting dark and he was afraid that if he didnt get home soon no one would
A woman was locking the door to
the shop, a ruggedly pretty woman wearing a touch too much makeup who seemed to be having
trouble walking in her three-inch high heels. She smiled sweetly at Jet as she walked
away, taking long strides. After several wobbly steps, her heel caught in a crack in the
sidewalk, her ankle turning inward as she almost fell to the ground.
"You okay?" Jet asked
as he rushed over to help her.
"I'll be fine," she
said, her voice low and husky. "But thank you."
She looked familiar, though Jet
couldnt figure out where he knew her from. She stood, dusted herself off, and walked
away, hips swinging, still slightly wobbly in her heels. As she turned and looked back at
him, an image flashed through Jets mind: it was Tripoli, his mailman. In yet another
Tripoli had recently begun
moonlighting at J&A Clothiers. This was the perfect job for himeven more perfect
than delivering the mailfor at J&A he could come in dressed like a man and,
after closing out the register, walk to the other side of the store and buy some
womens clothes for the trip home. There was always something in the store he
As Jet turned to walk away he
noticed the door to the store was open just a crack. In his hurry to get away, Tripoli had
forgotten to lock it.
If theres one thing Jet
doesnt need its a written invitation.
Looking up and down Broad Street
to make sure it was as deserted as usual for this time of nighthe may be curious but
hes not stupidJet opened the door and walked in. He crept through the store on
the balls of his feet, ready to spring backwards and race out at the first sign of danger.
"I have the cloak of invisibility and the magic shoes of silence," he thought.
"I can go anywhere I want and do whatever I want and no one can see or hear me."
Suddenly he froze, his heart
pounding as he looked through the shadowy doorway into the back room. There was a woman
standing there! So Tripoli hadnt been the last one to leave after all! No wonder the
front door was still unlocked! He knew she could hear his heart, its pounding beat
reverberating through the store. Please! Dont let the cloak of invisibility fail
The woman stood perfectly still.
Jet stood perfectly still. He took a hesitant baby step towards her. She didnt move.
right," Jet thought. "Shes standing a little too still."
He let out his breath and
laughed. That was no woman, that was a mannequin! And a fine specimen of womanhood she
was: perfectly shaped upturned breasts, a slim delicate waist, smooth hips the exact size
as its bust, a bald head, one hand lopped off at the wrist, and a leg with a one-inch wide
crack running from mid-thigh to nicely turned ankle.
"You shouldnt scare me
like that," he said. "You know what it does to me."
He took one of her hands in his
and gently slid his arm around her waist. Smiling, he leaned her backwards, a graceful dip
in a sensual dance. He stared deep in her crystal blue eyes and brought his face near
hers. He leaned in for the kill, puckering his lips as he moved ever so slowly toward her
perfectly formed ruby red target.
"You cannot resist me, so
don't even try," he said, closing his eyes in preparation of the grand finale.
"Some things are just meant to be, my darling. That is the way of life."
His mouth trembled as his lips
drew close. This was it. His first real kiss.
Suddenly a cracking sound broke
the romantic silence as the mannequin's head fell off and rolled across the floor, banging
noisily against a metal trash can and ending up face down in a puddle of brown water that
had leaked out of the hot water heater.
Jet stood the mannequin up and
looked through the darkened doorway into the store. The mannequin's identical twin was
standing against the wall between two racks. And her triplet. And her quadruplet. Except,
of course, that they were fully clothed and had all their body parts intact.
Circumstance writes open
[ Chapter 14 ]