Depression Glass (part three)
He picked up before the ringtone had played out. “Ms. Nixon!”
He sounded pleased. Or, she thought better, like a reporter eager to cultivate a source.
“Don’t call me that.”
“Merrilee. Things going gangbusters between you and my nephew? We can all expect…”
She cut him short, laughing at gangbusters. “That is not a relationship word.”
“But one big happy family in the making? Reynolds and Nixons…”
“No. No, I have to ask you about Jate.”
“Not like that. I mean…” Love, she found, was a tough word to say. “I’m hanging in. But I feel like I might be bad for him.”
“I think you’re pretty terrific for him.”
The compliment landed on some weird, sensitive spot. She said, “Jonah…let’s talk. Where we can be private, cause you need to know the situation with Pink Luxe. My Mom is into it, you coming on, and my aunt doesn’t mind. And when Aunt Jeane doesn’t mind, that’s A-plus. She’s the hard sell.”
“Honored to meet them both. What’s your favorite hiking trail?”
For a second, she thought he was joking.
“Um. I don’t hike. You wanna know what I thought? That guys who hit on their girl drivers don’t like an athletic girl, a tree-hugger type.”
“But you’re not so unathletic you’d get tired just strolling along a creek? I know a great place… I’ve actually met people there for stories. Piedmont line tracks, made into a bike path. Old-growth woods, belongs to the Nature Conservancy. Almost no one around early mornings.”
“Wow. I don’t know my stuff is that secret…”
He laughed. “Anything you’re comfortable with, and nothing you aren’t. Bring a can of mace. I’m a nature freak myself, so I kind of liked the excuse, to get to one of my favorite spots. You’ll make me happy if you let me show you around. And a little cred can’t hurt, right?”
“Oh, I trust you.”
He had, after all, a Pulitzer. The paper Jonah and his team had brought the plum to had let them all go.
He had told her this at Tabitha’s wedding. “So I bear along. These days I’d feel almost overprivileged if I was working.”
Reporting was tough, she’d guessed. She got news from her Twitter feed.
“I have the nod, but not the contract. I’m developing a few pieces. My pitch isn’t the first lightbulb.”
“Not original. Kind of a variation on Plimpton…”
Her face, she thought, was attentive. Maybe a dart of the eyes, wishing him not to explain.
“A man before your time. A little prominent in the literary field, took on jobs and wrote about them. What I want to do, is be a Pink Luxe Limo driver.”
Keeks was driving. An ombre-metallic, hot to rosy-pink limousine, parked in a tiny woodsy lot…
“That’ll look crazy,” Merrilee said.
“No, its advertising.”
“Good idea. Invite speculation!”
“Don’t raise your voice, Jonah. I hear you fine.”
“Sorry, ma’am,” Jonah said to Keeks, and to his seatmate, “A friend of mine has this list, how to tell if your outdoorsmanship’s authentic.”
“So you let a woman off the hook? Too bad.”
“I just don’t know a better word. Look it up some time…there’s no exact synonym.”
He raised his voice, anyway, including her sister. “You have to have been struck by lightning, bit by a snake, come face-to-face with a large predator, fallen at least ten feet…”
“All that actually happened to him?”
“Her.” He grinned. “Don’t give me that look.”
“You’re saying all that?” Keeks asked.
“Well, she was struck by lightning, yeah.”
“Is she your girlfriend?”
Merrilee mock-buried her face. “Tell her she’s violating the law.”
“We’re pals here. Aunt Jeane’ll do the grilling.”
“Sounds like my comeuppance,” Jonah said.
And on they bantered, Merrilee sitting back in her favorite role, of listening to other peoples’ talk. Jonah’s gift was enviable, both his life’s store of topics, and his confidence in trotting them out.
Clients creeped, and she didn’t have the…
The philosophy, she decided, to laugh a little with them. It would hurt her pride, but it would bring tips, and maybe an ask. Can I have Merrilee?
(2022, Stephanie Foster)